HBO’s newest show, Looking, revolves around three main characters: Patrick, Agustín, and Dom, three gay men living in San Francisco. The three are typical twenty-somethings trying to make it big in an even bigger city while also managing relationships and flames and….actually, Looking is just the gay version of any romantic comedy on television.
Nothing about the three main characters is particularly interesting. The only trait of note is that the Dom character could pass for Freddie Mercury (whether or not this was intentional, I wasn’t sure). Patrick spends the entire episode complaining about failed relationships and dating; hang around any 14-year-old and you will hear similar lamentations.
Each character has his own little plot, but with such a short running time the resolutions are too quick to follow. Dom spends three minutes discussing calling an ex-boyfriend only to call the man at the end anyway—at what point does he make this decision? What prompts him to do so? Patrick goes on a date with a man he meets on OkCupid that doesn’t go as well as planned—okay? Bad dates are common, and Patrick’s date plotline just feels like filler. Agustín and his boyfriend have an impromptu threesome midway through the show, but it is mentioned exactly once the next morning.
The threesome aside, if the writers are attempting to show the normalcy of a gay individual’s life, they certainly do so but at the cost of an exciting story.
Honestly the only thing going for this show is that there are gay characters. It is a show about gay men that isn’t pigeonholed to the Logo channel, and I am very pleased with that fact. But it’s a novelty, and that will wear out quickly. Beyond the characters, it’s just not exciting. The pace of the show is slow and predictable, the comedy falls flat, and there is no encouragement to keep watching.
I can’t say whether or not I would recommend the show to others only because I believe that seeing a single episode is not a fair assessment, but there is little drive to watch the second episode right now. And at least it’s only half an hour—I don’t think I could put up with a full hour without changing the channel.
This episode picks up as Dom and Patrick are moving Agustín into his new home with his boyfriend. Patrick mentions that he would like to find someone with whom he could have a brief sexual encounter without any strings attached, but Dom and Agustín laugh at him. Dom picks up a guy from Grindr, and later meets up with his old boyfriend (who borrowed $8,000 that he never returned). Patrick goes on a date with a Latino man he met (who shows a mutual interest in him).
Episode two is not much of an improvement from the first episode. The pace is still slow, the conversations are forced. Although I watched this episode, I still needed to find a synopsis because it was so bland and unforgettable. The main character is irritating at best; other characters are much more interesting than Patrick. The Latino man that he meets, Richie, would serve as a better protagonist than Patrick.
It took me three episodes to figure it out, but I have finally honed in on the feeling I get with Patrick: Mary Sue.
A “Mary Sue” is a character that represented an idealized version of the author. And Patrick is the nerdy gay man’s dream: he (now) lives alone, has a job as a level designer for video games, is moderately good-looking, but just enough flaws to make him human as well as to make other characters like him. Suddenly he is attracted to his new boss, who happens to be British. And this has infuriated me the entire time I have been watching this show; Patrick is not a typical gay man, he’s what the writers wish a gay man would be. But ultimately he is boring and stereotypical.
The other characters have more interesting plotlines. Dom wants to open a restaurant because he is tired of being a waiter, despite having little in funding. Agustín works on constructing artwork but is fired for speaking his mind about the blandness of the piece. These are plotlines worth watching; it is difficult to guess how Dom will solve his funding problem or what Agustín will do for work since he just moved to a new location.
While watching an episode, my younger sister asked: “Are you watching the boy-version of Sex and the City?” And that is the best way I could describe this show. But with Sex and the City, the situations are fantastical and entertaining; in Looking the situations are different, true, but they are not exciting or interesting. I retain my original rating of 2.5 stars until something worth watching happens.