Brooklyn state of mind

High Maintenance

Serie. By bike around New York, Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfield imagine a gonzo-comedy which celebrate weed culture at the time of its standardization.

By Julien Lada

With his fixie, his excessive taste for faded shirts (often squared) and his bushy beard, the hero of High Maintenance has all of the 30 years-old New Yorker guy. He merges so much in the decor of his city that the spectator only know him as “The Guy”. Through his urban detours, we discover quickly that he makes a living by delivering all kind of substances to anyone which ask the drugs Deliveroo all around New York. More particularly in Brooklyn. From all backgrounds, all walks of life, all ages (hostel customers followers of the threesome, a group of feminist, a couple well in every way moving their daughter…), each meetings have their own story, in which he takes part for a moment.

High Maintenance make its hole and attracts every paid episode up to half a million views.

High Maintenance is the tandem baby formed by Ben Sinclar and Katja Blichfield. When they get married in 2010, he follows the small roles torn from here while she distinguishes herself as casting director (she even gets an Emmy in 2014 for 30 Rock). When comes the idea of create their own webserie, they think again to their favorite show, Six Feet Under and to the famous Cold Opens, in which we discovered the dead of strangers on funny or tragic mini-sequences. This inspired the idea of take over the concept and adapt it to life groups around marijuana.

Their creation come first secretly on Vimeo, where are distributed six seasons (three or four episodes of five to twelve minutes between 2012 and 2015). Editing with the means at hand and hyper restricted teams, their sociological acuity convince the platform which decide to fund it as one of their first “Vimeo Originals”. In the wake of an other webserie of new-yorkers stoners who will make the jump to television, Broad City, High Maintenance make its hole and attracts every paid episode up to half a million views. It’s enough to please HBO which prepared the after-Girls (an episode will formalize the passage with witness thanks to a cameo of Lena Dunham) with this new generational serie made in Big Apple.

In 2015, the channel of Six Feet Under ask to Sinclair and Blichfield a season of six episodes, followed by a second of ten episodes, distributed beginning of 2018 (nine episodes are programmed to this third bakery). The formula remains the same but the change to 30 minutes leaves more flexibility to exploit a sharp storytelling direction. Some episodes may now contain several intrigues. One of the big serie strengths is based to this sense of writing which draw subtly the personality of this red-wire character. Fare from being a simple narrative device, The Guy finish by existing by himself. At the same time narrator and spectator, he is a witness who sometimes becomes an actor in the life of each of his clients.

Beneath his semblance of a simple Brooklynites parade, disenchanted hipsters or thirty years in search of a new experiment, the serie reveals itself gradually as a “gonzo-comedy”, immersing itself a few minutes in the air of Brooklyn times. Today, its over the cannabis aspect against cultural because it’s decriminalized in half of the American states and legalized in about ten of them (not to mention his medical use, authorized in almost the entire country.)

And, as all in New York, it gentrified even. In High Maintenance, we ask for weed because we are bored, because we get an erectile dysfunction, because we want to have fun and, above all, because we don’t have to hide it anymore. We smoke a blunt as we drink a beer at the bar or a latte at the coffee shop. By finding out where it came from, trying varieties, sharing with others. The substances delivered by The Guy are a vector of link, a gateway in the neighborhood routine, of the entire town.

It follows a serie able to play easily on all types of comedy, one of them still transports us on a dog skin. The all is necessarily fickle, but the Sinclair/Blichfield style, devoid of all forms of cynicism and misanthropy, makes us attach ourselves to this gallery of characters. Embodied by unknown actors or regular customers of the small screen (there was already half the casting of Orange is the New Black and the hero of Legion, Dan Stevens, faithful to the first hour of the show in which he appeared several times). A perfect mix that makes it the most relevant – and most human – on (weed) contemporary culture.