Piggybacked on the season three premiere of Girls, Looking‘s debut was slated to be for thirtysomething San Franciscan gays what Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath is for fledgling female millennials: a mirror. With its promising slogan, “Find something real,” the series by-and-large succeeded in portraying the contemporary queer experience. Now the boys are back for a second go-round on Sunday, Jan. 11, giving you just enough time to plow through season one and fall for Jonathan Groff’s Patrick Murray all over again.
What’s the premise? Patrick (Groff) works for a video game developer in San Francisco, navigating the waters of love and sex with bashful earnestness and cringe-inducing naiveté.
What’s it like? Looking is a queer series driven not by the provocative and promiscuous glitz of Queer as Folk, nor by the painfully bubbly zeal of The New Normal; rather, Looking finds solace in the sedate subtleties of its leading men’s day-to-day. It’s quiet and introspective, putting conversation and character above all else. Looking‘s unfettered tranquility is the sort of production that unwise viewers meet with a yawn, but we promise it’s worth it. Patrick and his best friends Dom (Murray Bartlett) and Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), will soon enough have you empathizing with their maddening missteps and young adult misgivings. Get to know them, and you’ll be begging they stick around longer than their eight-episode allotment.
How long will it take? Looking has eight 30-minute episodes, so binge season one in about four hours to be caught up for Sunday’s premiere.
What do the critics think? As is the case for most series catered to a niche audience, viewers from within that group will often bemoan that this, that, or the other does not reflect their personal experience. Such was the case for a handful of critics upon Looking‘s premiere. With the exception of those apprehensive few, however, Looking was subject to a positive reception and season one is Certified Fresh at 89 percent. In his review, Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter targeted the series’ naysayers specifically, saying that a show does not have to be the truth to be relatable and representative, simply a truth. “Sometimes viewers forget that a television series can be about these people, in this time, living their own stories,” Goodman wrote. “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.”
Why should I watch this? Looking is a series for everyone. It’s easy to put it in its box, slap a big “Gay” sticker on it, and stow it away in the attic, but non-LGBT viewers would be missing out on one of television’s truest gems. You don’t have to hold it to the light to see its refracted rainbows — it certainly wears its pride colors on its sleeve — but more than a gay series, Looking is a human one that happens to be about gay men. In the first eight episodes alone, you’ll run the rounds of love and hate for Patrick, Dom, and Agustín, but that’s because they’re as flawed and frustrating as any other man in your life. It’s not escapist television, but for those who are looking for perspective in their own life and their own relationships. We won’t ruin any of the details here, but be prepared to fall head-over-heels for Richie, Patrick’s season-long love interest who’s heartbreakingly realized by actor Raúl Castillo. And as Dom’s comically candid gal pal Doris, Lauren Weedman gives Jennifer Lawrence a run for her “I-wish-you-were-my-best-friend” money. Plus the series’ frank discussions of sex, race, and class make for fascinatingly authentic moments and dilemmas without being overly preachy or sentimental.
What’s my next step? To continue your binge on humanist homosexuality, your next step should be writer-director Andrew Haigh’s 2011 gay indie, Weekend. It’s no coincidence that Haigh was tapped to executive produce Looking alongside showrunner Michael Lannan. For more gay narratives along the lines of Looking, web series like Adam Goldman’s much-loved The Outs will also be right up your alley. Also, HBO scored high marks last year with their original movie, The Normal Heart, which stars Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitsch, Matt Bomer, and Julia Roberts and won the Emmy for outstanding TV movie in 2014.
Are you ready to look into Looking? Tell us why in the comments below!