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Friday, 31 January 2014

First Look at Sky Atlantic's Looking


HBO’s newest dramedy entitled Looking draws on the network’s stable of shows featuring individuals trying to navigate life and love in a major metropolitan city.  From afar Looking resembles Girls, the HBO show about twenty-something’s living in New York City.  San Francisco, California serves as Looking’s requisite city.  Both shows respective cities serve as an essential cast member.  Looking differentiates itself from Girls because the protagonists are primarily male and the characters have wider age gaps.  Consequently Looking’s main characters happen to be gay.  Fortunately the show’s creator Michael Lannon wisely introduced well-rounded characters in the first episode.  This reviewer was relieved to watch a series in which the homosexual characters are not solely defined by their sexual orientation.  Helping Lannon guide this ship include executive producers Sarah Condon, David Marshall Grant, Andrew Haigh.  Subsequently Andrew Haigh directed the first episode.

Viewers were bombarded with a plethora of characters during episode one.  The majority of the half hour was spent with Patrick (Glee’s Jonathan Groff).  From the opening scene, Patrick’s obsession with finding someone (whether it is for a long-term relationship or causal fling) is etched into the audience’s brain.  Patrick bumbles from encounter to encounter until he meets Richie (Raúl Castillo) on the tube.  Unsure how to react to Richie’s advances, Patrick unintentionally misrepresents himself.  Unfortunately the rapid jumps from one scene to the next made it difficult to distinguish characters initially.  At times it was also difficult to understand the characters because they were speaking softly.

 Rounding out Patrick’s  inner circle of friends are Agustín (Smash’s Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Neighbors’ Murray Bartlett).  Frank’s (Grownups’ O.T. Fagbenle) membership is relies upon his relationship with Agustín. Dom spends most of the episode trying to figure out what happened to his sexual mojo; he is concerned that getting older has diminished his physical appeal.  Agustín and Frank are grappling with the direction of their relationship.  This culminates in an unexpected encounter that has them pondering the same notion near the episode’s ending.  San Francisco served as Looking’s utility character.  Between scenes crammed with individuals who are not identified, viewers were treated to gorgeous exterior shots of the city.  The creators took advantage of the setting in order to highlight what separates San Francisco from other major metropolitan areas.

Individuals expecting Russell Tovey (Being Human, Him & Her) to materialize will be extremely disappointed.  Based on the promotional material Tovey appears to be heavily featured in this show.  Unfortunately Tovey did not appear in the first episode.  According to IMDB, Tovey is expected to appear in later episodes.

 One of the first episode’s strengths was the interactions between the characters.  Though this reviewer initially struggled to differentiate between characters, I relished watching Patrick, Agustín, Dom, and Frank interact.  The actors do a superb job of portraying individuals who have been friends for an extended period of time.  I was jealous when they would hint at bits of information that only an insider would know.  O.T. Fagbenle’s Frank was so prominently featured I initially thought he was a main character.

Regular consumers of HBO productions are trained to expect at least one explicit sex scene per episode.  Looking continues this tradition by giving you two sex scenes.  However the first one is depicted in a manner that requires the audience to use their imaginations.  The second sexual act is more graphic in nature but mild when compared to other HBO shows.  The writers and executive producers want the audience to understand that sex is only one aspect of person’s life.  Familial bonds and friendships should be the quintessential focus of stories about the human condition.

Looking is not going to reinvent the television landscape across either sides of the Atlantic.  However this show will thoroughly examine the group’s familial and friendship ties.  Jonathan Groff’s portrayal of Patrick was kept me interested even when it was difficult to grasp the other characters.  This reviewer believes that Looking is not required viewing each week.  However Looking should be housed onto your digital recording device until a viewer can binge on multiple episodes.  By the time you start to catch-up perhaps Russell Tovey will have started.

Looking Continues Monday's at 10.35pm on Sky Atlantic 

Contributed by Mo Walker

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