Looking: Why HBO's new gay comedy is must-watch telly
GT has been given an exclusive first-look at the hottest gay series since, well, ever
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Do you remember Weekend? It was that critically-lauded homoerotic drama from two-and-a-bit years back. Directed by Andrew Haigh and set against a steely Nottingham backdrop, it documented a chance, whirlwind relationship between Glen and Russell – two seemingly mismatched, but undeniably-modern gay men.
We loved it because, well, it represented gay culture on the silver screen like never before. It spoke honestly and truthfully about the modern gay lifestyle and told the world that, yes, some of us do cruise clubs for sex on our own when we're feeling a bit lonely, yes, some of us do use recreational drugs during sex and, yes, some of us are just out there looking for a monogamous relationship, for – dare we say it – Mr Right.
Either way, we could see ourselves in the characters. We related to it. So we're pleased to say, that's exactly what you're going to get with HBO's new comedy series Looking, coming to Sky Atlantic in the UK later this month. And it should come as no surprise, then, that Andrew Haigh has had a hand to play in this one, too, acting as executive producer to Michael Lannan's frankly-touching creation. It's equal parts gritty, sexy and heart-warming. Gentlemen, this might just become your favourite TV show of 2014. Let's see what we've got in store.
Like all the best things on telly, the plot is pretty straight-forward – a group of three gay friends living in San Francisco, struggling with the pressures of modern gay life. You know, losing your sex appeal as you age, threesomes with your boyfriend, cut or uncut cock, that kind of thing.
But it's not just sex, sex, sex. It also tackles the universally-appreciated story of almost-30-somethings with no direction in their life, looking for the bigger picture, for fulfilment, love and happiness. And we suppose, when it comes down to it with Looking, it's about friends helping each other muddle through the complexities of day-to-day life. You can relate to that if you're gay, bi, straight, trans or whatever.
Also, if you're a fan of hot guys with facial hair, this is going to be right up your street. They come by the bucketload, so to speak.
Don't be surprised if you recognise a few familiar faces in Looking, either. Glee's Jonathan Groff plays 29-year-old Patrick – a video game designer dipping his toe in the dating pool after the untimely engagement of his only real ex. But this is Groff like you've never seen him before – and you warm to him straight away after his misguided attempts at cruising in a park in the first episode's opening scenes. "You're a pervert, just like us", his friends laugh. You'll be laughing along with them.
Patrick's best friends are 31-year-old Agustin (Frankie J Alvarez) and 39-year-old Dom (Murray Bartlett), who're having their own uniquely-worrying problems. Agustin is not only struggling to make it as an artist, he's struggling to make it as a boyfriend, grappling with the domestication of his monogamous relationship. Dom, on the other hand, is pushing the dreaded big four-zero with so many romantic and professional ambitions unfulfilled. Not only that, he's looking for love in all the wrong places. Well, dating apps and saunas, mainly.
Then, of course, there's special guest star Russell Tovey, who crops up in episode three just as you're getting to grips with core group of characters. Sparks fly from the off when Tovey, who plays Kevin, meets our beloved Patrick. But don't worry, it plummets pretty quickly from there, and the eyes-behind-the-hand cringeworthy moments between the pair become some must-watch moments of the show. Problem is, even though this is the Being Human's star's first-ever gay role, why does it all feel a little too obvious?
Oh, and Quantum Leap's Scott Bakula – actual Scott Bakula – turns up in an episode cruising for a fuck. Absolutely priceless. We've never wanted to see more and less of someone at the same time.
So we're thrown into the deep end in episode one – we mentioned the cruising, right? It's pretty much setting the tone of the rest of the series, with Agustin agreeing to move in with his boyfriend Frank (OT Fagbenle), Dom thinking about reconnecting with an old flame and Patrick stepping back out onto the dating scene in light of his ex's upcoming wedding.
In episode two, Dom and Patrick are helping Agustin move his stuff to Frank's place out of the city, when Patrick declares he's tired of searching for a boyfriend. You'll find yourself agreeing with Dom, though, who questions whether or not Patrick is actually capable of a casual fling. The voice of reason, our Dom. Oh, and watch out for a pretty hot sex scene in this one, too. Like we said earlier – boys with beards.
Russell Tovey makes his debut in episode three as obnoxious Brit, Kevin. We're not all like this, American readers, honest. Anyway, sparks fly right from the start, but something unbeknown to Patrick might just throw a spanner into the works.
Things take a turn for Agustin in episode four, though, when he meets someone in a cafe who might just change his point of view on a lot of things. Dom, on the other hand, still struggling with his age issues, meets an older guy in the most unusual of circumstances and, well, they actually seem to have a bit of chemistry. We're routing for them, anyway.
So, what do WE think?
You might read some reviews which compare Looking to the gay version of Girls. Or, even worse, a "gay Sex and the City". That's just lazy journalism, and we're afraid the reviewer just hasn't quite grasped it. The writing is far too sharp for either of those comparisons.
The plots all intertwine seamlessly, bringing it back to the group of three friends. It's genuinely funny and, perhaps even more importantly, the chemistry between the lead actors is palpable. And frankly, that's what's going to make or break a snow like this.
It's quotable, too. Oh, is it quotable. Our favourite so far comes from Dom's flatmate Doris (Lauren Weedman off of Date Night) after one of his online hook-ups is singing in the shower: "Did you fuck the pain away with the cast of Wicked?" Someone give that line an award. Now. Not that this show is going to be short of awards once the ceremonies come around...
Like Weekend – or cult web series The Outs, if you've seen that – you relate to the characters. You invest your time in them, you sympathise with every bad thing that happens to them – even if it's their fault – and it makes you part of the show. Art imitating life, and all that.
After the four episodes we've seen, this is already a front-runner for our favourite telly show in 2014. If you want a modern gay show that tries to be real, this could be exactly what you're Looking for.
Looking premiers on HBO in the US on 19 January, 10.30pm, and Sky Atlantic in the UK on 27 January, 10.35pm.
Click here to follow Looking on Twitter, and get exclusive news and updates about the show.
Words: Ryan Butcher (@RyanJohnButcher)