At first glance, HBO’s new dramedy “Looking” may seem like a gay man’s answer to “Girls,” but if Sunday night’s series premiere is any indication, it serves as a foil to shows like “Modern Family” and “The New Normal,” complete with dated stereotypes of gay men.
The pilot opens up with Jonathan Groff’s character, video game developer Patrick, at the receiving end of an awkward handjob courtesy of a stranger he cruised in a park in broad daylight. The idea that a tech-savvy 20-something would go cruising in the middle of the day in the age of Grindr seems unbelievable, as if it’s the image a middle-aged television producer has of young gay men. This suspicion is all but confirmed in the next scene when another main character is seen, without a trace of irony, sporting a Freddie Mercury mustache.
It becomes clear that the chief concern for the three main characters is sex. Patrick resorts to cruising and OKCupid, a far more believable approach, for his next hookup. Agustín and his boyfriend engage in a threesome with someone they just met. Dom throws himself at anyone he may be able to get into bed and, after failing, goes searching for “some blonde slut to help me regain my self-respect.”
Like its sister program “Girls,” the main characters are all deeply flawed, which makes the show captivating. Bucking the trend of modern sitcoms featuring a butch/femme, financially stable, wholesome, white gay couple adopting a baby, the three men smoke weed, are nowhere near marriage and are unapologetic in their sexual triumphs and misadventures.
“Looking” certainly tells a different story about gay men than is normally seen on television. It’s not a narrative that will play as well in suburbia as seen in family friendly sitcoms, but with a racially diverse cast and sexually liberated characters, it helps represent an often-ignored portion of the LGBT community. Until the show develops over the next few episodes and its purpose becomes clear, it’s a series to keep on the radar. Let’s hope it develops some depth as it unfolds.
The show airs Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.