I don’t even think the question of whether or not we were going to review this show was up for debate. Ever since HBO first announced their show Looking, you guys have been asking for our opinion of it. Thing is, I don’t like to give my opinion on a TV show after watching only one or two episodes, especially if it’s a new show. It takes time to develop characters and build story arcs, which is why I like to jump into a series and watch one or two middle episodes before deciding whether or not to start from the beginning.
I, of course, wasn’t afforded that luxury with Looking, so I had to start it from the beginning. So while everyone else started whining after Episode One about how “boring” the show was, I made sure to try to reserve judgement for at least three to four episodes. But now that the first season is four episodes in, I feel pretty safe giving my initial assessment.
Regardless of my own personal tastes, I do feel like I should stress the importance of a series like Looking. When it comes to TV shows, I don’t have to tell you how much the white, hetero-normative perspective reigns supreme. This is a documented fact that we’ve only recently tried to remedy. But when it comes to gay characters on TV, we almost always end up being portrayed as a bunch of outrageous caricatures…including and especially on so-called “reality” shows. I’m pretty sure RuPaul’s Drag Race is the longest running LGBT TV series so far. I’m not knocking RuPaul, obviously, because she is amazeballs, but for some people, this is the only kind of exposure that they have to gays and gay culture. Even so-called “progressive” shows like Modern Family depict their gay characters somewhat-outrageously. And when we’re not portrayed as a bunch of swishy, asexual fairies, we’re portrayed as the promiscuous, hyper-sexual nymphomaniacs you see on shows like Queer As Folk. There’s a grain of truth to the pearl that is any stereotype, but I can watch an episode of Will and Grace and lose count of how many jokes go over my head.
This is why Looking is such a big deal, even if it isn’t always the most exciting show in the world at times. The shit that happens on this show may not be as hilarious as Modern Family or Will and Grace or as sexy as Queer As Folk, but it is much more realistic and true to life. I find myself relating to Patrick and Agustin way more than I could ever relate to Justin or Brian or Jack or Will. More importantly, pretty much anyone whose ever had to endure the hardship of finding a special someone (that is to say, pretty much everyone), can watch Jonathan Groff’s performance and relate to it. It helps, of course, that he has mastered the art of being awkwardly cute. It may not be outrageous or witty or quippy all the time, but it’s believable and relatable.
That’s the true bravery of Looking. Writers don’t just resort to caricatures because they’re lazy. We also love to watch them. They’re entertaining. They’re fun. They’re unpredictable. They say and do all of the things we wish we could and cross all of the boundaries we wouldn’t dare cross ourselves. But dare I say that, in the age of reality TV, we have far too many outrageous characters. Every season Drag Race brings us another parade larger than life personalities spouting catch phrase after catch phrase. Especially with gay-centered TV, you pretty much have to blend in to go against the current. You have to dare to be ordinary, and it’s definitely a risk that this show is taking. That said, I still find myself getting invested with these characters. So I can only hope that this gamble pays off for HBO.
I guess all we can do is keep watching and see if everything pans out…