High Maintenance (web series)

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High Maintenance
The words "High Maintenance" in plain white text on a green background
Genre Comedy
Created by Ben Sinclair
Katja Blichfeld
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 16
Production company(s) Janky Clown Productions
Broadcast
Original channel Vimeo
Original run November 9, 2012 (2012-11-09) – present

High Maintenance is an American web series created by husband and wife team Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld.[1][2] The show follows a nameless marijuana deliveryman called The Guy (played by Sinclair) as he delivers his product to clients in New York City.[3] Each episode focuses on a new set of characters as they all procure their cannabis from Sinclair's character.[4]

Story[edit]

Almost all of the episodes in this character-driven web series are named after an unseen peripheral character that someone in the episode mentions (the one exception being "Heidi"). The characters are meant to be relevant, regardless of whether or not the viewer engages in similar activities.[5] This web series is shot throughout various neighborhoods in Brooklyn and each episode is between five and twelve minutes in length.[6] "Freed of the constraints of thirty-minute or one-hour formulas, the episodes are luxurious and twisty and humane, radiating new ideas about storytelling."[7]

"The drug dealer is our seer, the one with the pass, privy to the dramas and, more frequently, the banalities, of our fellow strangers’ lives. This is the real power of the show. Each episode offers an intimate vantage on someone’s world, projects our fantasy of what happens when that lady with the weird hair and the sad eyes, who we’ve been staring at since she got on the train in midtown, steps off at West Fourth Street and disappears into oblivion. Maybe there’s a reason The Guy has no name — he’s a kind of avatar for our collective curiosities, a cycling Panopticon who peers into the hidden nooks and crannies of our over-stuffed apartment buildings."[8]

"Smoking with Strangers: The comic intimacy of 'High Maintenance'". Los Angeles Review of Books. 19 May 2014.

The Guy is the common thread that runs through the episodes, and while he could be seen as the protagonist of the series, "he’s more like a reference point. Each episode focuses on a particular customer, and by extension, their living space, which is where all of these deals go down."[8]

Another hallmark of the series is "an impressive ability to poke fun at the idiosyncrasies of Brooklyn life without devolving into caricature or farce. It’s a position somewhere between irony and sincerity, and it makes for much better viewing than too heavy a helping of one or the other."[8]

Episodes[edit]

Season 1 (2012)[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
1 1 "Stevie" Sarah-Violet Bliss Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair November 9, 2012 (2012-11-09)
The Guy starts things off on the wrong foot when he visits the hotel room of a woman with clinical anxiety and a very impatient boss.
2 2 "Heidi" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair November 9, 2012 (2012-11-09)
Heidi and Mark are an adorable new couple, and everything seems perfect until they call The Guy for marijuana delivery.
3 3 "Jamie" Thomas DeNapoli Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair November 9, 2012 (2012-11-09)
The Guy meets Jamie when he delivers to a pair of women who are upset due to having a mouse in their apartment.

Season 2 (2013)[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
4 1 "Olivia" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair January 17, 2013 (2013-01-17)
The Guy reluctantly delivers to a man and woman listed in his phonebook as "Assholes" and who have an artist friend named Olivia.
5 2 "Helen" Katja Blichfeld Michael Cyril Creighton January 17, 2013 (2013-01-17)
The Guy delivers to an agoraphobic man who lives with his mother and is obsessed with Helen.
6 3 "Trixie" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair January 17, 2013 (2013-01-17)
The Guy hears a story about Trixie when he delivers to a couple who are stressed out because of their inconsiderate AirBnB guests.
7 4 "Dinah" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair February 20, 2013 (2013-02-20)
A couple's relationship is stressed by the overstay of their house guest, an old friend who's in town for Dinah's wedding. Meanwhile, The Guy catches them at an awkward time after delivering to an asexual magician.

Season 3 (2013)[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
8 1 "Jonathan" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair April 20, 2013 (2013-04-20)
Hannibal Buress stars as himself, a stand-up comic trying to get over a traumatic experience, and The Guy tries to cheer him up. Meanwhile, Heidi returns for a cameo role, discussing Jonathan with Hannibal's artist girlfriend, Olivia.
9 2 "Elijah" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair April 20, 2013 (2013-04-20)
A private chef is hired to serve a Passover Seder dinner, and one of the family members happens to be the asexual magician. The chef calls The Guy for delivery, and he arrives just in time to learn about Elijah.
10 3 "Brad Pitts" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair April 20, 2013 (2013-04-20)
An uptight woman discusses Brad Pitts with her bird-watching friend who she discovers is very ill. She suggests that they smoke marijuana together to help with her friend's low appetite. Meanwhile, The Guy gets high with a pair of professional stoners.

Season 4 (2013–14)[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
11 1 "Qasim" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair November 28, 2013 (2013-11-28)
One of The Guy's customers start dating a fitness buff. She soon learns about his very alternative lifestyle and about Qasim. Meanwhile, The Guy dresses as himself for Halloween.
12 2 "Matilda" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair February 4, 2014 (2014-02-04)
For the first time, The Guy is the central character. He struggles to entertain his teen-aged niece who is visiting from out of town. He doesn't want to conduct business in front of her, but when their plans to see "Matilda" get complicated, one of his customers offers to help out. Featuring cameos from a few characters from the "Jamie" episode.
13 3 "Rachel" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair March 28, 2014 (2014-03-28)
A cross-dressing author struggles with writers' block, which puts a strain on his marriage. Meanwhile, The Guy makes a delivery to him and is introduced to Rachel. Featuring cameos from characters from the "Trixie" and "Olivia" episodes.

Season 5 (2014–15)[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
14 1 "Geiger" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair November 11, 2014 (2014-11-11)
A neurotic couple, Andrew & Lucy, explore ways to deal with existential anxieties, but just end up creating more. The Guy attempts to relate to an ASMR youtuber.
15 2 "Genghis" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair November 11, 2014 (2014-11-11)
An asexual with a magic hobby and a well paying, but meaningless, job tries to find purpose by ditching his 9-5 and becoming a teacher.
16 3 "Ruth" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair November 11, 2014 (2014-11-11)
17 4 "Esme" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Early 2015[9]
18 5 "Sufjan" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Early 2015[9]
19 6 "Sabrina" Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair Early 2015[9]

Production[edit]

Sinclair said that the TV shows Six Feet Under and Party Down were inspirations for the web series. "We liked the clever episodic devices they employed – Six Feet had that cool death sequence at the beginning of every episode and Party Down switched up their locations and guest cast every time."[10] As to the format, "The webisode format felt like a low-stakes way to try our hands at filmmaking. We’d all (Katja, Ben, and Russell) had been wanting to work on a project together. To date, this has basically been a fun thing we do on the weekends with our friends."[10]

“The temptation is always to write about the pot deal, and usually I'm the one who's trying to bring that in, but Katja has been very good about reminding us both that our whole weed thing is that it's not supposed to be a big deal. It's about people, and their lives, and why they use weed."[11]

Ben Sinclair, as quoted in "The Creators of 'High Maintenance' are Stoned and Eating All the Snacks in Vimeo's Office," VICE. 6 August 2014.

“We long had this dream to create something — a film or a short, or a Web series — to get out all these weird stories that have happened to us over the years,” Blichfeld says. “If something felt false to us, if we hadn’t experienced something ourselves, or didn’t have a first hand account for experiencing something, we didn’t feel comfortable portraying it.”[12]

The talent pool in New York City is rich—and familiar to Blichfeld (who is an Emmy Award-winning casting director of 30 Rock).[13] And "since it’s an anthology show, filming stays light and lean." Each episode cost less than $1,000 to make.[14]

On the production: "We shoot mostly on inexpensive DSLR cameras (with nice lenses), we light with mostly China balls and c-stands, and our editor is also the co-director, co-executive producer, and star of the show. All of that being said, we try to be considerate of our cast and crew, and take great pains to make sure no one feels like we are taking advantage of their precious time. Therefore, each episode takes around sixteen hours over two days to shoot."[15]

Critical response[edit]

Critical response has been positive.[4][16][17][18][19][20][21] The actor, Dan Stevens, calls it "a brilliant collection of succinct character portraits from a cross-section of New York society".[22]

Jenji Kohan said that High Maintenance was one of her favorite recent discoveries, calling the episodes little jewels, "beautiful glimpses into people's lives," "really well crafted," "delicious."[23]

Vimeo partnership[edit]

As of June 2014, Vimeo announced that the website will provide financial backing for upcoming episodes, "as part of a move into a Netflix-style production model"[7] of original programming via their Vimeo on Demand platform.[24][25]

On this partnership: “We have full creative control (writing, casting, etc.) of our work, which is unique. The episodes can vary in length as well. Basically we get to do High Maintenance the way we’ve been doing it, though now we don’t have to pay out of pocket…and the profit sharing aspect of Vimeo on Demand is quite attractive with a 90/10 split.”[26][27]

Vimeo has funded six episodes of High Maintenance.[26] Three episodes were released November 11, 2014, and the remaining three are set to be released in early 2015. These episodes are priced at $1.99 per episode or $7.99 for all six episodes, available for streaming in perpetuity.[28]

Notable Cast[edit]

  • Ben Sinclair appears as The Guy, the nameless marijuana delivery man, and is the co-creator of the web series
  • Dan Stevens appears as a cross-dressing screenwriter in the webisode "Rachel"[8]
  • Hannibal Buress appears as a comedian in the webisode "Jonathan"
  • Max Jenkins and Heléne Yorke appear in several webisodes as a pair of loathsome "Assholes" from the fashion world

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eliscu, Jenny (20 June 2013). "The Real-Life High Times of 'High Maintenance'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Davis, Allison P. (12 November 2014). "The Marriage Behind High Maintenance". New York. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Roth, Andrew (7 January 2014). "Interview: Behind 'High Maintenance' with Creators Ben and Katja". Frank151. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Staskiewicz, Keith (10 April 2013). "High Maintenance: A-". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Kelly-Clyne, Luke (30 January 2013). "This Week In Web Videos: 'High Maintenance'". Splitsider. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Galloway, Jordan (18 April 2013). "A Web Series About Weed That Will Have You Rolling". Brooklyn Based. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Nussbaum, Emily (9 June 2014). "Taster's Choice: "High Maintenance" and "My Mad Fat Diary."". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d Hauser, Micah (19 May 2014). "Smoking with Strangers: The comic intimacy of 'High Maintenance'". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Patel, Sahil (September 24, 2014). "Vimeo Sets Premiere Date for First Funded Series, ‘High Maintenance’". Video Ink. Retrieved September 30, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b legrandfromage (13 May 2014). "Knotoryus Interview". Knotoryus. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  11. ^ Bienenstock, David (6 August 2014). "The Creators of 'High Maintenance' are Stoned and Eating All the Snacks in Vimeo's Office". VICE. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  12. ^ Salovaara, Sarah (2013). "25 New Faces of Independent Film: Ben Sinclair & Katja Blichfeld". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  13. ^ Thompson, Elizabeth; Spaner, Whitney (4 February 2014). "High Maintenance: The Pot Dealer Re-Thought". Paper Magazine. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  14. ^ Christian, Aymar Jean (19 December 2013). "Critic's Picks: 2013's Best Comedy Web Series, and 18 More You Need to Watch Now". Indiewire. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  15. ^ Blichfeld, Katja; Sinclair, Ben (4 April 2013). "Indie TV Innovation: When Work Isn’t "Work" (High Maintenance)". Televisual. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  16. ^ Gallagher, Brenden (4 March 2013). "The 25 Best Web Series Right Now: 15. High Maintenance". Complex. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  17. ^ Battan, Carrie (1 May 2014). "In Search of the Next ‘Broad City’: Five Comedy Web Series That Could Make It to TV". Grantland. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  18. ^ Peele, Anna (31 March 2014). "What to Watch Until 'Louie' Comes Back". Esquire. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  19. ^ Syme, Rachel (9 September 2013). "Why Web TV Series Are Worth Watching". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  20. ^ Hurwitz, Daniel (31 December 2013). "TV on the Web: Best of 2013". USA Today. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  21. ^ Corley, Matt (14 May 2014). "The dopey brilliance of High Maintenance isn’t just for stoners". A.V. Club. The Onion, Inc. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  22. ^ Stevens, Dan (30 April 2013). "Dan Stevens on the comforts of comedy in our darkest hours". Telegraph. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  23. ^ Wilson, Stacey; Rose, Lacey (4 June 2014). "Comedy Showrunners Roundtable: Chuck Lorre, Jenji Kohan, Mike Judge on Ejaculation Shots, Awful Pitch Meetings and Salary Negotiations". Hollywood Reporter. at 54:00 mark. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  24. ^ Jarvey, Natalie (29 May 2014). "Vimeo Finances Web Series 'High Maintenance'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  25. ^ Spangler, Todd (29 May 2014). "Vimeo Invests in First Original Series, Comedy ‘High Maintenance’". Variety. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Salovaara, Sarah (29 May 2014). "Vimeo Launches Original Programming with High Maintenance Web Series". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  27. ^ Bugbee, Stella (26 March 2014). "Watch Dan Stevens Smoke Weed and Cross-Dress in Rachel Comey". New York Magazine. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  28. ^ Bromwich, Jonah (9 Nov 2014). "With ‘High Maintenance,’ Vimeo Invests in Original Content". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 Nov 2014. 

External links[edit]