Screen Time

The world High Maintenance shows us through the Guy’s eyes

The weed dealer character serves as the connective tissue between the lives of New Yorkers who might not meet.

I have loved High Maintenance, the HBO dramedy created by Ben Sin­clair and Katja Blichfeld, since it premiered in 2016. Watching the fourth season while in my sixth week of sheltering in place in New York City is a form of spiritual counseling. The show shifts attention from the worries of the isolated self to the challenges and gifts of belonging to a larger body, reminding us of the beauty that comes from valuing people as intrinsically worth more than any metric of profit.

Most episodes are made up of two stories, approximately 12 minutes each. A young black real estate agent working long hours while trying to save for her dream home is coupled with a story of two white artists who discover that their luxury apartment building’s fancy amenities are reserved for wealthier tenants (“Namaste,” S2E3). The story of a feminist activist group torn apart by debates about race and class sits alongside that of a midwestern couple visiting their daughter in an Airbnb-style rental that comes with an unexpected pet snake (“Fagin,” S2E2). A Chinese couple who live in a tiny one-room apartment off the money they make scavenging recycling intersect with a retired Wall Streeter living with his entitled daughter and her family (“Tick,” S1E4).

These stories are all united by the Guy, a white hipster weed dealer who serves as the connective tissue to the lives of New Yorkers who might never otherwise meet. Like a deacon in an old parish system, he is the only person to regularly visit housebound, elderly, sick, or anxious people who rely on marijuana as a form of therapy. He listens to marital squabbles and sees people at moments of celebration or profound sadness. He is our conduit into lives that might otherwise be hidden from us.