The second season of High Maintanence premiered last Friday on HBO, but the show, like much of today's stand-out TV (Broad City, Insecure, Dear White People) started out online.
I first discovered it in 2012, and immediately fell in love (the creators are the only people I've ever sent actual fan mail). The episodes then were short, some a little as five minutes, and all episodic. While a feature character in one episode may reappear as a bit player in another, the thing that threaded them all together was weed, and the guy who supplied it.
High Maintanence exists in a world that is scarcely real anymore, at least not here in Seattle. It takes place in New York City, which is apparently one of those regressive, old fashioned places where instead of getting your flower, dabs, extracts, and edibles from a licensed retailer, you get them from a dude on a bicycle.
That dude is The Guy, a nameless beardo who cycles the city, dropping in on peoples' apartments with his backpack full of grams and eighths (that's another thing that's different: No one in New York seems to buy in bulk). The Guy is played by Ben Sinclair, who created the show with his then-wife Katja Blichfeld, an Emmy-winning casting director before they began writing the series, which is, at turns, both hilarious and heartbreaking. While Sinclair and Blichfield recently divorced and she is now dating a woman, their fans will be pleased to know they are still working together. (Fun fact: Her mom lives on the Olympic Peninsula and I once ran into them on the Bainbridge to Seattle ferry.)
One of my favorite of the online-only episodes—which, unfortunately, are no longer available—is "Heidi," about a newly-formed couple who lays about in bed, smoking weed, eating brunch, and spending way too much time together, as new couples tend to do. Based on the once-infamous story about a homeless New York hipster who scammed her way into men's hearts and homes, Heidi was played by the wonderfully droll Greta Lee (who later reprised a similar role in New Girl). She and her new boyfriend Mark seem content, maybe even falling in love, although she always seems to have just misplaced her wallet. Her unwitting man has no idea he's being scammed until he shows her photo to The Guy, who breaks the bad news: "Dude. That's Homeless Heidi."
Homeless Heidi reappears in the first season of the HBO show, this time in an episode called "Selfie." Now living with a rich man of her own, she discovers that Mark has written a TV show about her story. That's one of the pleasures of HM: For those who watched the online version, carrots and inside jokes are everywhere.
While The Guy has been both central and tangential to the show, his character in the second season seems more likely to be developed. In the first episode, he wakes up in bed with his girlfriend, played by Yael Stone, who also appeared in both the online version and HBO's season one. They're having a cozy morning, and then, they check their phones. Something bad has happened. While they never tell us exactly what it is (is it a terrorist act or did Trump do something stupid? Really, it could be both.), he goes through the city that day, handing over baggies of weed, which, for some of us—along with great TV—can be the ideal coping mechanism. It's an episode that may seem oddly comforting living in Trump's America. You never know what bad news you're going to wake up to, but at least you're not alone in your horror.