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Looking, Ep. 1.01, “Looking for Now” a strong debut from a new voice

Looking, Ep. 1.01, “Looking for Now” a strong debut from a new voice

Looking 010101

Looking, Season 1, Episode 1: “Looking for Now”
Directed by Andrew Haigh
Written by Michael Lannan
Airs Sundays at 10:30 PM on HBO

The first scene in the pilot of Looking is a clever fake-out. Two guys anonymously hooking up in a park is the most clichéd signifier of gay male sexuality out there.  Here it is for the hundredth time – the awkward fumbling, the perfunctory kissing, the premature interruption.  But it turns out that Patrick, the recipient of this sad outdoor handjob, has wandered into the woods as a sort of joke. He and his friends wonder if gay dudes still do stuff like that, and he decides to find out. The characters in HBO’s new half-hour are both self-conscious of the old stereotypes and confident enough to be unembarrassed when they occasionally fall into them.

Created and written by Michael Lannan (Lorimer) and directed and executive produced by Andrew Haigh (Weekend), series premiere “Looking for Now” introduces the aforementioned Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustín (Frankie J Alvarez), and Dom (Murray Bartlett), three 30ish friends living in San Francisco looking (get it!) for love and sex and fulfillment and everything else.

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After his terrible tryst in the park, Patrick has an even worse date with a douchey oncologist and has to suffer through his ex’s bachelor party (a joint one with his fiancé). Agustín and his boyfriend move in together, but a threesome with a sexy artist’s assistant forces them to start negotiating their monogamy. Dom, the oldest of the crew, takes a rebuff from a younger coworker to heart and worries that he might be losing his sex appeal.

These are all pretty standard plots, and the novelty of gay lead characters won’t be enough to sustain a series. But there are enough smart details and thoughtful themes presented in this pilot to cause excitement for future episodes. Issues of class and race are touched on subtly but purposefully.  The questions of marriage and family are broached, not long ago impossibilities for LGBT people and now almost expected by many parents and friends. Also intriguing is a depiction of a friendship between a gay and straight man, something commonplace in the real world and nearly unprecedented on television.

Haigh’s direction is gorgeous and intimate, and the San Francisco locations are beautiful. Groff makes a likeable if somewhat bland leading man, but both Alvarez and Bartlett are really fun to watch, and the minor characters are very well cast. This is a strong pilot not weighed down by a high concept premise or back-story, and it’s going to be a treat to see how the season unfolds.

Bryan Rucker

Other thoughts:

“Really? Like a winking smiley face… what are you, a Japanese teenager?”

“Do you think my 6 month old patient who has the heart defect, do you think she would mind?” “Whatever, she’s just doing it for attention.”

“I designed it myself, and it’s Dolly Parton’s signature.”

Are Gibran quotes pretentious or just symptomatic of terrible taste in poetry?

I want all of Agustín’s sweaters.

San Francisco cred: Lagunitas, MUNI, Press Club, moving to Oakland.

This is my first review for Sound On Sight. I’m really excited to be part of the family!