Some of the best comedies are ones that have you laughing, even when you shouldn’t be. HBO’s High Maintenance – the acclaimed web series from Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair that’s now been lengthened to half-hour increments for cable TV – might be billed as a stoner comedy, but it’s hard to really stuff it into that box. The show, which follows a well-meaning weed dealer as he interacts with his often affluent, Brooklynite clientele, is more harsh than mellow; less a rib at laughable laissez-faire drug use, more a completely honest look into the downside of “getting high.”
It’s what makes it stand apart from shows like Broad City or Girls — series that often glamorize or at least make fun of drug use. An anxiety-prone 20-something uses cocaine in the bathroom; a millennial wanders the streets of New York City high on Vicodin and weed after dental surgery. Watching people get high on TV is almost always funny, except when it isn’t.
High Maintenance kicks off its HBO stint by continuing to do what it did so well online – character studies. But viewers who aren’t familiar with its history might be left reeling from its pacing. The show hits the ground running, following The Guy (Sinclair), a bearded, bicycle-riding weed dealer who fits the stereotypical weed dealer mold. He’s just here to chill and sell weed, not cause any problems.
His interactions with clients drive the plot forward – if there is one. His first trip to a bunch of guidos with a Vin Diesel fetish somewhere in Brooklyn ends much like you’d expect. It’s an amusing vignette into the life of a drug dealer. For some reason, there’s an expectation of friendship along with a bag of Mary Jane, and The Guy struggles to make a profit without putting in the effort of convincing his clients he likes them – he doesn’t.