Andrew Haigh, Frankie Alvarez, Frankie J. Alvarez, HBO, HBO Looking Review, HBO Looking Series, HBO Series, HBO Series Looking, HBO Show Looking, Jonathan Groff, Looking, Looking HBO, Looking Review, Looking TV Review, Michael Lannan, Murray Bartlett, O.T. Fagbenle, Russell Tovey, Scott Bakula
Clearly from my previous post about HBO’s new series “Looking“, I had certain feelings about the casting of the show and as a result I was going to try to resist watching it. My problem, stated in that post, was a lack of diversity and new perspectives in TV. Honestly, I still feel that way even though I have watched the first three episodes of the series and I do enjoy it. In fact, I really enjoy it.
The biggest selling point is the writing, led by Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh, which does a great job of making the characters feel real. The scenarios our leads find themselves in feel authentic and relate-able, and the show has a great balance of drama, comedy, lightness and darkness. One moment you feel sad for Dom , the next you are laughing at him and his best friend Doris attempting a Bollywood dance class. The pacing of each episode is excellent and never lingers too long on one feeling giving a nice array of emotions. Additionally, each of the lead actors and the supporting casts fully fall into their characters and it never feels like they are acting. The direction of the show, with it’s off kilter cinematography and washed out look, gives the sense that we are watching real people through an iPhone camera which makes it feel that much more authentic .
The show focuses most of it’s time on Paddy (played by Jonathan Groff), who is annoying with his naivety, selfishness and arrogance, but at the same time adorable and lovable for with his awkwardness and confusion about dating. Lannan and Haigh seem to be using Paddy as the embodiment of a single gay, he’s less of a real character but a sounding board for all the frustrations and confusions and fun single gay men have. He makes a lot of the same dating mistakes as most of us in navigating in the gay scene on the quest for Mr. Right.
Dom (played by the incredibly handsome Murray Bartlett) is the older guy of the group who is often down on himself because he hasn’t accomplished any of his goals as a restaurateur, and regretful of the choices he made in men in the past, like his formerly drug addicted boyfriend who used and abused him. He hooks up randomly through Grindr or bath houses to try to ease his frustrations about life, but is looking for something more in life.
Agustin (Frankie Alvarez) is the coupled guy of the group, an aspiring artist who is progressing nicely with his boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbnle) and taking the relationship to the next level by moving in together. Agustin seems to get the smallest amount of screen time, but with his doubts about his relationship and losing his job as an artist’s assistant, it’s clear that that his characters arc is headed for something very interesting in future episodes. He’s definitely likable and funny, but seemingly conflicted about his relationship and his lot in life, like many of us in the world.
Episode 3 introduced new characters Lynn (Scott Bakula), a guy that Dom converses with at a bath house. A well to do man who is smitten with Dom, who he knows him from the restaurant he works at, Dom doesn’t seem too interested in him sexually, but it seems like an interesting set up for Dom’s character who is in need of money to open his restaurant, which Lynn obviously has from his successful Florist shop. Russell Tovey plays Kevin, Paddy’s new boss at a gaming company. Kevin is instantly likable with his British charm and snark, and he seems to be the first person to call Paddy out on his shit. He seemed like he would be a great nemesis for Paddy, as they had a funny back and forth throughout most of Episode 3, but by the end they landed on a positive note with their work relationship, which was a little disappointing, but clearly there will be more fireworks as the season progresses.
As it stands there are lots of things to look forward to, and that’s the addicting thing about the series thus far. They are laying eggs for us to come back and watch how they hatch. And doing an excellent job of teasing us, while entertaining us.
One of the best things about the show though is it’s about gay men, but it’s also just about men – people – living in a world that is difficult and confusing and frustrating but also a fulfilling and fun with new experiences around every corner. “Looking” doesn’t pander to any stereotypes about gay men like a “Queer as Folk” or “Noah’s Arc”, it shows that gay men have the same problems as everybody else. That makes the show unique and relate-able for the masses.
All that being said, I actually think Paddy could easily have been an Asian-American. It would have added a different dynamic and a bit of diversity to the show. There’s a scene in Episode Two where Paddy talks about his mother’s macaroni and cheese that he often tries to re-create. Had the character been Asian, it might have been an Asian dish with a little line about his upbringing that might have exposed viewers to a bit of Asian culture they may have never known about, something I talked about in that previous post. I also think the show is missing a newly out character, someone who hasn’t lived their life as an openly gay man and is struggling with the adjustment. Something like that might have made the naivety of the Paddy character more believable.
But I don’t want to try to re-write the show (I’m working on my own projects), I just wanted to say that i watched the show without prejudice and really enjoy it. Though I complained about the show not having a new perspective, it’s so realistic and believable that I feel like it’s giving me, a black gay male, a peak into the perspectives of white gay men and I enjoy that aspect of it. It’s fun, it’s dramatic, it’s different and it’s just a good thirty minutes of TV.