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‘High Maintenance’ FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About HBO’s Newest Comedy

Created by Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, the series is about an awful lot more than pot.

Ben Sinclair in "High Maintenance."

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Editor’s Note: This article is presented in partnership with High Maintenance, a new comedy series on HBO. Tune in to the new season premiere on Friday, 9/16 at 11PM with new episodes every Friday, only on HBO.

The upcoming comedy “High Maintenance” has all the ingredients to become HBO’s next critical favorite, but it also has a relatively unconventional backstory compared to other shows. So, to explain what to expect when the series premieres on September 16, we have prepared the following guide.

So, what is “High Maintenance”?

It’s HBO’s newest comedy, though it’s also technically been around for a while. The first three episodes of “High Maintenance” first premiered online November 9, 2012, and a total of 19 episodes were made for digital distribution, prior to the show partnering with HBO.

Can I watch those episodes now?

Yep, all 19 are currently available on HBO GO and HBO NOW, along with new commentary by creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair. You should totally check those out before the new season premieres.

Nineteen episodes? That sounds like a lot to catch up on. 

Not really! Because they were originally made for the web, the web episodes range in length, from about five to 20 minutes each. You’ll be done before you know it.

Do I need to watch the web series before the HBO show premieres? 

While you’ll have no problem understanding the individual narratives — all of the stories are completely self-contained — many of the new episodes bring back characters from the web series, and you’ll have a richer experience with the show if you do go back and catch up.Ben Sinclair: "High Maintenance"

But okay, what’s it all about?

“High Maintenance” largely revolves around the many clients of The Guy (played by Sinclair), a pot dealer who bikes around the many boroughs of New York serving his varied clientele.

Is it all about weed, then?

Actually, no! Most of the stories told on the show have some connection to marijuana, but most of the time The Guy and his product are only tangentially connected to the action.

So if it’s not really about weed, what’s it about? 

People, by and large. Each part of “High Maintenance” spotlights a member of the show’s eclectic ensemble, including a sword-wielding tough guy, a young Muslim college student, a social media-obsessed selfie-taker and more. In the web series, each episode was focused on an individual client. In moving to HBO, episodes now include multiple characters over the course of half an hour, but focus on one person at a time. This means that every episode is essentially a life in miniature, and that filming styles and tones can actually vary wildly from episode to episode.

That’s cool, but what’s the point of watching a show where the characters keep changing?

Well, for one thing, the low level of commitment means that Blichfeld and Sinclair are able to bring in a revolving door of pretty stellar actors, from relatively unknown players like Max Jenkins and Greta Lee to familiar faces like Amy Ryan, Dan Stevens, Kether Donohue, Yael Stone, Michael Cyril Creighton, Hannibal Buress and Gaby Hoffman.

But also, this approach brings to the show a unique ability to iris in on character in a real and engaged way, while never losing its observational feel. It’s character study on a scale rarely seen on television, and the creators’ ability to build a franchise on that approach makes it something really special.

What episodes from the web series should I check out first?

Just a few of our favorites:

  • “Heidi,” while extremely short, showcases the power of economic storytelling.
  • “Jonathan” features Hannibal Buress in an surprisingly affecting dramatic turn as a stand-up comedian dealing with an incident on the road.
  • “Brad Pitts” focuses on one of the more common uses of marijuana, bringing a new angle to the importance of The Guy’s business.
  • “Matilda” lets us get to know The Guy a little better through the eyes of his young niece.
  • “Rachel” spotlights the daily life of Colin (Dan Stevens), a stay-at-home dad who finds unique ways to stay busy.

What’s the biggest surprise of the series (so far)? 

Stevens, the dearly beloved Matthew Crawley of “Downton Abbey,” looks amazing in women’s wear.

Wait, do characters ever come back?

Without giving too much away, “High Maintenance” embraces the universally understood idea that New York City is in many ways a very small town. Surprising connections are constantly in play over the course of the new season.

And we want these characters to come back?

Absolutely.

But here’s the thing — if this show isn’t really about weed, does that mean it gets all judge-y about it? 

This is not at all a cautionary tale. “High Maintenance” showcases a wide range of people, including business professionals and responsible adults with families, indulging in a controlled substance which is getting less controlled by the year. In short, it’s a show which does something relatively revolutionary in this day and age: acknowledge an increasingly common recreational activity that is becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry.

So when does “High Maintenance” premiere again?

The first episode, “Meth(od),” airs September 16 on HBO.

Editor’s Note: This article is presented in partnership with High Maintenance, a new comedy series on HBO. Originally a hit web series, past episodes are now streaming on HBO GO and HBO NOW, and on HBO On Demand. Tune in to the new season premiere on Friday, 9/16 at 11pm, with new episodes every Friday, only on HBO.

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