‘Looking’ for love in San Francisco

Looking throws itself into your face and shrugs off your surprise. Created by Michael Lannan, Looking, is the story of a trio of gay friends living in San Francisco, and their pursuit of sex, love, and happiness. Season two shows some welcome progress for the boys; Patrick (Jonathan Groff) is still awkward and slightly neurotic, but is branching out of his comfort zone in his new, unconventional relationship with his boss. Dom (Murray Bartlett) is close to realising his entrepreneurial dreams, but finds his work and love life colliding as he dates a much older, richer man. However, Augustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) has regressed somewhat, deciding to get over his break-up with Frank the only way he knows how, self-medicating and partying his way into oblivion.

Their storylines continue to move fluidly between themes including, but not limited to, open relationships, the San Francisco drug scene, threeways, fear of commitment, drag bars, joint stag parties, casual hook-ups, dating sites, HIV tests, and sugar daddies. There is a matter-of-fact quality to this show that refuses to pander to contrived concepts of “normal” or “abnormal”, which is extremely refreshing to watch.

The characters feel more fleshed out and three-dimensional in this second season, and are mercifully lacking most of the stereotypically ‘gay’ characteristics often put upon LGBTQ characters in sitcoms and romance shows. Looking in fact flips the stereotype of the fabulous or bitchy gay male roommate by giving Dom a straight female roommate, Doris (Lauren Weedman), who at the start of season one was in danger of being typecast as a so-called ‘fag hag’ and whose inclusion smacked a little too much of tokenism. Thankfully, in season two Doris is rounded out into a real character with sexual relationships of her own, rather than as a mere trope to complement the three boys.

With Looking, Lannan has succeeded in creating a programme of worthwhile substance that neither outweighs nor suffers beneath its entertaining style. The narrative has a relaxed, naturalistic feel, and although it sometimes lacks pace and excitement, a sense of realism is achieved without any loss of humour. This humour is interspersed with moments of truly soulful poignancy that would seem mawkish if it weren’t so carefully juxtaposed with awkward encounters with ex’s and instances of Patrick’s hypochondria, for example.

Overall, I found Looking to be a programme with nothing to prove, no agenda to push, but simply a lot of relatable, entertaining stories to be shared with anyone who cares to pay attention: may I recommend that you do so.



Kathryn Kaiser

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