It's Always Worth "Looking" Review

After the success of Girls—a show about twenty-something women dealing with life in New York City—HBO produced something similar (yet slightly different), Looking—a show about thirty-something gay men dealing with life in San Francisco. The series is also Andrew Haigh’s follow-up to his exquisite film Weekend, which also dealt with a realistic, intimate look at gay men’s relationships. Although criticized for being about nothing (unlike that one sitcom that was about nothing yet everyone loves it), a quick binge of the eight-episode season proves that there is a lot of subtle—and, at times, obvious—character development at play, thanks to creator and writer Michael Lannan.

Looking follows three gay men who are very different yet close friends. The first is Patrick  (Jonathan Groff), an awkward video game designer unlucky in love. On the way to his ex's bachelor party, he has a meet-cute on the subway with sexy stranger Richie (Raul Castillo). Though not his usual type, Patrick pushes his emotional boundaries as he embarks on a relationship with Richie. But his new British boss at work, Kevin (Russell Tovey), proves to be a formidable distraction for Patrick.

Second is Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), a budding artist and Patrick’s best friend who is in love, or something like that, with longtime boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbenle). He spontaneously moves out of his apartment with Patrick and into Frank’s place. He also embarks on an artistic endeavor filming sex worker CJ (TJ Linnard) sleep with clients. A project that takes a toll on Agustin’s relationships with his friends and his boyfriend.

Lastly there is Dom (Murray Bartlett) the mustachioed older man of the group who is not looking for love (he prefers to hook up with guys half his age). On the verge of 40, he attempts some career growth by starting up a new restaurant focused on peri peri chicken (some kind of Portuguese chicken that I still know nothing about). To find backers he crosses path with successful florist Lynn (Scott Bakula) who proves to be a savvy business partner and maybe even a potential love interest for Dom.

Just like Weekend, Looking is intimate and, at times, frighteningly realistic. So many moments feel drawn from real life that it can be anxiety-inducing to watch. And fans of Weekend will enjoy the episode “Looking for the Future” which just follows Patrick and Richie on a surprise day together, instantly reminiscent of the film.

Like its contemporary Girls, Looking pushes the boundaries of sex on television. The series opens with Patrick getting a handjob from a stranger in the woods. From there it is an increasing exploration of his sexual growth. We see—not quite explicitly—Patrick getting rimmed and discover what it’s like to bottom. It’s all very natural storytelling for homosexuals, but it was nice to hear about heterosexual reactions as they discovered what it is gay men actually do in bed.

However, not all the sex depicted was natural or normal. Agustin’s increasingly out of control relationship with CJ leads to some very bizarre circumstances. It also turn Agustin into a deeply unlikable character, distancing him from his core friends and even his boyfriend. It feels disjointed from the character journeys that Patrick and Dom are on. (But, after all that happens in the final two episodes, it will be great to see what they do with his character next season.)

Looking, like its great forbear Sex and the City, also injects much of the city into the series. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the foibles of traveling up all those crazy hills, we get what feels like an insider perspective of San Francisco. Whether you know the city or not, you can feel its influence on the series. And boy did they find some great locations to shoot, as well.

It is great having a series that examines gay life so explicitly and intimately. Haigh’s vision is intoxicating and inspiring. I hope he can continue to keep Looking fresh in the upcoming season. And I hope that this series can influence new series with similar themes.

Bonus Features

The two discs include 6 (hilarious and informative) episode commentaries by varied groups of cast and crew.

"Looking: The Complete First Season" is on sale January 6, 2015 and is rated tv-ma. Comedy. Directed by Andrew Haigh, Jamie Babbit, Joe Swanberg, Ryan Fleck. Written by Michael Lannan, Andrew Haigh, Allan Heinberg, JC Lee, Tanya Saracho, John Hoffman. Starring Jonathan Groff, Murray Bartlett.

Jan
26
2015
John Keith • Staff Writer

Writer. TV Addict. Bibliophile. Reviewer. Pop Culture Consumer. Vampire Enthusiast. LOST fanatic.

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