Thursday, April 19, 2018
TV and Media

Review: HBO's 'Looking' doesn't try too hard — and that's good

HBO's new show Looking was being called the Gay Girls even before it premiered Sunday night.

Maybe because it's a half-hour dramedy about youngish people living in a big city. Maybe because the two shows air right after each other. Maybe because they both feature a lot of sex.

But after watching the first episode, it's clear that comparison couldn't be more wrong.

Aside from the fact that the shows don't have much in common (they differ on everything from setting to character motivation to tone), Looking wasn't burdened by tons of negative publicity before its debut.

The backlash to Girls started before the show even premiered in 2012. It was, among other things (like 27-year-old creator Lena Dunham's nudity and the show's unvarnished sex scenes), centered mostly on how it should be the show of its generation, that the series needed to encapsulate the 20-something female experience for an entire group of millennials. Dunham's show didn't fit into that forced mold — how could it? — and it seemed to prevent people from seeing the show as it was instead of the show they wanted it to be.

Unlike Girls, Looking doesn't arrive with pressure to be the Great Gay Show on TV.

And it benefits from that greatly.

What's so striking about Looking is that it doesn't act like the relatively groundbreaking show that it is. (Yes, Showtime's Queer as Folk, about five gay men living in Pittsburgh, came out 14 years ago, but since then gay characters on TV have been reduced to stereotypes that suck the humanity out of them.)

In its pilot episode, Looking ambles along without any of the weight that could have come with a show about three gay men of varying ages. It's just a show about their lives — their boyfriends and roommates and jobs and dating problems. They're just people.

Theater vet Jonathan Groff brings great charm to his character Patrick, a 29-year-old video game designer who recently broke up with his boyfriend, who, after four months with someone else, is already getting married. Patrick is the sweet, sorta naive, sorta prudish one of the group, and Groff (who's openly gay) plays him with a combination of wide-eyed vulnerability and good comedic timing, kind of like Matt Damon's younger gay brother. Patrick's roommate Agustin (played by Frankie J. Alvarez) is an artist of sorts who's on the verge of moving in with his boyfriend. Their friend Dom (Murray Bartlett), who with his former lover Doris (Lauren Weedman, a hoot), is pushing 40 and has outgrown his job as a waiter.

All of the characters feel lived in, especially this core trio, who seem like they've been hanging out for years, a testament to the actors and the no-frills writing that never tries too hard.

The most significant way this show differs from Girls is that it's not about that post-college period. The guys have settled, if not perfect, lives, a place to call home and a group of friends they feel comfortable with just being themselves. They know who they are. The girls on Girls started out with none of that self-awareness (it remains to be seen whether any of them have gained it), and that gives Looking a very different, welcome feel.

So what are they Looking for? In Patrick's case, it's intimacy, whether from sex (when we first see him, he's hooking up with a stranger in a park) or a relationship (he also goes on a disastrous date with an oncologist). And that's what stands out most in this first episode: It's striking to see two men kiss and cuddle and flirt on the train, not because the notion is particularly groundbreaking on TV, but because it's rarely done with this much intimacy.

On a show this unconcerned with being momentous, it's pretty remarkable.

Comments
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Published: 04/19/18
Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

I forever sing the praises of Gran Hotel, the gasp-inducing Spanish drama that is hands-down the most addicting show I have ever binged. It's been remade in Italy, Mexico (as El hotel de los secretos) and Egypt (as Grand Hotel but on Netflix as Secre...
Published: 04/19/18
Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

The violent delights and violent ends have returned.Westworld premieres a second season Sunday on HBO, and this time the artificial intelligence "hosts" are in charge of the high-tech theme park.If you thought the first season was brutal, you're in f...
Published: 04/18/18
‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

Harry Anderson, the actor best known for playing an off-the-wall judge working the night shift of a Manhattan court room in the television comedy series Night Court, was found dead in his North Carolina home Monday. Mr. Anderson was 65. A statement f...
Published: 04/16/18
Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The winter that won’t end has taken its toll on a TV meteorologist in western Michigan.Garry Frank of WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went on a rant to colleagues because they weren’t excited about his forecast.Video of the r...
Published: 04/16/18
Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster is still open in Alaska, and about to receive some interesting movie memorabilia from "Last Week Tonight" and John Oliver.
Published: 04/16/18

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Food City 500 (resumption, 296 laps left)1 p.m.FoxBaseballRangers at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMCardinals at Cubs7 p.m.ESPNAstros at Mariners10 p.m.MLBCollege softballMississippi State at Mississippi7 p.m.SECN.C. State at ...
Published: 04/15/18
St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

St. Petersburg's Movies in the Park lineup announced

Want to see a free movie in North Straub Park?
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/16/18
$13 tattoo for Friday the 13th? You can get one in Tampa Bay

$13 tattoo for Friday the 13th? You can get one in Tampa Bay

Among the things you probably shouldn't try to save money on, tattoos rank right near the top. But if you're feeling lucky on this supposedly unlucky day, you can score a $13 tattoo in honor of Friday the 13th at a number of Tampa Bay tattoo shops. ...
Published: 04/13/18
Mariska Hargitay takes her advocacy for sex crime victims to HBO documentary

Mariska Hargitay takes her advocacy for sex crime victims to HBO documentary

NEW YORK — Portraying a heroic sex crimes detective on television has provided Mariska Hargitay with a platform to help sexual assault victims in real life. Hargitay, who stars as Detective Olivia Benson in the police procedural Law and Order:...
Published: 04/13/18