The HBO series Looking, a look at the lives, loves and sex lives of a trio of San Francisco friends, has been described as the "gay male version" of the seminal (ahem) HBO hit Sex and the City. Some may argue that a "gay male version" of Sex and the City is redundant (isn't Sex and the City itself a "gay male version" of Sex and the City?). However, all one has to do is take a look at any episode of Looking's first season (now available on DVD and Blu-ray) to see that it is nothing like Sex and the City. Or Girls for that matter. Or even Queer as Folk.
What Looking is is a refreshingly realistic look at contemporary gay life, with all its up and downs. Or, should I say, "tops and bottoms", as the series is not afraid to talk frankly about sex of the man-on-man variety. Far from the coy innuendos of Will & Grace, Looking straight-forwardly tackles such subjects as NSA hook-ups, open relationships and "bottom shame", to name a few.
In contrast to the glitzy fantasy (fairy?) land of Queer as Folk, Looking offers a somewhat gritty view of gay life in the city. Not surprisingly, the series' apparent driving vision comes from acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Haigh, who's award winning 2011 Weekend shares a similar dingy pallor. Haigh, who serves as the show's executive producer and wrote five and directed seven of season one's eight episodes, even borrows Weekend's two-character structure for the season's best episode "Looking for the Future", which focuses on the burgeoning relationship of WASP-ish nerd Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Hispanic hottie (Raul Castillo).
Patrick's ex-roommate Agustín (Frankie J. Álvarez), a self-centered artist with delusions of talent, and Patrick's ex-one night stand Dom (Murray Bartlett), a nearing-40 year old stud clinging to youth and his dreams of opening his own restaurant, complete the series' core relationship. Rounding out the cast is a surprisingly sexy Russell Tovey (Being Human) as Patrick's new boss, Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) as a potential sugar daddy for Dom, and Lauren Weedman as the guy's resident sassy gal pal. Also, Newhart's Julia Duffy gives a memorable turn in the "Blythe Danner role" as Patrick's mother. Mean Girls alum Daniel Franzese joins fellow out actors Groff, Bartlett and Tovey in Looking's promising season two, which recently commenced on HBO.
MD Rating: B+
Looking: Season 1 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray:
Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.