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May 4, 2014 | by  | in Arts TV |
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High Maintenance [Review]

High Maintenance
4.5/5

This show has actually been floating about since 2012, though I was only referred to it recently, and I haven’t come across heaps who’ve seen it. Everyone should see it. Couple more things on that side of things: Sarah Silverman likes it; it’s critically acclaimed; created by 30 Rock writers. Only 3000-odd followers on Twitter, if you’re into Twitter. Who knows how many people have seen it, really. Certainly not I. Maybe it’s far more popular than the internet would have you believe. So:

Web series set in New York. Isolated episodes, though with some recurring characters, which range from five to 13 minutes long. So it’s kind of perfect if you’ve got one of those little attention spans. What happens is we meet the episode’s character/s, they do something, and at some stage The Guy gets called and he delivers the pot. Like most brief synopses, that sounds pretty shit. Not so.

Mostly unknown actors and beautiful cinematography and writing all contribute to a wonderful sense of realism, which at times exhibits great pathos but for the most part remains pretty comedic. Not laugh-out-loud funny most of the time (comedy is not the goal); the humour is instead much more organic and convincing, and therefore satisfying, in a way that, say, a sitcom might not be in the way it sets out to directly and purposefully humour you.* This is not to say the show is light all the time. There are a couple of pretty troubling and poignant episodes – see ‘Jonathan’ in particular. An episode which, dare I say it, fits into the series as a whole with a sort of dark irony.

From a storytelling point of view, it’s actually incredible how rich such a short video can be. We’re given realism (which I keep talking about, but I suppose that’s just a phase I’m going through at the moment), and like good examples of an art form (I guess I went there…), it’s relatable regardless of whether or not you yourself do what the characters are doing. Here, I’m not just talking about the drugs thing. There was an episode, ‘Rachel’, featuring a cross-dresser,  which I thought was really fucking on-point and awesome. I know nothing about cross-dressing, so I won’t talk about that too much more, and in fact the episode to me was more about marriage and relationships and family. Getting carried away. Point is, within 13 minutes I empathised with a character who seemed real and whole to me – someone I liked.

What else? The dialogue is probably my favourite aspect of the show, but that’s just because I’m a sucker for some sparkling conversation. As an aside: did you know that dogs can’t watch TV? Wow. The dialogue here is pretty minimalist, and in fact the whole show probably is. Given the time-restricted medium, we’re presented with something very slick and polished, though this polish is balanced by the realist conventions I forgot to mention earlier – stuff like the long takes and handheld camera. And again, the dialogue, which utilises a lot of space and plays with stuff like characters talking over each other, etc. Outstanding characterisation.

What more else? I’m reasonably new to the web-series thing. But the more I watch them, the more I sort of think they’re like short stories, if you’re a person who reads for fun. By that, I mean they’re these little bite-sized, scrumptious brain-snacks. I was gonna do a whole thing on that in here, but after a brief and unfortunate google it turns out that The New Yorker actually has an article on that, so you’re prob better off just going there if that line of thought interests you. I may have even stolen the idea from them after reading their article drunk and forgetting about it or something.

In summary, I’d say watch this, please. I mean I haven’t watched heaps of web series. But fuck, guys; this one is so good and it’s also pretty fun.

*I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and friends. Not Friends, though, maybe? In fact, ignore that, I’m no expert. Not even close, mate.

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