Ranking All the High Maintenance Episodes
Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, the couple behind the critically acclaimed Web series High Maintenance
Photo by Jena Cumbo for the Village Voice
As you might have read, High Maintenance has been picked up by HBO, a lofty jump from its home on Vimeo. The series that examines the lives of customers of a New York pot dealer offers highly addictive, funny, and sometimes heartwarming tales of how they interact with him, known simply as "The Guy," and their world. Created by married couple Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, the series has completed five "cycles," the first four of which are available for free on their website, helpingyoumaintain.com. You can also rent the five newest episodes for $7.99 for a year there, too. While we suggest you watch them all in a row, start to finish, we realize you might only have so much time in the day, so we've ranked them all.
(This list contains spoilers, if you're worried about that sort of thing.)
19. "HEIDI" From the North 7th Street address stated at the beginning of this episode, we can quickly form an opinion about these Williamsburg twentysomethings: They spend freely, order delivery frequently, party, sleep, copulate, and repeat. That's just in the first two minutes. These people are spoiled and unlikable, even if only for the familiarity with which they might be viewed. Their easy existence will cause viewers to invoke the H-word about their class and generation, but then The Guy reveals something about one of them while the other is out gathering supplies for an extravagant brunch (Patrón was on the shopping list). The young couple's two-week romance comes crashing down; pure schadenfreude. This episode is notable, though, for the warmth we feel as soon as The Guy appears onscreen, especially after his grating customers have made this episode painful to witness, like a subplot rejected from Girls. [Watch]
Best Line: "Oh no, that girl's homeless, man." How Long Before You See The Guy: 2:3918. "JONATHAN"High Maintenance
is marked by actors who, while almost exclusively attractive, also have screen presence that suggests a bright future. With "Jonathan," we see an actual rising star in Hannibal Buress, playing a character very similar to himself on a comedy tour. Things are going swimmingly until he's stopped cold and returns to Brooklyn, utterly depressed. One of the series' most annoying characters makes a brief return in the episode, making us wonder if theHigh Maintenance
universe happens in chronological order. Memorably, we see Buress composing onscreen tweets, deleting honest confessions in favor of one-liners that are only average jokes. It's perhaps the most revealing part of the episode, which lacks some of the signatures of other installments, like a revelation or subtle foreshadowing that's rewarded at the end. [Watch
Best Line: "You need to lighten up, stop being jealous, acting like you the only chucklefuck I can fuck." How Long Before You See The Guy: 5:3417. "ESME"
We've all met an Esme before. Played by comedian Tracee Chimo, she's clumsily out of sync with social norms, loud, and amusingly idiosyncratic. As a hapless weed delivery agent for the "Cannabitch Collective," an all-female marijuana service, she's preoccupied with drumming, a clue about her dream of becoming a member of theStomp!
show in the East Village. She's so committed, she blows off her job, a delivery to Yael Stone (Lorna Morello onOrange is the New Black
), to wait in line for an audition. Stone's "Beth on Knickerbocker" eventually calls her old dealer, The Guy, setting up a confrontation between dealers. [Watch
Best Line: "Hello! Weed delivery!" How Long Before You See The Guy: 3:14
16. "ELIJAH" The upper-class Waxman family holds a Passover Seder with a painfully goyish in-home chef wrong for the occasion, and during the course of the evening, it's clear this family harbors resentment bred by familiarity. Breaking up the acerbic half-arguing is a magic-loving asexual from the "Dinah" episode, played by Avery Monsen. Meanwhile, actress Jessica Rothe plays Monsen's sister Rachel, a young woman who wants nothing to do with her family. In the kitchen, the gentile chef suggests he and Rachel both get some pot. We finally see The Guy, relaxing on a park bench waiting for a call. He eventually shows up at the house, where he sees someone he didn't expect. This episode isn't as tightly sewn up as previous ones, and creators Blichfeld and Sinclair maybe let this one go on for too long, or not long enough. [Watch]
Best Line: "Did you just look at me when he said 'wicked'?" How Long Before You See The Guy: 5:20
15. "SABRINA" We see Chad from the "Dinah" episode, accompanied by The Guy, buying a couple hundred bucks' worth from mushrooms before they head to a large house in the woods. Turns out that Chad brought his drug dealer to the friends-take-mushrooms-together weekend, instead of maybe the two being close friends. This episode has a few rapid-fire call-backs to previous stories, some immediate, some not, so it's helpful if you've seen many of the episodes before this one, the last before the show moves to HBO. Comedian John Early plays Wayne, cultural critic of some importance and a nasty drunk, until maybe Chad has a heart-to-heart with him about it. We're almost led to the believe The Guy is friends with these people, but again he's more of a floater here, seeking out the people with real problems in his world and spending time with them. This is one High Maintenance episode, perhaps more than any of the others, where we just hang out with the characters and the story sort of happens in the background. The biggest revelation, that one character's web series wasn't picked up by a cable network, isn't mined for as much irony as it could have been. [Watch]
Best Line: "I'm a paid arbiter of taste, I can't play favorites in my job." How Long Before You See The Guy: 0:00
14. "OLIVIA" We're quickly introduced to a pair of roommates who are hyper-critical, club-hopping nightlife snobs — The Guy has them as "ASSHOLES" in his iPhone — and unlike other unlikable customers in the series, we really get to soak up how shallow they are, as references to nightclubs, hotels, and trendy neighborhoods fall like dominoes in the opening montage. In the next scene, we see The Guy playing with a toddler at the apartment of his domesticated customers. You might wish you could spend the rest of this episode in the cozy environs with this toddler, but we are soon returned to the millennial monsters, who buy pot from The Guy. Predictably, the deal goes sour between The Guy and the duo, and he ends up doing the worst thing a nonviolent drug dealer can do. It's the most potent example of revenge we witness in the series. [Watch]
Best Line: "Are you serious right now? I am not staying here alone with a shady drug dealer." How Long Before You See The Guy: 5:34
13. "GENGHIS" Avery Monsen returns as Evan Waxman, an enthusiastic wannabe teacher who struggles during his first stint in summer school with jaded teachers and the sort of students you might run into during summer school. He's quickly "eaten alive" as one teacher early on succinctly puts it. This episode's stands apart from all previous ones for the size of its cast, helped by the class of unruly teens, led by Juliannah Vasquez as Keesha, and even more cynical teachers. The story ends on a predictable down note, but we get a delightful consolation prize: A memorable homage to the closing credits of high school-based sit-coms of the Seventies and Eighties. [Watch]
Best Line: "Yo, come on, Gavid Blaine!" How Long Before You See The Guy: 6:11
Andrew (Will Jackson Harper) and Lucy (Tanisha Long) are a young, engaged Fort Greene couple, when at a barbecue seemingly of the most beautiful people in Brooklyn, we again see Scott (the crystal-loving fitness obsessive from the "Qasim" episode), who turns Andrew onto his latest obsession: Doomsday prepping. We get the sense that Andrew is bored with his yuppie life as he begins to stock up for the apocalypse. Long, a stand-up who's comedic presence is hinted at here, provides some of the best moments, but her Lucy becomes increasingly frustrated with her angry, stressed-out fiancé. While the bestHigh Maintenance
episodes seem to build to a bittersweet conclusion, this story ends abruptly — which is not to say the ending isn't satisfying. We only see The Guy sparingly: First he's delivering weed to an Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response enthusiast during a bizarre and wonderful scene, and then delivering to a stressed-out Lucy. "Geiger" is also the first episode to include two African-American main characters ("Jonathan" only includes Hannibal Buress), and while the show isn't lily white in its casting, this diversity is a welcome representation of New York. [Watch
Best Line: "That's dandelion, that's edible." How Long Before You See The Guy: 7:07
11. "QASIM" A hunky, fitness-focused redhead named Scott (Jordan Dean) quickly catches the eye of a woman (Anna Rose Hopkins) in his SoulCycle-like class before we follow him into his world, which is ruled by the Uberman Sleep Schedule (two hours of sleep a day), a strictly regimented diet, collage-making, and masturbating. We see The Guy only briefly as he delivers weed while our Uberman takes a quick nap in the apartment of a woman who has won his attention after some persistence. We're wondering what makes Scott tick, until we hear one of the series' best revelations, which involves this line: "He's a multi-dimensional alien angel who uploads information telepathically to an individual in Arizona named Tegan Freely." Sure, there are funnier High Maintenance episodes, but Blichfeld and Sinclair come close to mastering their version of the slow burn with "Qasim." [Watch]
Best Line: "The Power of Now is like my bible." How Long Before You See The Guy: 6:18
10. "JAMIE" A couple is preparing dinner while listening to Pandora ("Put on Fleet Foxes!" one says to the other) in their apartment at 250 Moore Street — a very nice Bushwick apartment, by the way — when a mouse is caught in a glue trap. "It's very clearly suffering and we don't know what to do," says one half of the couple, before The Guy, ever the mellow voice of reason, suggests it might be more humane to kill the mouse than let it struggle in the glue. "This is not an apartment where things die, this is an apartment where things live!" urges the Type A half of the couple. After exhaling a few puffs of weed smoke into a WNYC tote bag that holds the glue-trapped mouse, The Guy cinches shut the canvas status symbol, and the mouse presumably suffocates peacefully, swaddled by pot smoke. For good measure, The Guy then whacks the bag with a frying pan, shocking his two customers and probably saving them from themselves, a theme that bubbles up every few episodes. [Watch]
Best Line: "Nast'! Oh, I gotta go order some weed." How Long Before You See The Guy: 0:499. "SUFJAN"
Of course the title of this episode refers tothat
Sufjan [Stevens], but we find a young couple, one half of which is Ezra the pot-smoking teacher from the "Genghis" episode, and his significant other, spending a weekend day in beautiful, leafy Ditmas Park. They quickly move away from all their friends Williamsburg, and spend much of the episode trying to convince their friends they're happy with the decision they actually totally regret making. "Q Train's shut down next weekend," Ezra says with defeat over dinner. Worst of all, the avid pot smokers can't get a delivery person to come all the way out there. Ezra's friend Evan (the asexual magician who's become a reoccurring character) refers him to The Guy, who's faced with a call for help and misses his appointment. When The Guy is more than an hour late, the Ditmas Park couple decides to maybe stop smoking so much ("life's not so shitty that we have to stoned for all of it.") — before the door buzzer interrupts them. [Watch
Best Line: "And Sufjan Stevens lives out there, so." How Long Before You See The Guy: 6:038. "TRIXIE"
The montage that sets this piece up involves a couple "two blocks from the L train" renting out their loft space to a string of boarders via Airbnb — while they are still living in the space. Soon there's sex, drugs, flirting, and dry British questions about Wi-Fi passwords coming from guests on the other side of the couple's bedroom door. Whereas the couples or customers in the several otherHigh Maintenance
episodes are truly strange, here they play it straight while "all these fucking bobos" are living in their house. They are sweet and in love, evidenced by how a spat in the bathroom flares up but soon ends with flirting after they both agree to call The Guy. It's a warmer story than other early ones in the series, and, maybe just as important, it demonstrates the bonding powers of weed. [Watch
Best Line: "You kidding me, papi?" How Long Before You See The Guy: 3:11
7. "DINAH" Between cycles two and three of the series is this episode, and at eleven minutes, it's nearly double the length of the previous ones. The "Dinah" in this story is the woman whose New York wedding brings a still-partying college friend back into the now-settled life of a man and his wife, clearly unhappy about the guest for reasons we learn late. Despite its length, though, the story's not any grander: couples-based narrative, conflict, and the insertion of The Guy into their lives. Like "Heidi," this story has a revelation that tilts our perspective about each main character. And stick around to the end for a delicious callback to an early reference. [Watch]
Best Line: "I'm a proud asexual. I just love magic." How Long Before You See The Guy: 5:25
6. "STEVIE" We are introduced to The Guy in this sort-of pilot for High Maintenance via a brief introduction to his job, and eventual conversation with a harried assistant to a very powerful woman who's been tasked to order weed for her boss. The Guy suggests pot for the assistant, and they bond in a hotel bathroom, smoking it together. It's a focused micro-story compared to later episodes, something that acting classes might consider using. The series' first payoff comes in the form of a cellphone plopping into the toilet. [Watch]
Best Line: "I wish I could show you the memory. It's very vivid." How Long Before You See The Guy: 0:01
5. "RUTH" We're introduced via a sweetly sad montage to a security guard named Victor (Chris McKinney) with a side-job playing a bad guy in a self-defense course, before we return to the apartment of Ellen (Birgit Huppuch) from the "Brad Pitts" episode. Between puffs on a joint, Ellen asks The Guy if he knows of any forty-something guys who smoke and who have their shit together. An awkward blind lunch-date at George's Restaurant in Sunset Park ensues, before Ellen suggests she and Victor "get baked," where they bond under a leafy tree in the park, and spend the following hours talking freely, eating a lot, and little doing flirting. They meet again at Victor's apartment for more cute, awkward chatter until an accident brings them close. It's a quiet, sweet story with a happy ending, and like other High Maintenance episodes, Blichfeld and Sinclair nudge us to fill in the blanks about each character from the tail-ends of their anecdotes or visual clues like Ellen's bird-watching binoculars. [Watch]
Best Line: "I'm just going to dip your balls into the milk." How Long Before You See The Guy: 1:344. "BRAD PITTS"
With a title like that, itcould
be the video you watch first, and maybe you should. We open with birdwatchers taking the sight of late-season cardinals in the park. After maybe too often witnessing the plight of twenty- and thirtysomethings dealing with their sometimes insufferable generation-specific problems, it's downright refreshing to see, at the beginning of this episode, agraying
woman tell her joint-pulling,also-graying
friend in the park, "Saul, you're going to get us all arrested," to which he replies, "Step off my balls, Ruth. There's no fuzz out this early!" This is the first appearance of a real illness and marijuana as a possible palliative for it, when Ellen, who maybe is suffering from cancer — "they caught it in time," she says — takes up her friend's suggestion that they buy pot to stimulate her appetite. We feel real empathy for Ellen, who seems a bit afraid to smoke. It then gets really, really funny, as The Guy tries to calm down a too-high boomer. And Ellen? She's shoveling heaping forkfuls of pasta into her mouth. [Watch
Best Line: You read it up there: "Step off my balls, Ruth. There's no fuzz out this early." How Long Before You See The Guy: 4:05
3. "MATILDA" In this episode, we see the orange & pink skies of Phoenix, with palm trees above scooting minivans. This is not New York. There's a talkative, fact-spouting tween named Kate who's excited for her cross-country trip to meet her uncle, who is...The Guy. It's adorable to know The Guy has a niece, because until this point in the series he's acted mostly as a singular being, inserting himself into other people's lives. As viewers we haven't been forced to think about his personal life much until now. We also briefly see the return of Pinky, a keyboard-playing busker who made for a lovely diversion in the "Jamie" episode. Her strangeness is nearly lost on anybody who didn't see that one, save for a bizarre compliment she gives to Kate. The uncle-and-niece duo continue their tumultuous trip through New York, ending at a feminism-focused TEDx talk hosted by the couple also from "Jamie." It turns out to be more eye-opening than the planned visit to see Matilda on Broadway. [Watch]
Best Line: "Want some pizza? It's called the Cheese Is Christ." How Long Before You See The Guy: 1:32
2. "HELEN" A sweet, shy man named Patrick (Michael Cyril Creighton of Jack in a Box) with an awesome Helen Hunt obsession lives with his perpetually coughing, bedridden mother, doting on her in a way that might make you tear up immediately. He also seems to have a shyness that borders on agoraphobia. And our man harbors an infatuation with The Guy, the extent of which we learn in the final shot of the episode. The story has a quiet, sad quality to it, and unlike the other High Maintenance pieces, you might be compelled to re-watch its six minutes and forty-eight seconds. The customer, who we see order a shirt online that looks similar to the one The Guy always wears, doesn't quite know what to say or how to act around him. Blichfeld and Sinclair have made wise musical choices in the series, and "In Dreams" by acoustic songwriter tomemitsu helps the melancholic episode end on the right note. [Watch]
Best Line: "Hey, let me ask you something. How much would you pay for a really sweet dreamcatcher?" How Long Before You See The Guy: 2:281. "RACHEL"
Maybe eager to shake his role as Matthew Crawley — though why would he want to? — British actor Dan Stevens, who portrayed the upstanding lateDownton Abbey
hero, plays Colin, a stay-at-home dad who after escorting his son dutifully to school spends his days wearing and looking at women's clothing on the internet, instead of performing his day job — writing (presumably TV scripts, based on the Emmy we see in his apartment). We also see him relaxing on the pier along the East River and catching a movie in Williamsburg. It's a portrait of a person adrift. When his wife comes home unexpectedly with their sick child — Colin didn't hear his phone ring because he was smoking pot — she doesn't comment on his wearing a dress. We wonder:Did she not notice the dress because she was so angry?
We find out later. There's real love between this couple, even if he's professionally at sea compared to his wife. Reappearing here are characters from "Trixie" and "Olivia," a trend we hope continues. [Watch
Best Line: "Colin, wait, did you let the weed guy see you dressed like that?" How Long Before You See The Guy: 1:30
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