Television Review: Looking
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 00:01
There are always those movies that you wish you hadn’t gone to see with your parents — I still have scarring memories of watching “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” with my family. “Looking,” HBO’s new dramedy about the lives of three gay best friends may be one of those shows to watch with caution when around people other than your friends.
Exploring relatively uncharted territory, series creator Michael Lannan delves into the modern and fast-changing culture in San Francisco by following three best friends: Dom (Murray Bartlett), Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez).
Sarah Condon and Andrew Haigh team up to produce this bold and revealing series. While having worked on films like “Black Hawk Down” and “Gladiator,” Haigh is most well-known for directing “Weekend,” a British romantic drama about a weekend-long relationship between two men which received praise for its provocativeness and realism. Sadly, “Looking” does not seem to live up to the expectations set by Haigh’s previous work, although it may be unfair to even compare the two. Both stories are about gay men, but the smilarities mostly end there. “Looking” tells a completely different story — one that could be considered to be part of a completely different category. Restraining himself from glamorizing the sex scenes or romantic relationships, one can tell Haigh wants to portray the story in a gritty and realistic way when he includes a Grindr-triggered sex scene and OKCupid dates.
This series jumps straight in, opening with a rather explicit sex scene involving Patrick in a park in San Francisco. Patrick, the youngest of the three friends, is the most naive and inexperienced in terms of sexual relationships. Living in a more exploratory phase of his life, he quickly discovers that he is not looking for any commitment in a relationship. While Agustin moves in with his boyfriend right at the outset, the couple’s relationship is made slightly more ambiguous when they partake in a threesome. Dom, who is 39, struggles with getting older, failed, past relationships and difficult career ambitions.
With each character at a very different stage in his life, the friendship of the group allows for advice and perspective to be given on each other’s problems. We quickly get a glimpse into their past romances in order to better understand their current stages in life. Whether they are looking for something serious, a hookup or somewhere in between, each character’s sex life is certainly not lacking. But the portion of the show revolving around sex comes at a sacrifice: Character development and self-awareness is severely lacking.
Although the first two episodes are engaging, they’re still shaky enough to not net a consistent audience. However, the story promises to unfold over time, and the show is therefore one with which you must be patient. The first two episodes paint the backdrop for the future direction of the show, which will be the development of each character as they try to find what they are looking for. Clearly, the show is asking for you to give it time.
The refreshing part about “Looking” is that each character’s role is not defined by their being gay. While it is a show about gay men, many more themes are explored beyond homosexuality. In many shows, like “Will and Grace” and “Modern Family,” the gay characters’ identity fits clearly into stereotypes of the gay best friend or the gay son-in-law. In “Looking,” while the show revolves around gay culture, the fact that it takes place in such a setting allows the viewer to see these characters beyond just their sexual orientation. Their identity is associated with their career stages, life development and personal relationships.
If you are looking to explore a new type of show, take the time to watch “Looking” because it explores a topic that has not been developed as successfully as other popular TV show themes. For those who cried when “Sex and the City” ended and who have found themselves addicted to “Girls,” “Looking” is something to keep in mind the next time you’re looking to take a break from homework and studying.