November 15, 2013 at 6:29 am #305355
Cute teaser, but it doesn’t really look like a comedy, although it does look lighter than dramedies. Hoping this show is good. The pilot is bound to at least be interesting with Haigh directing it.November 15, 2013 at 9:07 am #305356
I could see Jonathan Groff getting awards attention for this show.November 15, 2013 at 9:15 am #305357
Looks excellent. Hope this will be a turning point move for Jonathan Groff.January 17, 2014 at 8:33 am #305358
TV Review: HBO’s “Looking”
January 16, 2014 | 07:15 AM PT
HBO’s promising half-hour brings 21st-century focus to gay pals in San Francisco.
Tonally compatible with “Girls,” but a lot less whiny, “Looking” has a strong indie-film sensibility, including a serialized narrative that’s less episodic than being simply an ongoing story split into half-hour installments. Focusing on a trio of gay friends in San Francisco, it would be easy to mischaracterize this as another “Queer as Folk,” but the show quickly establishes a voice and characters that firmly stand on their own. In that regard, this half-hour does more than just capitalize on the license of pay cable, and while it’s obviously not for everyone, “Looking” deserves to be found.
At its core, the show centers on tension between commitment-free hookups and the more painstaking search for serious relationships, with Patrick (Jonathan Groff, the stage star who had a recurring gig on “Glee”) serving as the de facto tour guide. At 29, Patrick has a career as a videogame designer, but spends part of his time at work surfing matchmaking sites, and he tends to agonize over little things, like whether he can pursue a guy from a different socioeconomic background—a part-time doorman (Raul Castillo) at a Latin drag club.
His two friends, meanwhile, are at slightly different stages: Augustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), a couple years older, has just agreed to move in with his boyfriend; and Dom (Murray Bartlett), a waiter at a high-end restaurant on the verge of turning 40, is still promiscuous, while seeing his dream of opening his own eatery slipping away.
“You look good for your age,” Dom is told at one point, one of those compliments that, in this context, comes with a serrated edge.
Spearheaded by writer Michael Lannan and director Andrew Haigh, “Looking” doesn’t break new ground, although it does take the license one would expect of an HBO series, and the sex scenes, while infrequent, are explicit and raw. Yet the show gets past that aspect, in part because, unlike “Girls,” it feels less self-conscious about being provocative, with the situations flowing organically out of the characters.
It is also, happily, occasionally pretty funny—something of an afterthought in many single-camera cable half-hours—such as a moment when Patrick earnestly quotes the “Golden Girls” theme song to one of his buddies.
HBO has been guilty over a recent stretch of feeling a bit too narrow in its development of comedy series, and given the subject matter, “Looking” would appear to fit that description.
Get past the log line, though, and this is a show with a strongly universal quality to its themes—foremost among them being what people sacrifice in the way of freedom and excitement as they look for love, or a longtime companion, in at least some of the wrong places.
TV Review: HBO’s “Looking”
(Series; HBO, Sun. Jan. 19, 10:30 p.m.)
Filmed in San Francisco by Fair Harbor Prods.
Executive producers, Andrew Haigh, Sarah Condon, David Marshall Grant (pilot); co-executive producers, Michael Lannan, Allan Heinberg; producer, Kat Landsberg; director, Haigh; writer, Lannan; camera, Reed Morano; production designer, Todd Fjelsted; editor, Jonathan Alberts; music supervisor, Liza Richardson; casting, Carmen Cuba. 30 MIN.
Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, Murray Bartlett, Raul CastilloJanuary 17, 2014 at 8:42 am #305359
I’m caustiously optismistic about this. It could still go wrong (those Girls comparisons have me a bit worried), but the fact it’s said to be less self-conscious is a big leap already. I’m very curious about this, it would be good to have a quality about gay people.January 17, 2014 at 8:48 am #305360
Hollywood Reporter’s review:
Looking: TV Review
1:19 PM PST 1/15/2014 by Tim Goodman
The Bottom Line: It does an excellent job of highlighting the contemporary gay experience of three friends in San Francisco.
Jan. 19, 10:30 p.m. (HBO)
With its new dramedy, HBO looks to do for gay men in San Francisco what Girls and Sex and the City did for women in NYC.
With any luck, HBO’s newest dramedy, Looking, about the lives of gay men in San Francisco, will sidestep all the trumped up controversies that continue to swirl around Girls. Any time you take a subset of people and build a show around them, those in that subset (who nevertheless have completely different experiences) will complain while others left out of the subset (for any number of reasons) will also find something to bitch about.
Sometimes viewers forget that a television series can be about these people, in this time, living their own stories.
Fortunately, gay audiences have a pretty good track record of realizing that they are too diverse to be covered completely in any one show, even if it’s a show like Looking that does an excellent job of highlighting the contemporary gay experience of three friends in San Francisco.
Shot on location in a manner that’s nontraditional—in that it’s not a postcard Valentine to one of the most beautiful cities in the world (and thus represented solely by the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the “painted lady” Victorians)—Looking is nonetheless representationally beautiful as it becomes one of the rare shows to focus on real neighborhoods with real views—and has a local’s appreciation of detail.
Written and created by Michael Lannan (along with writer-director Andrew Haigh), Looking follows three main characters: Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a 29-year-old video game creator; longtime roommate and best friend Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), a 31-year-old artist who is leaving San Francisco to move in with his boyfriend in Oakland; and Dom (Murray Bartlett), a 39-year-old waiter who has been doing the same thing for too long (working at Zuni, a beloved local restaurant and another dead-on bit the writers got perfect).
Before delving into what’s going on with the three main characters, it’s probably restating the obvious, but also probably necessary, to point out that Lannan, Haigh, and HBO want Looking to appeal to everybody, not just gays. It’s not that they just happen to be gay (a state of being in dramas that many gay people often wish for in characters), since the whole point of Looking is to explore their lives distinctly as gay men. But the larger issues at play in the lives of Patrick, Agustin, and Dom are relatable to everybody, not just gays, so the principals are hoping viewers will find something that hooks them in Looking.
There’s a nice balance of humor (Groff in particular gets to milk the comedy) and emotional drama coursing through it (like Girls, which makes a fine pair for it on Sundays).
Of course it would probably be asking too much for there not to be discourse about a multifaceted representation of the gay community. Are these stories touching the entire spectrum? Of course not. Lesbians, at least in the first four episodes, aren’t really a part of the show. Looking does a good job representing minorities (both gay and straight), makes an effort to span the generation gap (the addition of Scott Bakula as Lynn, an institution on Castro Street helps) and, because it’s shot on location, gets neighborhoods and gay hangouts (both iconic and less well-known) down well.
Much like New York has been central to any number of series shot on location there, Bay Area viewers will see a lot of familiar spots that locals frequent, and places that are name-checked are legit. Beyond that, the cinematography is wonderful, catching the nonpostcard views that locals love. And Looking was also filming during the Folsom Street Fair, so there’s plenty of leather jokes in one episode.
Other details also lend legitimacy—from Grindr to spot-on tech jokes to the disdain San Franciscans feel about Los Angeles in particular.
As for the story, Looking effectively builds beyond the three main characters. Patrick’s partner at the game company is a straight Japanese guy named Owen (Andrew Law), who is deadly funny at mocking Patrick’s often naive or geeky behavior. Patrick’s new boss, Kevin (Russell Tovey), on the other hand, is gay—that may cause some conflict because there’s an attraction, although Patrick is dating Richie (Raul Castillo), who might be enough to keep Patrick from wandering. Dom’s scene-stealing roommate Doris (Lauren Weedman) grounds Dom in ways others can’t. And Agustin’s boyfriend, Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), is more domesticated than maybe Agustin wants, even though the two just moved in.
There’s plenty of stories in that lot, and the first four episodes cover a lot of ground while adeptly familiarizing all the players.
Looking is notable for doing the one thing other shows with gay characters can’t or won’t: depict sex and intimacy in a straightforward, unflinching way. The whole series would be rendered inauthentic if not. But again, it’s fairly clear that what Lannan and Haigh want to do with this series is not just boundary-bust or titillate, but depict dramatic circumstances that are relatable to anybody.
Early on, the duo is accomplishing that impressively well.January 17, 2014 at 9:10 am #305361
Review: HBO’s “Looking” a sharp look at three gay friends in San Francisco
New comedy has an excellent sense of place and community.
By Alan Sepinwall Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 3:10 PM
HBO is celebrated more for its trailblazing dramas, but many of its half-hour series have also been responsible for pushing the limits of what’s acceptable in TV comedy, or even what we consider comedy at all, from “The Larry Sanders Show” to “Sex and the City” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to more recent entries like “Girls” and “Enlightened.” And what’s most striking about HBO’s newest comedy, “Looking” (Sunday at 10:30 p.m.) is how non-radical it seems. It’s a series about three gay male friends in San Francisco, and incredibly frank about sex (though its explicitness tends to be more verbal than visual), and yet at the moment we’re in as a culture, and in the evolutionary history of cable comedy, it just feels like a natural extension of what’s come before.
The series opens with its hero, video game designer Patrick (Jonathan Groff), attempting to have anonymous sex at a public park. Where once this would have been presented as an intense, transgressive moment, possibly involving a young man who’s been in a closet all his life, here it’s just a retro goof from a guy with a thriving social life, and who quickly gets embarrassed and starts looking for any excuse to depart the company of a stranger he’ll later describe as “not even hipster hairy, (but) gym teacher hairy.”
The other leads are Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), an artist and Patrick’s best friend from college, who moves in with his boyfriend and immediately gets the itch to experiment with the nature of, and number of people in, their relationship; and Dom (Murray Bartlett), an aging stud who still lives with his female ex, waiting tables while harboring a dream of opening his own restaurant. If you have trouble learning new character names, “Looking” makes it easy to keep track of the three guys early on by giving them different facial hair: Patrick’s clean-shaven, Agustin thickly bearded, and Dom has a trim mustache.
“Looking” was created by Michael Lannan, and most of the early episodes were directed by Andrew Haigh. They do an impressive job of capturing a sense of place and community, both in this small circle of friends and the different parts of the city they frequent. The show looks beautiful and moves confidently through its world.
Arriving nearly 15 years after “Queer as Folk” and so many other cable shows with prominent gay characters (not to mention less bold broadcast network shows), it’s incredibly matter-of-fact—if at times amusingly graphic in its descriptions—about its characters’ sex lives, tending to focus more on what they want emotionally than physically: whether Agustin really wants to be domesticated, whether Dom might be better off focusing on his career than looking to hook up, and whether Patrick can stop sabotaging himself to have a relationship that lasts long enough to actually call it a relationship.
It’s that last aspect that will probably invite the most comparisons to the show that airs immediately before “Looking.” This isn’t Gay “Girls,” but Patrick’s tendency to talk his way out of one good situation after another—”Seems like all I do lately is give people the wrong impression,” he laments—evokes one of Hannah Horvath’s ongoing problems. But his foot-in-mouth disease is, like much of “Looking,” played more gently, and on occasion “Looking” plays like a network executive gave Lannan a note that said, “Do it like ‘Girls,’ only less so.”
Through the four episodes I’ve seen, “Looking” doesn’t aim for big, loud laughs. Its humor is more of the sly observational variety, like Patrick skimming OKCupid and complaining, “Instagram filters have ruined everything, and I can’t tell if this guy is hot or not,” or the way that Patrick lists some of Agustin’s recent wild sexual behavior, then tacks on, “And eating meat!” as an additional—and, from the tone of it, biggest—objection.
That said, Patrick is the only one of the three leads to come entirely into focus over these early episodes. Making your location into a character is a great thing—especially coming so soon on the heels of another HBO show that did that so well, “Tremé”—but it helps when the flesh-and-blood characters can stand out from the city they live in. But there’s some excellent raw material in here, even if at times I found myself admiring “Looking” more than I was liking it.January 17, 2014 at 11:42 am #305362
I am not one to think reviews are the alpha and omega like most here, but what I got from reading these is that what was accomplished in “Weekend” is done here, so that is good enough for me to come in with the highest of expectations.January 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm #305363
Looking: Season One
2 ½ stars (out of four stars)
by Eric Henderson ON January 16, 2014
Developed by Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh, HBO’s new series, Looking, follows a trio of gay men who should all be at the top of their game in present-day San Francisco. Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) is a frustrated artist nearing 30 who agrees, in the first episode’s opening minutes, to move in with his boyfriend. His move will make an orphan of his college bestie, Patrick (Jonathan Groff), an overeager late-starter who never finishes his sentences and, apparently, rarely finishes dates without his flop sweat clearing the room. Their friend, Dom (Murray Bartlett), is an aspiring restaurateur who’s a decade older than the other two and still stuck waiting tables and splitting pretty men half his age in half. Once the show settles into its own skin, Looking emerges as a dramedy exploring how gay men clumsily negotiate the appropriate distance to place between the words “friends” and “benefits,” but like many of the relationships it details, it gets sex out in the open and out of the way as the first order of business . . . and too frequently the last order of business as well.
Weekend was a film whose biggest critics insinuated had its cake and ate it too, focusing only on the most exciting aspects of new love during the 48 hours two men share before one moves halfway around the world. For all its mystically credible nuances, which combined with its unforced Instagram-filter sheen almost gave off a vibe of magical realism, the film didn’t exactly counter the argument Faye, one of Don Draper’s discarded playthings, uttered in season four of Mad Men: “You only like the beginnings of things.” More serious charges were leveled by those who thought it idealized its protagonist by sanitizing him of gayness, as it were, apparently missing the part where Tom Cullen’s wallflower owned up to his own inner censorship, admitting to being comfortable with being gay only so long as he wasn’t interacting with other gay people.
The friends of Looking, in contrast, are all verbally secure in their sexuality, but experience “the beginnings of things” as the given, and very rarely as something to cherish. In the frustrating pilot episode, Patrick, a fresh, cute, single man with a twentysomething-credible job as a video-game level designer, is seen cruising in the park for a handjob. An intense-looking older man offers him his cold southpaw seconds before the entire sad encounter is mercy-killed by Patrick’s gamer ringtone. It’s one of “the guys,” and he acts like it’s a very important call he must take, which it is: He shares news of his encounter as though it’s more important that Agustín and Dom recognize his bid for broadened promiscuity than it is for him to experience it. As with Weekend, the casual explicitness of the dialogue lacks most of the forced signifiers that have come to characterize shorthand for gay discourse. Easy frankness is a mark of their mutual comfort level, and it levels their playing field despite obvious differences in experience.
It’s also among the only characteristics the trio seems to share, which may develop into a pitfall the longer the series continues (HBO’s current order is for a not-even-gay-fat eight episodes). In a recent Out Magazine article, Haigh noted that what platonically linked gay men “connect to initially is your sexuality, not your age or where you’ve been to school.” Haigh is correct that the show’s protagonists appear to be connected on a physical level, but that’s only the half of it. The moment the sizzle reel dropped for Looking, the knives came out over what was perceived as a diversity-challenged casting director. Where, they challenged, were San Francisco’s Asians, African Americans, and Latinos? Their fears were at least in part unfounded. Not only does the show’s cast do more than cover its bases, it even challenges Patrick’s motivations for first rebuffing and then enthusiastically pursuing a fling with the adorable Richie (Raúl Castillo, a holdover from Lannan’s Lorimer, the short upon which this series was based). During their chance meeting on the Muni, Patrick sends up a warning flare, saying, “You’ve got to watch out. People will try to take advantage of you.” Richie knowingly responds, “You’ve been hanging out with the wrong people tonight, sweetie.”
Indeed, and not just because Patrick at that moment is coming off a bad date of herculean proportions. (His inadvertently condescending response: “You have no idea.”) The creators of Looking may rightly bristle at any taxonomy that positions their series as the next stage of evolution from Queer as Folk, Sex and the City, and Girls, but it’s worth noting that it shares with those shows a slate of characters who are too caught up in the surfeit of choices in front of them to fully appreciate the level of privilege they enjoy. Which is probably because so many of the choices they make are the wrong ones. Sex is the one thing that more or less comes easy to the square-jawed silver fox-in-waiting Dom and Agustín, partnered as he is with someone open-minded enough to agree to a threesome with some Dolly Parton-tatted, supernaturally hung piece of Scruff bait. Meanwhile, though Patrick at one point unceremoniously unplugs his fruitless OkCupid account, his enduring aura of Archie Andrews ensures he can always get it if he’d only remove his own internal barriers. He lives in an environment where, as Richie (moonlighting as a doorman) promises, “pretty blue eyes drink two-for-one.”
Which brings us to the show’s most palpably assumed hypocrisy, temporarily sidestepping that thorny issue of alleged initial racial misrepresentation for now. Though it aspires toward an unfiltered, beardo brand of authenticity, it cannot be denied that Looking‘s roster of players and potential playees are invariably physically impressive specimens, eight shades of cute, with nary a Hobbit in sight, excepting of course that poor dude whose cold hand just wanted to please Patrick in that opening scene. As with Weekend, the assumed baseline for what serves as acceptable appearance is in fact much higher and much more exclusive than any entertainment claiming veracity should be offering, seriously undercutting its sense of generosity. “I’m not interested in angry, bad people. I like stories about nice people. They get left out sometimes,” Haigh noted in the Out piece. Yes, and sometimes “nice people,” though their hearts may be in the right place, unknowingly marginalize chubs and the elderly. (And by the latter, I obviously mean anyone over 40. Only in a series so miscalibrated in this regard could Scott Bakula represent a charity case.) Looking carries with it the potential to pick up the baton from something like Travis Mathews’s explicit I Want Your Love, another gay short that was later expanded (in this case, into a feature film), but time will tell if it can’t look beyond those hypnotic treasure trails.January 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm #305364
I’ll check it out. Hoping it’s a lot better than QaF.January 18, 2014 at 9:31 pm #305365
Episode Title: “Looking for Now” (Pilot)
Synopsis: Patrick meets up with his best friends, Agustin and Dom, to discuss an upcoming wedding; Agustin agrees to move in with his boyfriend; Dom considers reconnecting with an old flame.
Discuss.January 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm #305366
I’ll check it out. Hoping it’s a lot better than QaF.
Any show is better than QaFJanuary 19, 2014 at 4:53 pm #305367
Yeah, pretty much. It had some truly wretched dialog and acting.January 19, 2014 at 7:29 pm #305368
As a gay man, I am highly excited for this show. Since I do not have HBO, I will most likely have to catch this show when it comes out on DVD or Netflix, or catch it at a friends house. Either way, I am highly looking forward to seeing this whenever I do.
I hope this show delivers on the promise and claims of depicting gay men as more than just gay men. Or it would be nice to see gay characters on TV who are not defined by the fact they are gay. Or they have more interesting things in their life than just their sexuality. For whatever reason, many tv shows have had problems with writing and depicting gay characters as fully fleshed out and well rounded characters.
I also hope this show can avoid the trap of depicting gay men as either really badly written effeminate stereotypes or hyper- masculine gay men. For whatever reason, most TV shows seem to have trouble ackowledging the fact there are gay men who are both effeminate and masculine at the same time.
Lastly, I am hoping this show is not overly dramtic or to negative. For whatever reason, most storylines involving gay men (especially in the movies) tend to be tragedies and sad stories. It would be nice to see a show with gay characters who are out, proud, and content with who they are. Hopefully whatever there problems are they are more than just sexuality related. I do not mind a good coming out story, but it would be nice to see some characters who are beyond that and happy with who they are.
I have no clue if this show will ever win any awards or even get any nominations, but I am still highly looking forward to it. I am also encouraged by the mostly positive reviews it has recieved. Hopefully it will live to a second (maybe expanded) season.
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