Andrew Haigh is best known for his unflinching portrait of a gay couple who’s romantic tryst is limited to 2 days in his film Weekend. It was a sexy, raw, honest look at the relationship between two men that wasn’t a typical gay movie. Sure it had it’s man-on-man sex and a few scenes at a gay club, but it’s focus wasn’t about coming out to your parents or a vicious gay bashing, it had more to do with day-to-day aspects of being gay. It’s appropriate that he is writing and directing episodes of HBO’s new series Looking and bringing his fly-on-the-wall style with him. The show feels like a cleaner more mainstream take on this idea, slightly funnier and with just as much male eye-candy.
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Patrick is played by the adorable Jonathan Groff (who happens to be in my top five list of celebrities I’m allowed to have a freebie with and my boyfriend — can’t complain). I fell in love with him when I first saw him in a production of Spring Awakening on Broadway a few years ago and it has only grown with time. Patrick is a 29 year old anxious video game designer living in San Francisco. The longest relationship he’s had is 6 months and he’s bouncing between looking for Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now.
The episode starts with an awkward case of park cruising gone terribly wrong for Patrick when he tries to introduce himself to his new male friend and is told to stop talking while the bear’s cold hands make their way to his member. From there Patrick spends the next few days cruising somewhere a typical 20-something feels a little more comfortable: the internet. He eventually lands a date on OKCupid with a doctor who, after meeting for a glass of wine, decides that things aren’t going to work between the two. Watching Patrick on his bus ride home I was blushing just as much as he was when he was getting hit-on by Richie (Raul Castillo) who seems to be the new love interest for Patrick the show will (hopefully) explore.
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Patrick’s roommate Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) is an artist with a partner named Frank (O.T. Fagbenle – I’ll refrain from making a joke). Things just got serious between the two of them and Agustin has decided to move in with him — it’s a little more than giving a key, and a little less than sending out a joint Christmas card. Later in the episode Agustin, Frank and Agustin’s assistant at his studio have a few drinks and things start to get steamy after the assistant shows the couple his new Dolly Parton signature tattoo on his chest (did producers know the premiere date would be Dolly Parton’s birthday? Happy Birthday Dolly!). Is this Agustin’s way of balancing the decision of moving in by doing almost the exact opposite of what that act typically means? The two reflect on it afterwards and Frank asks, “Are we going to be one of those couples?” a segue for what I hope will be an interesting examination of the committed couple’s evolution and what happens when one partner wants something the other may not.
And then there’s the sexy moustached SATC alum Murray Bartlett who throws away his Aussie accent to become Dom. The oldest of the three friends, he’s approaching 40 and has been a server for years and is still trying to figure out what to do with his life; especially since for the first time ever, a younger man rejected him. He has a hilarious roommate named Doris played by Lauren Weedman who I’m hoping is given more screen time to make us laugh in future episodes.
What I loved about the show is how funny it was by being rooted in reality. Lines like “Can we just stay in and watch The View?” something I know I’ve asked my roommates more than once and “Instagram filters have ruined everything and I can’t tell if this guy is hot or not”. Sure, it sounds shallow and easy, and it is, but I know I’m guilty of it. It is however, a reality that wasn’t available to gay men decades ago, something that has been fought for by previous generations. I know it wasn’t touched upon in the first thirty minutes of this new series, and maybe it won’t be. Maybe the show isn’t meant to be outwardly revolutionary like Queer as Folk was, and it certainly doesn’t paint its characters as safe, unoffending gays next door like Modern Family. For now we can just wait, for more awkward Patrick, for Dom’s 40th birthday, and for what I’m hoping will be some hot sex scenes. This reviewer is looking forward to the next episode and to see where these characters take us.
See what I did there?