HBO's 'High Maintenance' Is About Weed On The Surface, But Shows That Not Every Vice Is Easily Recognized


Based on the popular web-series of the same name following the life of a bicycle-riding Brooklyn pot dealer, High Maintenance premiered Friday, Sept. 16 on HBO. The web-series turned HBO comedy was created by husband and wife team Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair. The latter of whom also stars at the affable hipster weed dealer, known only as “The Guy.” While The Guy delivers weed to a broad spectrum of New York clientele, the windows into the buyers’ private lives reveal insights, neuroses, and surprising vices.

Each episode explores different customers with and without direct interactions with the aptly titled protagonist, The Guy — who honestly is just that. Picture the v-neck clad, 30-something, bike enthusiast in your life. It’s 2016, we all have one. He may be your boyfriend, your cousin, or your barista (hopefully he isn’t all three, though certain combinations would be OK). The Guy, similar to The Dude, is cool. Like a therapist, he often knows the calming and poignantly simple thing to say. When viewers first meet him, he is getting his haircut in a very New York barber shop, asking his barber to work with the little hair that he has. This peek into everyday life sets the scene for the series.

He’s just a guy, who sells weed, living his life. While the situations he finds himself in may be extraordinary to viewers, to his customers’ they are ordinary. In New York, there’s no one type of normal. And, High Maintenance delivers the old “only in New York” mantra in a fresh, youthful way. You could even call it... green. *ba dum tish*

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The Guy’s first delivery on the show takes him to the apartment of a macho and manic client, who is fresh off a fight with his girlfriend who compares him to a Vin Diesel character. As the girlfriend leaves, The Guy enters. The large, muscle-shirt wearing client insists The Guy stay and smoke. And through other distractions to avoid payment — including playing with a Katana sword — The Guy can’t leave. The unsettling and excruciating scene is reminiscent of that Sister Christian scene in Boogie Night’s, though the outcomes are starkly different. Hey, this is a comedy.

The second act, if you will, brings viewers to possibly the worst bachelorette party on the planet. It isn’t at first revealed how Max and his best friend and roommate Lainey are connected to The Guy. But viewers watch Max leave the bachelorette party to hook up with a man from an app. From there, he goes with him to an AA meeting and falls into an intellectual crowd, distancing himself from his group of party girls and BFF. It seems, 12 steps could be helping Max make a healthy change. His addiction support group monologue may use the name “Crystal” to describe a fake addiction, but the name feels interchangeable with Lainey to viewers. The ending to Max’s story is much less comical. While the show is about weed, the voyeuristic look into the clients’ lives reveals what we really use as coping mechanisms and vices. To Max, the most toxic substance in his life is Lainey.

And, every week, High Maintenance will introduce us to more of The Guy’s customers, each with a unique backstory reflecting the diversity of the city. Though, there is one constant and uniting thread: The Guy and his weed.

Image: HBO