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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stop LOOKING For Now

Article first published as Stop LOOKING For Now on TheTVKing.

HBO's Looking has semi-accurately been dubbed Girls with gay men. Both of the half hour dramedies feature authentic, unique voices, profiling personalities of a generation that haven't made in onto TV all that much yet. They're realistic-ish, or at least the characters are, and the episodes do draw the viewer in quite effectively, whether because we're seeing ourselves or someone we know in the parts.

Looking, which aired its first season finale, "Looking Glass," this week, has a little more self-awareness, playing a bit to sitcom tropes, but acknowledging it does so. When one of the guys on Looking identifies themselves as a woman from The Golden Girls or Sex and the City, we can see this. It is also clear that Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Richie (Raul Castillo) view themselves as Ross and Rachel from Friends.

This latter parallel is mentioned in an earlier episode, then shows up again in the finale when Patrick and Richie are on a break and Patrick has a sexual tryst before they get back together. Frustrated fans will surely be screaming at the screen "They were on a break!" when the news comes out and Richie gets mad, which has to happen.

I don't think Looking completely rips off Friends, though. For one, Patrick's affair is with his boss, Kevin (Russell Tovey), someone more integral to his life than a random copy girl. And while the timing is a bit too coincidental, there's no way the dynamic will play out the same way moving forward, with Patrick and Richie alternately pining for one another while the other tries to move on for the next nine years.

This is because the guys in Looking are aware of their television predecessors and are influenced, but not defined, by them. Patrick may be more likely to end up in a Ross situation because he knows who Ross is and identifies with him. But real life isn't TV, and Looking strives for that real life aspect, so while the scenario may begin the same as on the beloved sitcom, it likely will quickly branch out into something else.

Let's hope the love triangle isn't resolved too quickly, though. Should Patrick be with Richie or Kevin? We've seen an entire installment of Patrick and Richie just being happy together, and that was fantastic. We've also seen emotional moments between Patrick and Kevin, and there is definitely a strong connection there. Plus, Patrick is able to bottom for Kevin, something he struggles with for Richie, though Kevin already has the boss relationship with Patrick, so that may have something to do with it. I'd really like to see how they get along as a couple before making a decision. I hope Looking keeps both men in Patrick's life around long enough to explore this fully, and since Patrick and Kevin will be series regulars in year two, that seems likely.

Dom's (Murray Bartlett) new beau, Lynn (Scott Bakula), should also stay, though Bakula hasn't been contracted to do so. Dom's pop-up restaurant succeeds because of Lynn, even as Dom drives Lynn away from the event. Yet, Dom is able to realize this by the end of the half hour, and when Lynn says he doesn't want to work together any more, Dom pursues the older man romantically. Mixing business and pleasure is messy and that may not work for them, but Lynn does seem to bring out the best of all sides of Dom, helping him find his potential, so Lynn would be welcome to stick around for awhile in some capacity.

One of the best moments in "Looking Glass" is when Doris (Lauren Weedman) fights for Dom to Lynn. Doris has been a relatively small supporting character up until now, but this scene will make any viewer instantly fall for her. She has also been upgraded to main player for the sophomore run, and after seeing this side of her, I am anxious for more from Dom's bestie.

The third couple in the show, I am completely done with. Frank (O.T. Fagbenle) kicks out Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) after only living together a short time. Agustin completely deserves it, acting like a total ass all season, going behind his boyfriend's back and whining about his art instead of making something. Perhaps the creative types are just this unstable and it's needed for great work, but it makes them nearly impossible to be around.

I'm surprised Patrick takes Agustin back in so easily. After all, Agustin has been a jerk towards Patrick, too, especially where Richie, whom Patrick still loves, is concerned. Yet, there's definitely a lot of history between the two prior to Looking's start, so that must play into Patrick's willingness to forgive without an apology being offered. If Agustin is sticking around, and he is one of the leads, unlike Frank, we need to start seeing the elements in him that Patrick and Dom like. They have been in short supply in year one.

The fact that eight short entries can suck fans in so fully to these characters shows quite a bit of skill in the acting and writing departments. Looking is a compelling, intelligent series that is both enjoyable and fresh. If you missed this initial run, check it out on HBOGo or when it inevitably reruns. You'll want to be caught up before the second round, which will presumably air early next year.

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