'Looking' react: Welcome to San Francisco!

Looking.jpg

Image Credit: David Moir/HBO

Three more guys are looking to join your Sunday night crew.

HBO’s new series Looking premiered tonight. The show follows three late twenty-something guys grappling with love and life in a big city: New York City San Francisco. Being that this is HBO, of course there’s more to the story: All three lead characters are gay. While the first episode’s plot deals with some issues that are outside what is typically seen on television (cruising in a park, for example), fans will note that the most revolutionary thing about the show is that the characters don’t have drawn-out conversations about what being gay means — it’s simply a part of their lives.

The show begins with Patrick (Broadway and Glee star Jonathan Groff) cruising in a San Francisco park – but this isn’t an average occurrence. Instead, we learn over the course of the premiere that Patrick is actually rather shy, never having had a serious relationship and currently debating whether it’s socially appropriate or not to go to his former boyfriend’s co-bachelor party. He’s a video game designer with an OKCupid account, and the best moments of the premiere come with the kind of seemingly-off-the-cuff riffs on 2014-y situations that young people – regardless of sexual orientation – are all too familiar with. “Instagram filters have ruined everything and I can’t tell if this guy is hot or not,” Patrick sighs while flipping through online profiles.

A positive sign: The show already seems lived-in; there aren’t long explanations about who people are and how they relate to each other, a necessary evil that can sometimes weigh down early episodes. For example, when we first meet Dom, we have no idea right away who Ethan is (turns out, a bad ex) or who the woman he’s speaking with is (his roommate, who appears to be a longtime friend/possible one-time girlfriend). While this can be confusing in the moment, I appreciated that it felt like viewers were just observing their lives almost as a series of vignettes, as opposed to creating moments that felt like they were being strung together for a show.

In the opening minutes, in addition to Patrick, viewers met the two other main guys who’ll make up Looking: Patrick’s roommate (for the time being) Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), as well as previously mentioned Dom (Murray Barlett). Both are clearly going through their own issues: Agustín is contemplating moving in with his boyfriend, but worried about what kind of changes that will bring to the relationship (apparently, one such change is a threesome!). Dom is still hung up on Ethan, and worried about aging – a fear that is only enhanced by a cute young guy at the restaurant where Dom works.

Elsewhere in the premiere, Patrick goes on a truly cringe-worthy date with a doctor, whose quips such as “Are you driving disease-free?” make Patrick get a bit too open about some recent behavior. The unwelcome confessions lead to the date quickly shutting things down via an abrupt exit and a precise split check. (Side note: Comparisons to HBO’s other characters-figuring-it-out-as-we-go-along show Girls are kind of inevitable, and awkward bad date scenes like this are when the show feels most similar to its HBO sister.)

Riding home from the bad date, Patrick isn’t feeling too great about himself — until he hits it off with his seatmate. Patrick doesn’t see it going anywhere, so, perhaps to make himself feel better, he pretends to be the doctor that just ended things with him, right down to passing off the doctor’s business card to the hairdresser. This can only end poorly, right? WRONG, somehow.

The episode wraps up with Patrick — a bit shaken up after attending his blissed-out former boyfriend’s bachelor party — heading to the nightclub where his one-time bus buddy works as a bouncer. Is this the beginning of a beautiful relationship? A one-night-only deal? Only time, and the next episode, will tell.

What did you think of the premiere? Will you give the show another… look? (Sorry.)

Another take on Looking from EW: Read Darren Franich’s graded review

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