Allie Tollaksen | Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Created and co-written by wife-and-husband duo Katja Blichfeld, an Emmy award-winning casting director, and Ben Sinclair, an actor, the series’ first “cycle” (which I suppose is a season in the world of web series) premiered last year, with episodes available to watch for free on the video hosting website Vimeo.
Four cycles later, the show has received plenty of critical success and garnered quite the fan base, myself included, who have eagerly awaited new episodes. Finally, on November 10, its creators released three new episodes, available on Vimeo for $1.99 each and kicking off the newest cycle.
The fictional show centers on benevolent, unnamed marijuana dealer (played by Sinclair) known only as “The Guy.” Through his work, we get a peek into the interesting and often hilarious lives of his clients. Each episode is a unique and commendably original profile of a different client, and they range from a run time of just a few minutes to nearly a half hour.
While there are plenty of amusing crossovers of characters between shows to keep you on your toes, the series’ episodic format with a client per episode lends itself perfectly to a web series style. Viewers are free to jump around in the episodes, and each one stands as a fascinating and wonderfully produced short film in itself. While some of the existing episodes are better than others (check out “Jamie,” “Matilda” and “Rachel,” three standouts), the series as a whole is remarkably strong.
While The Guy’s profession isn’t exactly one you can put on a résumé, and the show may not exactly be one you can watch with your mom, “High Maintenance” is well-crafted, well-written and irresistibly entertaining. Balancing serious episodes (like one about a sick clients who uses to gain back an appetite) with more lighthearted fare (including a brilliant episode featuring comedian Hannibal Buress), the series as a whole may be tied together by cannabis, but it is a far cry from “Pineapple Express.”
Instead, its format gets to explore the lives, homes and stories of a commendably diverse group of people. While The Guy is the constant that ties the show together, most of the episodes focus very little on him. However, when we do get a look at the anonymous dealer, he proves to be a charming and comforting presence. Sinclair acts the part of The Guy excellently, painting him as a fairly neutral but still undeniably warmhearted character who gets to stand back each episode, watching his quirky clients with just as much intrigue as the audience.
It’s both great and a little disappointing to see “High Maintenance” become popular enough to begin charging for episodes. However, the quality with which even the earliest episodes were made doesn’t make the move to pricing episodes at all surprising. With its already high production value, it’ll be interesting to see how the series will grow and change in upcoming cycles.
For now, we’re stuck paying Vimeo which partnered with Blichfeld and Sinclair to make “High Maintenance” the site’s first shot at original content. As reluctant as I am to fork over $1.99 per episode, or $7.99 to rent the whole cycle, my satisfaction with the series so far has me reaching for my credit card to buy the season pass. It’s just that good.
The three new episodes, titled “Geiger,” “Ghengis” and “Ruth” are available on Vimeo now, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing “High Maintenance,” all of its earlier episodes are available for free and just waiting for a mid-semester binge-watch.