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TV That Matters: ‘High Maintenance’

By Christina Murphy


Photo courtesy of The New Yorker.

Close your eyes and imagine a magical universe where 20-somethings roam the streets and all of your wildest desires could be provided for you with the device you hold in your hand. If you want a Brazilian man named Armand to drive you home, there’s an app for that. If you need that personalized flask in the same day you ordered it, there’s an Amazon drone for that. And if you need a quick fix of the now-decriminalized marijuana, there’s a guy for that. Now open your eyes. Why, this isn’t an imaginary place at all, it’s Brooklyn! If you want an inside glimpse into this gentrified wonderland, then you should have started watching the web series “High Maintenance” yesterday.

“High Maintenance” tells the story of a marijuana delivery guy, or rather the stories of the eclectic clientele he delivers to throughout the borough of Brooklyn. These stories are told as short vignettes where “The Guy,” as he is referred to, weaves in and out of these complex characters’ lives. Ben Sinclair, who also co-creates the show with his Emmy Award winning wife Katja Blichfeld, plays the nameless drug dealer.

The web series is an incredibly high-quality work, which may be surprising to those who associate a web series with being amateur. The episodes are brief, but we can learn a lot in a short period of time thought he superb storytelling of “High Maintenance.” While these episodes may seem disjointed at moments, they always connect back in a twist ending that will have you going “Oh, I see what they did there!” They’re like little mini Alfred Hitchcock movies, except they’re all centered around pot and snobby Brooklynites.

Other than serving as the Hermes of good times, The Guy forms an individualized bond with each of his clients. Despite the suspicious nature of his career, his clients seem to really trust him and at times even confide in him like a close friend. In one extreme case, we meet a reclusive young man who doesn’t even smoke what he purchases, he just asks The Guy to come over to have someone other than his ailing mother to talk to.

Photo courtesy of The New York Observer.

I reviewed an episode from the second season titled “Geiger” which features a high-strung couple, Andrew and Lucy, who are about to embark on the next phase of their life, but are thrown off track when they become doomsday preppers. This end-of-the-world panic is induced by a Vice news special a fellow prepper tells them about – which, honestly, who hasn’t this happened to? Planning for the apocalypse in tandem with a wedding slowly reawakens Lucy’s struggles with anxiety. In the past, smoking had been the best cure for her. This causes Andrew to become fixated on the idea of procuring seeds to plant marijuana in the event that they are the last remaining humans on earth.

Before they call The Guy to inquire about their end-of-the-world plans, he is at another client’s house, who makes videos of her touching objects. (I actually gave this a Google and it is a very real thing called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and is defined as “the art of touching objects to create relaxing sounds.” They are all over YouTube and it is so strange, but so fascinating.) This client’s fictional Vimeo account is called “ASMR Goddess Crinkles 4 U” and you get a sample of it while the credits roll.

The juxtaposition of these two clients represents the extreme paranoia and complete calm that can pull at your emotions. Lucy and Andrew’s fixation on escaping the city was covering up their real desire to escape their relationship and the futures they so meticulously planned out for themselves.

Thirteen episodes of “High Maintenance” are available on Vimeo for free, which I HIGHLY recommend you watch. If you like what you see, you can purchase the entire second season for $7.99 or each new episode individually for $1.99.

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