author: MichaelSome people seem to love it, others really don’t. Without a doubt, Looking is a fairly divisive show and maybe that’s a good thing.
The newest “dramedy” to grace HBO’s mid-winter Sunday night timeslot is Looking, a series that revolves around three gay males searching for fulfilment, both professionally and romantically, in a modern day San Francisco. It’s been met with a generally positive critical response, averaging around a 7.7 on IMDb and an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been steadily improving throughout the season. Though the make-or-break factor, like with any television show, is in the ratings. Unfortunately, it stumbled out of the gate, with only 338,000 viewers tuning in during the premier despite a fairly aggressive marketing campaign. Some people seem to love it, others really don’t. Without a doubt, Looking is a fairly divisive show and maybe that’s a good thing.
On the bright side, viewership has picked up on a weekly basis since the premier and the show seems to be finding its audience – much like Looking’s time slot companion, Girls, which also experienced a soft launch back in 2012. The show is still searching for its groove, which can sometimes take up to a complete season. Is Looking struggling a bit to find its footing? Yes. However, it is laying out a compelling foundation that has the potential to draw a dedicated audience that will tune in for the characters and their relationships, emotionally investing in their high points, low points, and everything in between.
And a show like Looking will live or die by its characters and their appeal to an audience. While not all entirely likeable, they could potentially be worth rooting for in the long run. Patrick, played by Jonathan Groff, comes across as the least experienced of the group, and more naive than he’d care to admit. As a result, he’s awkward and a bit neurotic. Not only does he overthink every action he takes, he almost immediately regrets those decisions, often rightfully so. It also doesn’t help that Patrick’s two closest friends are a little more sexually uninhibited. Dom is a gay man whose entire motivation in the first few episodes is that he’s about to turn 40, which means that he might as well be dead. The solution to this? Hit up Grindr and prove your virility with a random, youngin’ hookup. His story isn’t particularly unique – he’s also stuck at a dead-end job that lies nowhere near his ultimate ambitions – but there’s an earnestness to him that one can’t help but find endearing. The member of the trio that is least likable (in my opinion) and admittedly know the least about is Patrick’s best friend, Agustin, who comes across as the type of person who has absolutely nothing figured out for himself, but aggressively lectures others on how they should be living their lives. Some of his actions already have me in a bit of a rage, and I’m hoping some further character development can at least humanize him a bit more.
The biggest complaint I see lodged against Looking is that it’s boring. Nothing really HAPPENS. Characters go out to eat, engage in small talk, stay late at work, flirt with their bosses – it’s all very tame and normal. You won’t find the psychedelic club sequences, gratuitous sex scenes, and recreational drug use of Queer As Folk, but I think these characters are trying to tell a different story. If you want the campier side of gay culture, go back and watch that show. I don’t get the impression that Looking ever had any intention of picking up the torch QaF dropped. This aims to be a show about three friends who happen to be gay and, shockingly, might have some universal stories that resonate with straight people too. And maybe that’s why Looking resonates so much with me – I’m gay, but very much on the Patrick spectrum. For better or worse, I see a lot of myself in his character, and that’s rare for me. Queer as Folk never appealed to me, mainly because that aspect of gay culture never really held my interest. Call me boring, but it’s nice to finally be able to connect with a gay character on television.
I actually think it’s great that Looking has been so polarizing, especially among gay people. For a while, there seemed to be an underlying obligation in the gay community to fully endorse and embrace every gay personality on television, and I never really bought that philosophy. Not every character is meant to appeal to every kind of viewer, and that’s fine! Though, I hope audiences continue to give Patty, Dom, and Frankie a chance and prove to HBO that this show can have its niche too. Only time will tell and, until then, I’ll be watching the ratings with fingers crossed.