The Right Stuff #7 - High Maintenance
For those hunting for a funny yet thoughtful TV series.
Is the news getting you down? Old Rupert Murdoch and his mates got you feeling like the world’s going to tear itself apart at any moment? Fear not, for [my] new column The Right Stuff assures you of at least one thing: to kick that growing cynicism aside and join us on the highway to optimism – destination: Hope Town*. The Right Stuff is your weekly dose of the news you deserve; from the mouths of people you may not have heard before. I can’t guarantee it’ll always be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, but life’s not like that either, is it? Arthur Miller once said that a good newspaper is “a nation talking to itself” The people you’ll hear from in The Right Stuff are speaking to us and all we’ve gotta do is listen!
*Figuratively speaking, not that place in the Bahamas
The sheer quantity of television series is seriously overwhelming. For me, it’s actually fairly rare that I find a series that I engage with on multiple levels. Game of Thrones has fallen into disrepair and I’ve got the distinct feeling they’re now trying to squeeze every last penny out of a massive franchise. I was wading through vast swathes of C-grade humour before I stumbled upon High Maintenance last year. I think I’ve watched every episode in the two seasons at least 3-4 times, and there’s a number of reasons why I just can’t get enough of it
Firstly, High Maintenance is incredibly funny. The show centres around a weed dealer with a big beard and a great sense of humour, who rides his bike around New York City delivering to his diverse range of clients. Some encounters make you cringe, others almost bring a tear and most make you laugh out loud. From helping a gay couple euthanise a mouse caught in a trap, to hanging out with the newborn baby of some clients who no longer purchase his produce, the protagonist always goes above and beyond the call of duty to keep his clients – many of whom are his friends – happy.
More importantly – or at least the reason why I like this show so much – is the social commentary that is cleverly weaved through the episodes and humour. It is fantastic in the way it redefines the dominant social construct of marijuana; the stigmatised and stereotyped images of unproductive, dole-bludging stoners. High Maintenance refutes that idea and presents a diverse range of people who all smoke marijuana – whether casually, socially or chronically. We see young and old. We see cancer sufferers, full time professionals, and (admittedly) a few stoners all thrown into the eclectic mix.
People who drink a beer here or there aren’t automatically alcoholics. The fact that this assumption is placed on a ubiquitous, plant-based drug– although illegal – is unfair. High Maintenance is worth a watch, whether just for the laughs, or for the underlying social prejudices that it seeks to expose.
Now for all the plebs out there like me, it’s currently only on HBO, aka TV you gotta pay for. The original two seasons plus a new third season are scheduled to be shown. I paid for the series on Vimeo last year, but unfortunately those episodes have been taken down. Whether it returns to Vimeo is yet to be seen, but if you can get your hands on it then I highly suggest doing so. (via legal means, of course – remember if we don’t actually pay for things occasionally, then screenwriters and actors can’t keep producing these amazing smaller-scale creative ventures).