Web series might have a reputation for being amateurish, but that’s not entirely fair. High Maintenance, created by husband and wife team Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, for instance, is a highly polished web series, featuring subtle characterizations, wry humor and some of the tightest writing this side of Louis C.K.’s series Louie.
Each episode, which generally runs between five and fifteen minutes, is about a new character - generally a young professional Brooklynite -- who is wrestling with life’s small problems. The one common denominator is their nameless put-upon pot dealer, played by Sinclair. The show operates on the same world of neurosis, self-absorption and loneliness as does Louie and Lena Dunham’s Girls. Marijuana is the thing that makes their urban woes a little more palatable.
Sinclair recently described his series to the New Yorker:
The thing about weed is, we didn’t want to use it as a punch line. Instead, it’s this substance that, like chocolate, causes people to expose their own foibles. People become so human in pursuit of this thing. And the interaction they have with the person bringing it is often tragic, because there are a lot of lonely people out there who order it and then that is their human interaction for the day.
The story of each episode hinges on the character’s interaction with the dealer. In the episode titled “Heidi” (above) – one of my favorites – the dealer tells a guy that the vivacious lass he has fallen for after meeting her on OK Cupid has a dark secret.
The episode “Brad Pitts” operates in an entirely different tone. A woman suffering from cancer is feeling too nauseated to eat until her middle-aged friend calls up Sinclair. The results are not quite what anyone expected.
In “Rachel,” an author, played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, struggles with both creative and identity issues.
And finally, “Olivia” is about two of the most awful, toxic twits you would ever care to (not) meet:
You can watch all of the episodes here. And at some point this month (probably 4/20) three new episodes are slated to premiere.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.