HBO’s highly anticipated new series “Looking” finally debuted tonight and my biggest fear is there will now be a deluge of gay men who decide that San Francisco is now the city for them. We’ll only be talking about the first episode in this post, but the overall series is so good that guys who really shouldn’t be heading to the Bay Area will pack up that truck, er, KIA and head west in hopes of finding their own Patrick (Jonathan Groff). Wait until they find out how much he’s paying in rent.
The combined talents of series creator Michael Lannon and director and executive producer Andrew Haigh (“The Weekend”) have created one of the most realistic portraits of the gay community ever put on the small or big screen (yes, that’s high praise). And Haigh’s hand held style and Reed Morano’s gorgeous cinematography immediately capture what makes San Franscisco — and especially the Mission and Castro Districts — so different from the rest of the country. All of this only becomes more apparent as the series goes on. But, I digress. Let’s get to tonight’s episode.
Now, because I’m up in Park City, Utah covering Sundance (where the first two episodes were screened at the festival’s legendary Queer Brunch today), we’re going to go over just some of the general plot points. Or, this is basically me admitting I saw the first episode three weeks ago and since Alan already posted his very positive review we’ll save more episodic details for next week. In the meantime, some points of discussion…
Introducing the three amigos
We’ve got the aforementioned Patrick (Groff), a producer/designer at a San Francisco based video company (already breaking cliches). Then there is Augustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), Patrick’s BFF from college who is probably heading toward a career crisis (that can happen around 30). Finally, rounding out the trio is Dom (Murray Bartlett), their 39, but almost 40-year-old friend (I mean, by the time you’re 38, you might as well say you are 40) who is still working as a waiter, but has dreams of opening his own restaurant some day (uh-huh).
The resident female cast member
It’s hard to believe this was in Lannon’s original pitch, but any gay series needs a resident lady to spice things up (I’m not going to use the term I know you were thinking of) and for “Looking” that’s Dom’s longtime roommate Doris (Lauren Weedman). Something tells me it’s going to be difficult for the writers to make her relevant on a week to week basis. Am I wrong?
The first scene
OK, admit it. How many of you were ready to change the channel with the very first scene of Patrick “experimenting” with a random hook up in a San Francisco park? (We gays call this: old school). It actually made me shudder, but it turned out to be a very smart way to show the personal dynamic and friendship between the three leads as he shares his experience with them.
That OK Cupid date
Patrick, I think we’ve all been there. You meet someone online, you converse with them for a bit and you finally have a date. And. It. Goes. Terribly. Wrong. Not the first time this has been conveyed in film or TV, but it might be one of the best at capturing just how awkward it can be.
The unexpected flirt
Patrick’s love life turns around a bit when Richie (Raúl Castillo) flirts with him on the Muni. Again, great scene where Patrick can’t believe Richie would be interested in him (it’s clear he thinks he’s straight at first) and makes him reconsider his type (which we’ll guess is not usually Richie, but more on that next episode).
Augustin and Frank make a big step
One of the series leads decides to move in with his boyfriend Frank on the other side of the bay. In the first episode. Who thinks this just won’t work out?
Beyond those points, what did you think of the premiere of “Looking”? Are you as hooked as I am?