Late to the Party: Looking (2014-2016)

I got permission from SadClown to post this, because they had done an LGBT media of Looking approximately a year and a half ago. I recommend reading that first, I haven’t fully read that review as I write this. This review contains a lot of spoilers, because I just needed to cite how frustrating this show was. 

Created by Micheal Lannan and airing on HBO, Looking was a generic 30-something coming of age story that had so permeated the 2010’s, but gay! and set in San Francisco as opposed to New York or LA. So, I thought for pride I would watch this half-hour dramedy of a group of friends “figuring themselves out.” The shows that Looking calls to mind for me are HBO’s Togetherness and Amazon’s Transparent, both of which I gave up on after a season. The privileged, mumblecore sensibilities are prevalent throughout.  
Ultimately, I think Looking’s problem for me is it doesn’t focus on any of the interesting elements of the story. The background characters include Ritchie, a Latine San Franscico-native who deals with his homophobic father (whom we never see); Eddie, an HIV-positive gay man who works in a trans youth center; Lynn, a polyamorous aging flower shop owner who is still mourning his dead partner; and so many more characters that would be infinitely more interesting than the bland, bland protagonist that is Patrick.  
Nothing captures this feeling more than watching the season 2 finale.  
But just to give a little background before I complain about the finale, the rest of the show is concerned with the loves and lives of its main characters, the trio: Patrick, Agustín, and Dom. The show kicks off with two roommates, Patrick and Agustín, being separated as Agustín goes to move in with his boyfriend in Oakland. Agustín gets some relationship anxiety and Patrick gets some single person anxiety, during which he meets Ritchie. Patrick proceeds to get a little racist and classist about dating a working class, Mexican man. Dom, easily the highlight of the group, is instead concerned with having a more meaningful career path and opening his own restaurant. 
Eventually Patrick dates Ritchie, falls for his boss, dates his boss, falls for Ritchie, in an endless cycle of Patrick and his boss being the worst people on my laptop screen. Agustín pays for a sex worker and struggles to make any money with his art, eventually leading to a breakup with his boyfriend entirely of his own making. And Dom successfully opens a pop-up shop and starts to make strides towards his dreams, despite having personal setbacks. Dom’s story is the best, but it’s also kind of flipping back and forth between the same two things, mostly anchored by a great performance by Murray Bartlet. He also is helped by the token heterosexual woman of the group, Doris: his best friend, roommate, and former beard from his high school days. 
Everyone settles into their roles over the course of the show, developing their relationships and careers. Agustín dates Eddie and works at the trans center. Dom ends season 2 single, but ready to follow his dream of a chicken window restaurant. And Patrick has finally settled on his boss, Kevin, who throughout the second season has been repeatedly cheating on his boyfriend with Patrick, and then shaming Patrick for feeling guilty of the affair (they’re both the worst, I can’t emphasize this enough), who has finally ended the original relationship and moved into a new apartment with Patrick.  
The finale is about them moving in together. I wish it was about anything else. In the background, we get glimpses of actual plots. Agustín unveils a mural at the trans youth center, a location that has been criminally underrepresented. Dom is struggling to repair his relationship with Doris after they have an argument over financial things about the restaurant. And Patrick finds out Kevin (who, just a reminder, he met through a very non-ethical affair and their entire relationship is just a variation of that plot thread) invited him to a sex party with the new neighbors and is on grindr for totally monogamous reasons. And we are stuck in an absurdist play of Patrick and his boss/boyfriend having an argument for 30 minutes.  

There are a lot of good moments, some great character development, and I like that the show discusses relevant things in the queer community: cultural homophobia, PrEP, nonmonogamy, etc. But we’re stuck in this unenjoyable cringe that is the main character.  
The series ends with a movie, which, considering how mumblecore the show is, feels very appropriate. It alternates between a few scenes of the main characters talking to each other, summarizing to each other and the audience where they’re at in their lives, as they come together for a wedding. There’s not much new brought to the table, it’s basically a wrap up to the arcs of the show, with a lot of the interesting things happening off screen once again, ending with the characters off into an uncertain future that was better than where they started. Obergefell V Hodges was decided as this show was airing, just a few months after the season 2 finale had aired, and the movie is a bit of a victory lap to the legalization of gay marriage and to strides that have been made.  
In real life though, there’s been an explosion of more interesting and better plotted queer shows, with significantly more diverse representation. So, it’s not quite the same intense responsibility to be the *only* gay show on HBO at the time, and I think it’s a testament to representation that there could be media this bland but still queer. This show is perfectly fine, even when it’s not what I want. I think the show wanted to be accessible to “everybody” and in doing so is kind of dry. 2/5 might watch again in a few years when I’m in my 30’s.  

Stray Thoughts

  • They had the perfect premise for a Patrick-less episode with the funeral, and they couldn’t go through with it. Dom and Doris go on this beautiful exploration of grief and their shared history, and Patrick tags along like a goofy kid on a field trip talking about his relationship woes. 
  • I like the growth of the characters, I think the characters are developed and performed really well, the actors are great, but then they’ll have these overly written moments that take me out of the show. 
  • As much as I complain about Patrick and his cringe, I actually kind of like the very destructive speech he gives at the Halloween party. I love the Gordon Freeman costume, it’s one of those costume choices that fully captures the character.  
  • Early on, Agustín tries to bond with Ritchie about being Hispanic after being a douchebag to him, and there are a lot of intricacies to this scene as it applies to Latin American culture that I don’t know if I have space to explain, but I think there’s a bit of accidental subtext considering Mexican and Cuban immigrants have a lot of different experiences. It doesn’t really comes up again.
  • I may be biased against Jonathan Groff. His most charismatic role to me is the Mindhunter guy, and like, he’s being out charisma’d by serial killers in that show.
  • There are plenty of scenes that I like in the movie, but it really loses me in the last act, that spends so much time telegraphing Patrick’s “love triangle.” I think he should have ended things single. The one night stand he has in the movie is hot. Get more of that Patrick, jeez.  
  • Side Note: I read SadClown’s review after finishing this. It’s hilarious and accurate, highly recommend. 5/5 excellent plotting.  
  • Sorry for the late posting, seems fitting for a “Late to the Party” post, and this is my first post published here. Hope you enjoyed.