I wasn't looking for Looking. My experience with gay or gay-adjacent television series has been hit and miss at best, mostly miss. I outright loathed "Queer as Folk" what with its hypersexualized fantasy version of Pittsburgh and occasionally questionable acting. But mostly I hated it because it was populated by sociopathic characters who consistently behaved like no one anyone would ever put up with in real life. Sociopathic characters are fine if its part of the point within your concept or setting but otherwise, nope. Will & Grace was fun but like most sitcoms, once it established its 75 jokes, it basically repeated them for years with new words like a long-running "fabulous!" game of Mad Libs. Recently though it seems like gay characters, at least on non-gay focused shows have been allowed something like two dimensions; we're getting closer and closer to three!
Like most TV series which are about an under-represented demographic the thinkpieces greeting its arrival a month ago were legion and nitpicky temporarily blanketing the show with aggressive "but it's not about meeeeeeee" smog. It was never going to be all things to all gay people because gay people, like all other types of people, are not a monolith. So now that that fog has dissipated let's talk about it for what it is: a pretty good and fairly realistic drama about three gay guys living in San Francisco dealing with confusing career and lovelife and friendship issues. It's got at least some of the casually observant heart-tugging subtlety of Andrew Haigh's Weekend - the easiest comparison point since Haigh wrote some of the episodes and has directed all of them thus far. Anything that recalls that great movie in small positive ways, is good by me.
Because "Looking" is largely about sex, relationships and love, let's play the ever popular game of "Do, Dump or Marry" as a quick way to catch up. Instead of making it about people (there are only 3 main characters) which is how we're used to playing it, let's make it about moments in each episode.
S1E1 Looking For Now
DO - There have been some hilarious and possibly satiric repeated requests for erect penises on Looking from websites as mainstream as Slate. But you don't need a cable subscription for that. Give me scripted character-revealing sex scenes any day over porn! This threesome was hot without being NSFW and also super incisive about the not quite ambivalent but not quite committed but still intimate Gus/Frankie romance who moved in together at the end of this episode.
DUMP - I'll sound like a hypocrite now because I loved the threesome but I could have done without the opening joke about Patrick cruising in a public park cruising on a dare. A really offputting 'Queer as Folk' kind of way to start a show that is nothing like that one.
Patrick: Instagram filters have ruined everything and I can't tell if this guy is hot or not. What d'ya think?
Gus: Oooh, Patty. That is a lazy eye.
MARRY - I already love the casual organic way this show treats our wifi world. I don't know why this is a rarity in films and television still but people on this show actually react and play with and ignore and use and just live with computers and phones and social media realistically.
S1E2 Looking For Uncut
In which Patrick begins to date Richie but moves to quickly to sex, we realize Gus is artistically stuck when his boyfriend wants to put up an old painting, and Dom confronts an ex who severely disrupted his life years before.
DO -That priceless Golden Girls joke and that wonderful Wicked joke
DUMP - I worry for the Gus storyline because his boyfriend Frank is such a sweet character. I fear imminent dumpage.
MARRY - Doris! Lauren Weedman is wonderful as Dom's best friend / roommate. She's funny and has such great unforced chemistry with Bartlett
S1E3 Looking At Your Browser History
In which Patrick meets his new boss (Russell Tovey) at the launch of his company's new game, Gus gets fired by his artist boss (Holla ANN MAGNUSON cameo!), and Dom meets an older florist Lynn (Scott Bakula, surprisingly well-cast) in a steam room and they become unexpected friends
DO: The scene on the torpedos made me LOL so much inside... which I realize messes with the definition of LOL but shut up. Incidentally Patrick's little thing about always playing female characters in video games is a great identifiable moment (me too) prompting this list at The Advocate
DUMP: That horny kid who interrupts that great chatty scene in the steam room between Dom & Lynn. I loved that scene. Go away, sexcapades!
MARRY: I love the scene between Gus and Patrick pictured above. Looking captures platonic gay intimacy as well as Weekend captured romantic beginnings. Andrew Haigh is a talent.
S134 Looking For $220 an Hour
In which Patrick flirts with his boss but reignites his romance with Richie, Gus hires a prostitute for his new art project and Dom tries his restaurant idea out on his new (connected) older friend and everyone attends the leather fetish celebration that is the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco
DO - The way Patrick is constantly trying to close his slutty leather vest is such a perfect actor's touch from the always adorable Jonathan Groff (interviewed here). There are few things more attractive than super attractive people who are still awkward about it as if they aren't.
DUMP- I'm already kinda done with this "$220 an hour" plotline with the sex worker and it's just starting!
MARRY - I want to live in these chairs! If you had those at work and you could hang with your boss in them, would you ever leave work? My desk in my home office (aka a small piece of my living room) suddenly feels so unconducive to creativity!