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Looking, Ep. 1.03, “Looking at Your Browser History” follows the boys to work

Looking, Ep. 1.03, “Looking at Your Browser History” follows the boys to work

Looking promo image S01E03

Looking, Season 1, Episode 3: “Looking at Your Browser History”
Directed by Andrew Haigh
Written by Andrew Haigh & Michael Lannon
Airs Sundays at 10:30 PM on HBO

Well, “Looking at Your Browser History” sure gives more ammo to those who find this show boring. There are absolutely no crazy orgies, and even a bathhouse sex scene happens completely off screen. In fact, this episode veers almost completely away from sex and dating, concerning itself with the career and job anxieties of its main characters.

Patrick is mortified (yet again) when the cute British guy he clumsily flirts with at a work party might become his new boss. Agustín unwisely insults his boss, a middle-aged artist who makes chair sculptures, and gets fired. Dom wants to poach a chef at Zuni Café for his not yet existent Portuguese chicken-centric restaurant, but has no money or investors to actually get his dream off the ground.

All the characters have aspirations, but none seem to have the ambition or confidence to actually follow their dreams. Looking itself seems to have limited ambition of its own. This low stakes, low conflict world was initially refreshing in a TV landscape filled with serial killers and Scandal, but character studies only work with compelling characters and Patrick, Agustin, and Dom are becoming less compelling every week.

It is smart for Andrew Haigh and Michael Lannon, who co-wrote this episode, to take a break from dating exploits and get into their subjects’ work lives. Gay shows in the past have focused primarily on the sex their characters are having, aiming to titillate their gay audience and shock whoever else is watching. Looking is uninterested in titillation or shock, understanding that work and friendship are at least as big a part of life as sex.

Unfortunately, so far the creators don’t seem to understand that the most memorable television characters, the people viewers want to watch every week, are a just a little bigger, bolder, smarter, messier, and crazier than the average good looking video game designer who’s unlucky in love. Patrick and company are perfectly nice guys – occasionally witty and slightly dysfunctional, but the show is afraid to go deeper with them or depict them as extraordinary in any way.

At first, it seemed a wise choice to introduce the characters in the middle of their friendship. The pilot wasn’t weighed down by exposition or back-story. But now almost half way through the season, we’ve learned little about why these men are friends at all. It becomes even more problematic when each of the three is off on his own, as they’ve been in the past two episodes. If we barely see them together how can we have any investment in their relationships?

It’s as if the creators and HBO think that young gay San Francisco is a fascinating enough world in and of itself for viewers to want to peak inside, regardless of its thinly drawn characters. It’s true that the sense of place, the specificity of San Francisco, continues to be one of the show’s strengths. Anyone who’s lived in the Bay Area immediately recognizes the unique “whir” sound of BART as it crosses the bay between the city and Oakland. And the transformation of San Francisco into a one industry town, tech becoming as central to the city as government is to DC, is consistently reflected in Patrick’s work life, Agustín’s move to Oakland, and Dom’s feelings of marginalization as a waiter. It is unfortunate that Looking seems to be putting more care into these details than in continuing to develop its characters.

Other thoughts:

Scott Bakula’s character is more richly drawn after one short scene than Agustín has been in three whole episodes.

If they limit Doris to one scene per episode I’m gonna be pissed.

Is Richie coming back? Patrick’s Facebook suggests maybe.

Was Dom wearing a Kabbalah bracelet in the bathhouse?

Was that Zumba that Dom and Doris were doing? It looked pretty fun.

Nellie Street!

“Yeah, he’s like the white Will Smith.”

“I asked out my boss as I’m straddling a torpedo, and he said no.”

“Good luck in London. I’m sure they’ll love your fucking chairs.”