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Web series 'High Maintenance' normalizes marijuana culture without traditional TV

Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld are proud of their baby.
Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld are proud of their baby.
Cameron Bertron (courtesy the Sideshow podcast)

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Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair don’t remember how the idea for "High Maintenance" — a Web series about a weed courier and his customers — came to them. Considering the show’s subject matter, that’s to be expected.

But "High Maintenance" might be the best TV show made exclusively for the internet. Yes, it's won acclaim from High Times, but it's also received rave reviews from the New Yorker and Slate.

Blichfeld, who won an Emmy as a casting director for "30 Rock," had always hoped to find an outlet to showcase the great, underused actors she came across – including her husband and co-conspirator, Sinclair, who plays the show’s nameless marijuana delivery guy. “I feel like on '30 Rock,' unfortunately, so many of the roles I was casting people for were one and two-line parts,” she says. “Over time, I wanted to see them to do more.”

Those actors are given more time to explore their parts in "High Maintenance," which is essentially a series of character studies about users young and old dealing with life, love and loneliness in New York City.

Here's "Stevie," an episode of "High Maintenance" (NSFW):

"High Maintenance" isn’t the first show to tackle drug culture, but it might be the most casual about it; it’s about marijuana as much as "Cheers" is about beer. “Truth be told, the weed story is the last thing to get figured out,” Blichfeld says about writing episodes with Sinclair. Instead, they focus on, “What haven’t we seen before that happens in real life?”

As the show’s sole recurring character, Sinclair is the face of "High Maintenance," and to celebrate the latest batch of episodes, Vimeo has plastered his likeness all over Brooklyn, Manhattan — and the Internet. Thankfully, being a literal poster boy for the normalization of marijuana culture isn’t intimidating to the actor, who first inhaled at the age of 12.

But making a show about weed isn't what's most important to Sinclair. “The most wonderful thing is that I get to do this with Katja,” he says. “I imagine the pride that we feel in this project is tantamount to the pride that one feels for their children. And I don’t know a lot of people whose babies are painted on a 24-foot wall.”

New episodes of "High Maintenance" are now available.

This segment was contributed to "The Frame" by Sean Rameswaram, host-producer of the podcast "Sideshow." Sean Rameswaram is also a "Studio 360" producer. You can find both Sean and "Sideshow" on Twitter.

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