Television

Entertainment Television

TV review: 'Looking' finds honesty, warmth

Gay men have been waiting a long time for "Looking" (9:30 p.m. Jan. 19, HBO; 4 stars out of 4).

Sure, many gay personalities have made it to TV since the "Will & Grace" years. But like that sitcom's characters, they've been mostly one extreme or the other: in-your-face out! or completely neutered. (I call them the straight-safe gays, those totally non-threatening gays whom any straight man can embrace—but only with a bro hug!)

Like Pivot's charming comedy "Please Like Me," HBO's new half-hour show isn't about extremes. It focuses on three gay men living in San Francisco—all ordinary guys trying to figure out their lives. Like anyone else, they're looking for a sense of purpose. And sex. "Guys are guys" after all, as one of the friends says.

Created by writer Michael Lannan and director Andrew Haigh, the eight-episode series gives us a warm, playful and slyly observant peek into the lives of 29-year-old Patrick (Jonathan Groff), his 31-year-old roommate Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and their 39-year-old pal Dom (Murray Bartlett).

When we first meet Patrick, he's trying to ease the sting of a recent breakup by looking for a quick hookup in a park. It doesn't go well—cold hands and a text message kill the mood—but Paddy's not too upset about it. "The guy ... was very hairy," he tells his friends minutes later. "Not hipster hairy. Like, gym-teacher hairy."

Paddy's got a problem. He tries to convince himself to loosen up and be naughty, but he's obviously neither practiced nor comfortable doing it. When the slightly geeky, repressed video-game designer says he's going to find a sex buddy, his friends laugh at him. After a painfully awkward OkCupid date, he suffers through increasingly embarrassing experiences involving a hottie he meets on the bus (Raul Castillo) and his new boss (Russell Tovey).

Patrick's best friend Agustin's life also is in flux. On the surface, he seems thrilled to be moving into the Oakland home of his longtime boyfriend, Frank (O-T Fagbenle). But Agustin is plagued by thoughts that the couple will become too boring and predictable.

As the oldest of the friends, Dom thinks he should have his life together, but love has a way of screwing things up. Dom is disappointed that he's still waiting tables, hitting the gym and looking for fulfillment through bathhouse and Grindr hookups. "I'm such a cliché thinking that sex will make me feel better," he says to his female roommate, Doris (Lauren Weedman). "I mean it does, but still."

It's surprising and refreshing to see a gay-themed production challenge the gay community's youth-oriented rejection of anyone over 40. Showtime's "Queer as Folk" was just as honest, but there hasn't been a lot of that openness since then.

With its strong performances, subtle details and believable situations, "Looking" presents a convincing portrayal of everyday life—either gay or straight. Strip away their sexuality and these men aren't much different than anyone looking for love, direction and happiness. Here's hoping they don't find all of it for several seasons.

Want more? Discuss this article and others on Show Patrol's Facebook page

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • January 2014 TV premieres, finales, movies, specials

    January 2014 TV premieres, finales, movies, specials

    Hopefully you've all had or are still having a great holiday break, but after New Year's Day things start getting back to normal, and TV is no exception.

  • Bold predictions for Lolla 2015

    Bold predictions for Lolla 2015

    The Lolla schedule is sort of like the NCAA tournament: there are millions of possible combinations, and it’s anyone’s guess what the winning picks will be. With that in mind, we make some bold predictions about how this year’s fest (returning to Grant Park Fri.-Sun.) will turn out. Breakout artist...

  • 2010 killing of Chicago cop detailed at trial; man claims self-defense

    2010 killing of Chicago cop detailed at trial; man claims self-defense

    The man on trial in the killing of Chicago police Officer Thor Soderberg hated police and surprised the officer as he changed out of his uniform at shift end and placed his duty belt down, a Cook County prosecutor alleged Monday.

  • Aldermen to hold hearing on untested rape kits

    Aldermen to hold hearing on untested rape kits

    Chicago aldermen on Monday called on police officials to provide information on how quickly rape kits are being tested by the state crime lab, part of a largely symbolic effort to determine whether a large backlog is hampering work to apprehend rapists.

  • Alderman's 'Chi-raq' criticism falls flat

    Alderman's 'Chi-raq' criticism falls flat

    A South Side alderman's effort to tweak filmmaker Spike Lee for using "Chi-raq" as the title for a movie about Chicago violence fell flat Monday with his colleagues.

  • ComEd to hold energy fairs to help low-income customers

    ComEd to hold energy fairs to help low-income customers

    Commonwealth Edison will hold energy fairs at satellite locations across the region Monday in order to get money to thousands of people struggling to pay their electricity bills in northern Illinois.

  • PAWS Chicago "Muttshots!"

    PAWS Chicago "Muttshots!"

    These adorable pups are on the loose looking for a place to call home. They have a warrant out for their arrest. Their crime? Being irresistibly cute and cuddly. If you're interested in adopting any of these dogs, please visit www.pawschicago.org for more information.

  • Wabash Lights exceeds Kickstarter goal, hopes to begin test this fall

    Wabash Lights exceeds Kickstarter goal, hopes to begin test this fall

    The designers of an ambitious plan to install colorful LED lights on the underside of the Wabash Avenue "L" tracks raised almost $60,000 in a Kickstarter campaign that will allow them to move forward with a test of the project.

Comments
Loading

79°