Have you ever considered what it's like to be a pot dealer in New York City, traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood, armed with various strains of weed (dank, kush, purp) and an array of edibles? Your phone would ring off the hook with customers trying to get stoned: the old and the young, the rich and the poor, dog-walkers, undergrads, grandpas, swingers, gym rats. You would try to keep your ass out of jail and your phone number in the hands of trusted friends and references. But to your clientele, you would be The Guy With Weed — or, more simply, The Guy. The life of The Guy is the premise behind HBO's newest comedy series, High Maintenance — a very funny, highly (hah) spot-on representation of what life and lighting up look like in today's New York City. The weed-centric sitcom isn't anything new, of course. But then again, neither is this show: High Maintenance originated as an indie web series on Vimeo back in 2012, galvanizing a cult following over the course of its first two seasons. The new HBO episodes pick up where the old ones left off, bringing back a few old favorites from The Guy's eclectic client roster while introducing new faces.
That's what makes 'High Maintenance' different from other urban locale series about lost millennials: You really don't know where it's going to wind up.
The premiere episode,"Meth(od)," begins in an seedy, old-school barber shop, where The Guy is defending his beard length against an overzealous set of clippers. Nope, he just wants a little off the top, he tells the barber. The Guy is unrepentantly low-maintenance — way more Pineapple Express than Narcos — unlike his dozens of clients across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and even Queens. (Nope, not even The Guy likes going to Queens). Over the next 28 minutes, we meet a few of The Guy's most eccentric customers: a gay man in a toxic relationship that once pretended to be addicted to crystal meth in order to escape his best friend; and a duo of macho men working on their method acting skills by making The Guy as uncomfortable as possible — a stark contrast to The Guy's sales style, which is to be as nonthreatening and helpful as humanly possible. This is the format for the rest of the five episodes in the short-but-sweet series: A rotating cast of characters change each week, based on who hits up The Guy for bud. His clients are unashamed of their vices (including, but not limited to: cocaine, crystal meth, booze, group sex, cigarettes, selfies, and compulsive lying) and often unsure about what they're doing with their lives. The show embraces the social effects of smoking pot — how people use it to relax, bond, and escape. High Maintenance tells stories of New Yorkers who are not trying to just get high; they're trying to just get by.
Through the haze of smoke, The Guy emerges a shaman. He's unwaveringly calm (and not just because he's stoned), even while scrambling from apartment to apartment with thousands of dollars in weed on his person. High Maintenance trails multiple characters per episode, often dropping us off in an unknown location and working backwards to explain why the hell we're there. It's always one heck of a trip. That's what makes High Maintenance different from other urban locale series about lost millennials: You really don't know where it's going to wind up. The seeming randomness can be frustrating, but the unpredictability is also a testament to the unique strengths of this series. It's not just a funny show about smoking weed — though it is that, too. It's a reminder of the way narratives come together in a way you don't expect. And in that way, it's refreshingly true to real life.
High Maintenance premieres September 18 at 11pm on HBO.