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Gay Focus

Our verdict on HBO’s Looking

We deliver our thoughts on the first episode of the new show.

Looking episode 1

Looking kicked off in the UK tonight on Sky Atlantic following its recent launch in the US.

The HBO show was created by Michael Lannan and executive produced by Weekend’s Andrew Haigh along with David Marshall Grant and Sarah Condon. Looking focuses on the lives of three gay friends in San Francisco; Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett)

In tonight’s first episode Looking For Now, we get our first introduction to the three friends and get a real feel for what the show is going to be like over its 8-episode first season. In the opening minutes Patrick has a go at cruising which is ruined when his friends call him mid hand-job and at first you would be forgiven for thinking the show was going to be a modern Queer as Folk or a male version of Girls.

Thankfully the show is neither of those things and it actually manages to surprise by depicting three gay men without making the fact that they are gay the entire focus of the show. We applaud the lack of stereotypes in the show and in the first episode there are no non-threatening screaming queens. Dom is the closest you get to a stereotype as the older and sluttier of the three friends. Actor Murray Bartlett brings a more human side to the character though so he’s definitely not the male equivalent of Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones.

The central focus of the show really is Patrick played superbly by Jonathan Groff. A little camper than he was in Glee, Groff portrays Patrick as a loveable nerd who works in the video games industry. The character spends the first episode trying to get back into the dating world following the news that his ex-boyfriend is getting married. His date with a doctor goes horribly but a chance encounter with Richie (Raul Castillo) on the subway home gives him a little boost. Will he regret giving him someone else’s business card we wonder? By the end of the episode he’s had an awkward encounter with his ex who is out on his stag do with his fiancé.

Patrick’s best-friend Agustin agrees to move in with his boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbenle) and their relationship takes an interesting turn when they find themselves involved in a threesome with Agustin’s assistant for the day Scotty (Tanner Cohen). A conversation later in the episode seems to suggest that one half of the couple may not be quite as ok with the impromptu threesome as they seemed at the time. We smell trouble ahead for Agustin and Frank…

Last but not least the older male of the group, Dom (Murray Bartlett) is a waiter and from the dialogue he speaks we soon learn he’s getting a bit sick of sleeping with men in their 20s. He lives with Doris (Lauren Weedman) an ex-girlfriend and is debating whether or not to reconnect with his ex. Doris tells him not to so of course as soon as he’s alone he calls him and leaves a message. Earlier in the episode we saw Dom get knocked back by a younger colleague at work so it seems his lothario days could be in trouble.

As the episode draws to a close Patrick enters a bar hoping to hook up with Richie. Could he get a little bit of love and happiness? We doubt it’s going to be that plain sailing.

Looking starts off with a promise. The first episode takes a slow-build approach to establish the characters and allow you to understand who they all are. The three central characters are very different but their friendship feels genuine. It’s nice to finally find a show that’s aimed at a gay audience that doesn’t focus on stereotypes and clichés. The performances from Groff, Alvarez and in particular Bartlett are what really impressed us so we’re looking forward to seeing how they progress over the season. Looking appears to have legs and we’ll be following it to see where it goes next.

Tune into Sky Atlantic next Monday at 10.35pm for the second episode of Looking.

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