Looking at ‘Looking’ Again: A New Look

We’re now halfway through the first season of eight episodes of the new HBO series Looking and I thought it was time to cast another critical eye in its direction.

The show has opened to mixed reviews, including a few that were downright hostile. And today, unlike a few years back, much of the audience has its own platforms on which to weigh in, as well. (Hi, howya doing?!) A lot of those unsolicited reviews and comments have bandied around this dreaded word: boring.

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Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff and Frankie J. Alvarez in Looking on HBO. |image: John P. Johnson

In my initial take, I did not use that word (you’re welcome), but I wasn’t overly positive, either. That was after one episode.

After the second episode I was not sure whether I was coming back for a third time. I did, though, and I was glad of it. I felt that Looking was beginning to find its footing in the third episode. It made me eager to come back for number four.

That episode, Looking for $220/Hour, did not disappoint. In addition to continued realistic and nuanced performances from all of the principals, Groff’s palpable tension with guest star Russell Tovey (someone whom American audiences have seen far too little of), a nuanced little turn from Scott Bakula and another utterly captivating taste of Lauren Weedman’s Doris, we saw a storyline pull together that had been set up in the previous episodes, but the strings were just revealed here.

A lesser series, I am sure, would have had Groff’s Patrick falling in bed — or into those office chairs that could have so easily doubled as sex swings — with Tovey’s Kevin instead of letting us feel Patrick’s rocky emotional footing during the “fried chicken” scene leading to a reunion with Richie (Raúl Castillo) that was both beautifully executed and sexy as hell without being overt.

Actually, I think the problem was in how the series was originally packaged. Often, I think Americans expect “more, more, more” and expect that more to be better. Of course, that’s not always the case. (Generally, it’s not, in fact.) I do think that a half-hour is the right length for these episodes, but I do think that packaging the first two together would have given the series a stronger basis to build upon. (And I would have re-written them a bit, too, but maybe that’s just me!)

Groff told Michelangelo Signorile that he believed in Looking more than anything else he’s been a part of. Good for him. I think he should. For whatever faults it has, this is an intelligent series. Smartly written and directed and chock-a-block with canny performers.

So, boring? No. Well done? Yes. Worth another look? Absolutely.

3 thoughts on “Looking at ‘Looking’ Again: A New Look

  1. I agree with your thoughts on this series. I also did not find the first episode boring, per se, but I was also not blown away but its excitement or uniqueness. I recently reviewed this series on my blog and I’ve been searching around to see what other people/reviewers have had to say. I’m finding it interesting how much most of us agree. I find myself wishing each episode was longer than 30 minutes. Now, after having watched episode 5, I feel like the series is really starting to find its footing. I enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work!

  2. Pingback: Second Look(ing) – HBO Drama Gets Second Season Pickup | One Last Word

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