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Not by any coincidence whatsoever, HBO took advantage of today’s 4/20 date to send out smoke signals of a certain kind related to a series that will join its programming schedule. The network has announced popular web series High Maintenance will be making a cross-medium jump over to the premium cable channel to join its stable of quirky comedies. For the unconventional, glaucoma-clearing, quasi-vérité series, it will be a huge score that won’t even require a special card.
The announcement from HBO, marking the debut of High Maintenance on the bigger small screen, reveals an order for six new episodes that will be exclusive to the network. Additionally, the show’s existing 19 episodes, which originally appeared on Vimeo on a pay-per-episode basis, will also be made available later this year on HBO, HBO GO, and standalone streaming service HBO Now. Thus, it appears that the colossal cable network will, henceforth, be bogarting the series.
This acquisition could be seen as rather telling regarding HBO’s long-term vision. The much publicized hoopla over its new streaming-exclusive subscription option HBO Now seemed to be a move motivated in stemming rampant piracy. However, the choice to nab a popular web series also seems apropos for a desire to set a foothold in the streaming media market with an acclaimed show seen as an established commodity in the medium. It could very well be a sign of things to come, possibly making it a good time to have a successful web series.
Started in 2012, High Maintenance is an offbeat, experimental series created by the husband/wife team of actor Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld. The series stars Sinclair as a never-named perpetually mellow pot deliveryman known as "The Guy" whose trips around Brooklyn, New York, regularly yielding interactions with various eclectic eccentrics who make up the pharmaceutically-inclined clientele. The idiosyncratic, yet sometimes sophisticated, nuances of the customer base are the main attraction of the series, as it follows new sets of characters for a short time as the pot deliveries of The Guy become the show’s contextual thread. The weed, in essence, becomes a unifying cultural force that consistently connects the show’s rotating variety of oddballs.
The big network pickup for High Maintenance comes after its win for “Short Form New Media” last February at the Writers Guild Awards. The series has already showcased notable guest stars such as Hannibal Buress of Neighbors and Broad City, Heléne Yorke of Masters of Sex, as well as Dan Stevens, formerly of Downton Abbey, who will be playing the role of Beast in the upcoming live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, alongside Emma Watson’s Belle.
The HBO acquisition certainly raises the show’s profile significantly, and it will be interesting to see if any format changes are in store for the series, which typically releases episodes running less than twenty minutes, sometimes as brief as five minutes, in a loose schedule throughout the year. No premiere date has been set for the big HBO premiere of High Maintenance as of yet.