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Looking has impossible expectations stacked against it. It’s the first show since Queer as Folk, which ended eight years ago, to aim in representing an honest slice of the gay experience.
What stands out most of all in this first episode, “Looking for Now,” is the desire from creator Michael Lannan to — rather than encapsulate a broader what-it-means-to-be-gay overarching theme — show these characters just as they are. The importance here is the creation of a gay experience, as opposed to the gay experience. Its nonchalant style and realism reflect this.
“It’s about the lives of these characters,” Andrew Haigh, of British gay drama Weekend and the director of the first episode, told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. With this notion, we are dropped right into their lives with no real formal introduction. And the show allows its characters to be gay without calling attention to their inherent gayness.
So when 29-year-old game designer Patrick (Jonathan Groff) goes cruising in the park as a joke with his friends, 31-year-old Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and 39-year-old Dom (Murray Bartlett), viewers may catch themselves thinking, “Well, that’s not my experience!” It doesn’t have to be, and it’s not meant to be.
Patrick is hooked on OKCupid (a nod to what has basically become the unofficial dating site for gay men), and ends up going on an unfortunate date with a doctor. Patrick misguidedly reveals the earlier park-cruising trip, which throws up a red flag to his date. It’s, of course, not the impression he intended to give. The scene captures Patrick — a well-meaning but bumbling and charmingly awkward guy who’s looking for a lasting relationship.
Agustin, an aspiring artist, decides to move in with his boyfriend, Frank (O-T Fagbenle), in Oakland. But an intimate encounter with a third guy one night while Agustin is working late with Frank puts into question whether they’re committing to each other further or exploring an open relationship.
Much to the dismay of his roommate, Doris (Lauren Weedman), the strapping, mustachioed Dom considers reconnecting with an old flame, who has a successful job in real estate but also who, Doris reminds Dom, is a complete narcissist.
After the sour date, Patrick gets approached on the Muni by a guy named Richie (Raul Castillo). The guy is cute and nice, but in the moment he clearly comes on too strong for Patrick. Considering Patrick was headed to his ex-boyfriend’s bachelor party, however, afterward when he decides to meet Richie at the club where he works the door, it makes perfect sense.
With all of Patrick’s dating woes, he takes Dom’s advice to heart: “Stop giving a shit what anyone thinks.” It prompts Patrick to take Richie up on his offer to hang out.
By the end, we see each of the three guy’s scenarios set in place: Patrick stepping out of his dating comfort zone, Dom wrestling with his past and Agustin debating the fate of his relationship’s future. These are life struggles and choices that everybody could be navigating — no matter gay or straight.
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