Manuel here bringing us up to date on Andrew Haigh’s first season of his HBO show Looking in preparation for the weekly recaps that will take up this space starting next week.
“You know how I know you’re gay? You’re boring,” With those nine words, Mick Stingley (writing for Esquire) summed up his reaction to Looking, one which continued to be echoed even as Andrew Haigh’s low-key San Francisco-set show about a group of gay men blossomed into a fascinating (if, yes, clipped and narrow) show, ably experimenting with the long-form storytelling of TV to offer mundane snapshots of the contemporary gay male experience. “Boring” became a code word for viewers (both gay and straight) who for the first time found themselves exposed to gay characters on screen who didn’t mince or flounce (no Wills or Jacks here), nor who aimed to become a banner ad for a movement (no Michaels or Emmets here). It was also an HBO show hard to pin down. It doesn’t have Sorkinean monologues, or Dunhamesque sex scenes. It doesn’t have the acidic comedy of Veep nor the pathos of Enlightened. There’s a level of mundanity in Haigh’s show that's decidedly un-HBOish; this is no Westeros nor Bon Temps. In many ways, it feels like an indie film with its closest kin being Haigh’s 2011 film, Weekend. [Full disclosure, I hated that film, but that’s neither here nor there].
I bring this all up front to showcase what it is that interests me about Looking; its rather transgressive indifference towards politics of representation. There’s transgression in the very banality that so characterized the show's first season which, while climaxing with a wedding, a hook-up, a breakup and a pitch-perfect Golden Girls shout out, nevertheless seemed quite content in what Haigh & co. bill their show as: merely looking, observing really how these young able-bodied (and damn good-looking) gay men navigate their lives. It’s not surprising then that the best episode of the first season was solely focused on Patrick & Richie in a long, romantic date around San Francisco.
So, before next’s week’s premiere episode, let’s briefly recap/meet our boys: