I remember the first time I cheered for a same-sex couple on TV like it was yesterday: I must have been 9 or 10 and was at my Grandmother’s watching Gute Zeiten Schlechte Zeiten (German soap) on TV after dinner. Openly gay character Philip Krüger (Laurent Daniels) had been crushing on author Simon for a while now, but it just wasn’t happening for these two. After weeks of back and forth, they finally kissed.
My Gran obviously chose that moment to burst in and demanded that I turn off the TV as this was “disgusting” and not age-appropriate. My mother suddenly rushed in, demanding that I be left alone as she was happy knowing her child was growing up knowing that love is universal (I’m paraphrasing here).
Since then, I’ve watched countless shows that featured some gay characters, but they’ve often been outrageously cliché. Sex and the City portrayed Stanford and Anthony as almost “too gay to function” and anything lesbian happening to the girls was just a phase or tasting session. Things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, True Blood or Orange is the New Black have been quite liberal with gay relationships, but they’ve also been tapping into a fair amount of stereotypes.
Glee (where Jonathan Groff played Rachel berry’s boyfriend) has performed much better in that department, having a good selection of gay, lesbian, trans and bi characters, but since the plots are often lacking, they can seem very one-dimensional.
I’ve never watched Queer as Folk, and have only seen bits and pieces of The L Word, but these shows finished a while back and things have changed a lot since then. Yet TV was missing a show that portrayed positive gay characters without straying into clichés too often. Looking (now in its second season) has managed just that.
The story is set in San Francisco, historically a shining beacon for the gay community in the US (think Harvey Milk embracing activism in the Castro). Friends Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett) have known each other for decades. Together they navigate relationships (open or not), jobs, friends and dreams.
Patrick is the geeky game designer who hasn’t really been in a steady relationship yet. Often blundering his way along, his heart is swaying between cute barber Richie (Raúl Castillo) and his new British boss Kevin (Russell Tovey).
Agustín is the artist of the three, but it appears he still hasn’t found his right path as he keeps searching for something more in his relationship, but also his work.
Dom, the oldest, looks to be fully embracing his single life with Grindr dates and other casual hookups. Yet there’s more to him than meets the eye, for example long-term friend Doris (Lauren Weedman), whom he knew as a child in Modesto, or the burning desire to be more than just a hot waiter.
Reviews are varied, and while some have complained that Looking is boring or even predictable, I must disagree. It’s a show that, to me, portrays the lives and loves of a group of friends. Yes, 99% of them are gay, but while it’s a main selling point of the plot and show, really it’s not what they’re about. They have the same problems the girls from SatC had. They’re a bit adrift, just like many people our age appear to be nowadays.
Sex is shown, of course, but it’s not porn. Think Brokeback Mountain for season 1. Things got a tad more graphic in season 2, then again why shouldn’t they? People are flocking to go see Fifty Shades of Grey (why, I don’t know) and HBO has been showing plenty of nakedness in shows like True Blood. A bit of penis here and there won’t kill you.
The show also addresses things like unemployment, drug and alcohol dependency, the fear of HIV/AIDS, racial differences and prejudice as well as discrepancies in finances and lifestyle.
Seasons are (unfortunately) short (8-10 episodes) and each episode is only 20 to 30min long. This means you can power through it (too) fast. I hope it gets renewed for a third season, because I’m still not sure whether I’m Team Richie or Team Kevin…
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