Review: High Maintenance
Gabriel Neil
May 28, 2013 (Modified: Oct 12, 2013)

For a show that has only been going for 6 months, High Maintenance has been getting some serious attention. Having been featured on Tubefilter, Urban Outfitters’ blog, Vice Magazine, and even crossing over to mainstream notice in Entertainment Weekly and The Telegraph (of all things). Set in New York City, beautifully shot and featuring a plethora of talented and attractive actors, it’s not hard to see why this show has even made Telegraph readers re-adjust their monocles.

To be honest, I am deeply distrustful of hype and when I started to watch this show I was preparing myself for some kind of shallow hipster mumblecore. Fortunately my expectations were wrong. Quite the opposite in fact, High Maintenance (created by husband and wife team Ben Sinclair and Katja Blitchfeld, both of whom previously having worked on the wonderful 30 Rock) is a show filled with incredible sincerity, humanity and pathos.

It follows the adventures of an unnamed pot dealer and the people whose lives he occasionally drifts into. Each episode is a lovingly crafted peek into individual lives in New York, with a dedication to characterisation which I have honestly never seen in any other show. It begins with the usual New York archetypes – hippies, yuppies, liberal Jews, and media professionals, but the show never stops with the 2-D stereotypes we have all come to know from Sex and the City. Some people are in the middle of big social occasions, others are desperately lonely, some are totally self-absorbed, others are completely un-self-aware. The lines are human, the back-stories are believably complex and every single character just leaps off the screen as a fully fleshed-out human being, each as varied as their reasons for calling “their guy”.

High Maintenance shows some of the best storytelling I have ever seen in a web series of any kind. The episodes are somehow able to condense entire families or social groups and each of their relationships into 5 – 15 minute vignettes, without anything seeming rushed or forced. The comedy element here is pretty gentle but that is far from a bad thing, as it allows the natural humour from regular, crazy human interactions to develop, without breaking out a big red sign saying “Laugh at this bit!”. You won’t be rolling on the floor clutching your ribs (unless you’re sampling some similar herbs), but you will find this show utterly compelling and full of charm. As with the very best comedy, High Maintenance has moments of comic gold, and moments of pathos, even melancholy. Don’t worry, it’s never a downer and the episodes always make sure to end on a high note (no pun intended), but this is a series which really makes you care about what happens to the characters.

The episodes are hosted on Vimeo so there is no way of accurately telling their current reach, but their facebook page currently boasts 1727 likes, and their twitter account has just over 800 followers. Assuming their videos gain views somewhere between these numbers, they deserve a hell of a lot more attention.

Basically, dedication to realism, brilliant filmography, seamless storytelling, naturalistic humour, fantastic acting (especially from a Jeff Bridges-esque Ben Sinclair) and masterful writing make High Maintenance probably one of the best web series out there. If you want to make a web series which tells stories that seem real, as well as being funny, study this show religiously and hope yours ends up being half as good.

High Maintenance can be found here.