Like most fans of the British indie film Weekend, I was excited when HBO teamed up with its writer/director Andrew Haigh for the new show Looking. And like most fans, I have thus far been disappointed by each new episode. The fourth episode aired on Sunday night and left me with a familiar sighing once the credits started to roll.
The show’s premise is as simple as it gets. We get a look at three gay friends living in San Francisco as they go about their daily lives. The emphasis, as the title and the general expectation of shows these days suggests, is on their love lives. There’s Dom (Murray Bartlett), spectacularly mustached, who’s soon-to-be forty and a waiter, hoping to open his own restaurant. Agustin (Frankie Alvarez) is the resident “artist”, a short guy with a beard I swear you could rip off his face like Velcro. And Patrick (Jonathon Groff), a video game designer whose vanilla-ness doesn’t even warrant him any facial hair.
The show has been called the Girls for gay men. Or a new take on the popular show Queer as Folk (which is now streaming on Netflix). Having only limited experience with both of those, I can’t say for sure. I never made it through more than three episodes of Girls before being overcome by the sheer selfishness and unrelatable nature of its characters. So in that I suppose it is similar. The show could probably have benefited from a longer running time; the thirty-minute episodes never find a good groove and wind up feeling unfocused, with all the conflict deflating towards the end. But the show’s biggest problem is that it’s doing a poor job of representing the people that are meant to be a key part of its demographic. The men in the show are bland. Their lives aren’t immediately interesting, and for television that is sort of required.
I for one will keep watching in the hopes that the show will somehow rise out of the trash of its first four episodes and find strength in the season’s second half. The arrival of Russell Tovey (George from UK’s Being Human) as Patrick’s boss is a good hook, and I can’t help but love Dom’s roommate Doris played by the cute and funny Lauren Weedman.
Looking airs on HBO Sundays at 10:30.