As one of the most cinematically gorgeous shows on television, featuring some of the greatest naturalistic dialogue and unfiltered depictions of sexuality, HBO’s Looking is only missing one thing. The gay-themed, San Francisco-set drama that just finished its second season has yet to be renewed by HBO. While the creators are cautiously optimistic about their renewal, HBO has yet to release a statement. Although, the show may not be embraced by everyone, nor does it show everyone’s experience with being gay, Looking is for someone.
Improving from its first season, by bringing in more characters from a diverse background and covering topics such as HIV, Truvada, enemas, and open relationships, creator Michael Lannan and Producer Andrew Haigh are able to present characters who do not have to have their lines lessen to broaden their content. Haigh had formerly directed the film Weekend (2012), following a sexual relationship between two men that develops over the course of a weekend, before one man is about to leave the country; Haigh has recently become one of the most renowned queer directors. Focusing on three friends in San Francisco, Looking revolves around their life, relationships, and family. Featuring Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a 29-year-old video game designer, Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez ), a Cuban American artist, and Dom ( Murray Bartlett), a 40 year-old aspiring restaurateur. They are joined by Doris (Laura Weedman), Dom’s best friend since high school, Richie (Raul Castillo), a Hispanic barber and love interest for Patrick, and Kevin (Russel Tovey), Patrick’s boss and another love interest for Patrick. During its second season, Looking introduced it’s breakout character, Eddie. Played by Daniel Franzese known by many as Damian from Mean Girls, Eddie works with homeless trans teenagers and enjoys life while being HIV positive. Presenting a diverse cast of characters, Daniel Franzese shared his thoughts on the Looking’s representation of the gay community.
“We live in a very interesting and diverse world, and the more that we can see interesting and diverse characters, of all sizes, statuses, and everything else appear on screen, and the more that people can see themselves represented, I think the more we’re really being true to the art form of filmmaking,” Franzese said.
Being the first show since Queer as Folk (2000-2005) to prominently revolve around a cast of gay men, Looking is one of the first few shows to put the LGBT characters front-and-center,as opposed to a secondary role. By going beyond many of the stereotypes found within television, as well as making these characters accessible and family friendly, the show is able to represent genuinely real people with their fair share of flaws. By doing so, it provides an authentic and mature look at the life of those living a comfortable life in San Francisco and happen to be gay, allowing the show to explore the lives of its characters without a political force getting in the way.
Looking is able to present a world where everyone is past coming out, and thus, marriage is a possibility. While there is drama and plenty of conflict, it mainly resides in the interior of the characters instead of surrounding exterior projections. Showing the true beauty of each relationship and of San Francisco with beautiful cinematography, the show is different from any other LGBT shows to be featured on television. The most intense scene of Last Sunday’s finale featured a two-and-a-half-minute long take that presents the immersive emotions of a couple arguing. Visually and aesthetically there has never been something along the lines of this scene on television. In the fifth episode of the first season of Looking, titled Looking for the Future, the episode diverges by focusing solely on Patrick as he spends a day with Richie, instead of continuing the storylines of all three of the main characters. The episode follows the two characters walking around San Francisco, getting to know each other over the course of a day.
During the same episode, Patrick and Richie go to a planetarium. What starts as conversation on who is the Ross and Rachel of the relationship becomes a discussion on how sexual positions are defined in a clear heteronormative way. Richie decides that Patrick is the Rachel of the couple because he is the boss and she is the top. Patrick goes on to talk about how being a bottom has always been weird. Bringing in their parents into the situation, Richie asks Patrick if he thinks his parents would be embarrassed if he was a bottom. When Patrick asks Richie, how he feels about the situation, Richie responds on the negative restrictions such terms have. “Those terms were made for people by the internet. How do you know what you are into when you are into a guy? You have to be adaptable, otherwise you are going to miss out.” While on the surface the two are talking about how preferred sexual positions can define a person, it’s a common standpoint that can be found in many other debates. What feels natural and what doesn’t, when heteronormative thinking gets in the way it prevents one from seeing the other side. Both Patrick and Richie don’t just so happen to be gay, but they find their sexuality directly affect their mentality and life. This is one of the shows’ greatest strengths, and what makes it seem very real. From its character’s decisions to their conversations, Looking provides real characters. Just as Looking for the Future provides the audience with a glimpse of how the two are able to spend the day together as they go through their city without any outside concerns, the show is filled with little moments like this.
Taking place in the present, the conversations on Looking focus on not only what is going on currently in the LGBTQ community, but also the past and dreams of the future. By exploring such conversations, a deep understanding of how each character currently stands on many of the issues of being gay are explored, creating an understanding of how gay men not only interact when developing a romantic relationship, but how their surroundings have impacted their ideology and beliefs to become the person they are today.
Murray Bennett who plays Dom, during an interview with Vox Media spoke about what a show like Looking means for him.
“Looking is a reflection of where we are now, in terms of, not the entire gay community, but these characters in the gay community. Hopefully, it’s a real reflection of what’s happening to these types of characters. I feel like the show is also a reflection of something more unfiltered, more real. For the most part, shows come along and reflect where we’re at in terms of a community as a whole, and what we’re ready for, and hopefully it pushes boundaries a bit. I think Looking does that. I feel like, hopefully, film and TV with gay content are going more and more toward the real, and away from stereotypes. That’s one of our hopes with this show,” Bennett stated.
Instead of reaching out to just the niche audience that is gay/lesbian entertainment, Looking attempts to reach to a more traditional audience. By selling the reality of such relationships and the believability across the span of a ten-and-a-half-hour season, Looking expresses something new within a genre that has only beginning to develop.
So while the decision is in your hands, HBO, do the right thing by giving Looking at least a third and final season. Help provide these moments of joy and wonder with proper closure.