“High Maintenance” remains one of the best-reviewed series on television. Of their first three seasons on HBO, none have averaged below an 84 rating on Metacritic, putting them among TV’s elite programs.
But you can’t always be better than you used to be, a pressure Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld felt a bit when HBO moved the show’s timeslot from late Fridays to primetime Sundays.
“I was bummed when we got moved to Sunday, a little bit,” Blichfield said during IndieWire’s Very Good TV Podcast. “I liked being the weirdos on late-night Friday night, and I’m very intimidated by the Sunday night timeslot.”
“We’re still weird, though,” Sinclair added — which is very true. Season 3 has featured stories about funerals that turn into parties, a peculiar reunion of fan-favorite characters, and a queer, intra-Korean romance about BDSM.
Still, after years of surprising audiences with delightful tales of New Yorkers working through things (with a little help from their friendly pot dealer, the Guy), it gets harder to keep coming up with brilliant original ideas — especially on-demand — and Season 3 hasn’t stimulated the same fervent conversations as years past.
“I feel good about this season,” Sinclair said. “I went into this season saying, ‘This isn’t our best work, but this is still good.’ This isn’t our best work, though. I’m feeling comfortable about not always hitting it out of the park, and [that] some episodes are stronger than others. I would rather spend my creative effort on making something good great, instead of making something with inherent flaws from the very kernal of the idea.”
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Blichfeld said without doing the series as long as they have, the duo wouldn’t have the proper perspective on delivering very good TV without believing it was the best. In the past, they may have torn been torn up inside if they didn’t keep topping themselves, again and again.
“Not every single one can be the most amazing,” she said. “There are going to be standouts, always, so why does it matter more now?”
“We’re not killing ourselves over this,” Sinclair added.
Both said they feel capable of doing more than what they’re producing now, but also they’re just detail-oriented people focused on always improving.
“We’re never satisfied,” Blichfield said. “Even when we were doing it ‘for fun,’ we would still watch our work and see missed opportunities — things that maybe fell short. […] Come on. There’s such a difference between something that’s inspired and creativity on demand, like when you have 10 episodes and [you’ve got to make them.] I think it’s rare those things can be of equal excitement and produce the same result.”
Blichfield said she often hears that people miss the webisodes and fans think they’re the best stories they’ve made yet. Though she doesn’t disagree, they both point out that those were the result of spontaneous inspiration vs. a contract.
For more on the current season, the writers’ process, and what’s coming at the end of Season 3, listen to IndieWire’s Very Good TV Podcast below. Don’t forget to subscribe via Soundcloud or iTunes, and follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news. Check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to IndieWire’s other podcasts, including Screen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson and the Filmmaker Toolkit podcast from Chris O’Falt.