Through the "Looking" Glass — Why We Can't Wait for Season Two

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LookingBy Trish Bendix, Special to PQ Monthly
I've been re-watching “Queer As Folk†since they put the entire series on Netflix, which has made for an interesting juxtaposition with my weekly watching of “Looking†the last few months. In fact, I watch a lot of gay TV for my job (good and bad) and, despite the fact I might not be HBO's target audience, I've found myself loving “Looking.†I bring up the “Queer as Folk†thing because, back when it was first on air, I thought it was amazing. And it was, in the way that it introduced themes, characters and storylines that had never taken place on American television before. But when I watch it now, there's a lot of awkward writing and poor acting, neither of which I find in “Looking.†Maybe it's the idea that “Looking†is based in a place that's very real to me, the modern day Bay Area instead of a heightened dreamland of Pittsburgh, PA. But comparisons aside, “Looking†feels like a truer set of situations and flawed characters that aren't outlandish in their antics, which, of course, has caused some critics to call it "boring." I get bored by some TV, too, but it's usually something there is a huge fan base for; something fantastical that requires a lot of belief suspension and elaborate costuming. Something about the daily grind of Patrick's office job and exciting frustration of Dom's business venture mixed with the gritty dimness of Agustin's downward spiral has me tuned in, craving their afterhour conversations, romances, dalliances, heartbreaks. Their being gay males doesn't even occur to me as something special unless they are having conversations about the different kinds of ways they relate to—things like their sexual positions and their parents. (Who knew bottom shaming was a thing? Probably you did. Not me!) It's the relationships of “Looking†that have me looking forward to a second season; the intricate weaving of Richie and Kevin and Frank and Lynn and even good ole' Doris, the resident straight woman BFF. Selfishly I'd love more women, especially gay ones (after all, it is San Francisco), but they tried to do that for inclusion sake on “Queer as Folk†and that didn't turn out so well. But I completely trust Andrew Haigh. I feel like his ability to give dimensionality to his fictitious people would transfer well onto women. Instead of making jokes about dykes and calling it inclusion, he'd probably bring a different kind of queer-identified female to the screen, one that I have met before, one that reminds me of someone I once knew, or know right now, or maybe even that I am.  And if he needed help, he could call on Jamie Babbit, who directed the wedding episode ("Looking for a Plus One"). “Looking†should keep doing what “Looking†has done well thus far: Create complicated but lovable people whose sex lives aren't diminished in order to make them more palatable for straight audiences, but aren't gratuitous to keep the gay men interested. It's a delicate balance that puts it into an entirely different category from any other "gay" show we've seen before. And that's saying a lot. So what is the LGBT audience "looking" for? A spot-on representation of all of our lives? That's an insurmountable task, and in my experience, shows that get their queer character right are often ignored for something flashier with music and wigs and camp. “Looking,†with its ethnic diversity, its San Francisco setting, its out actors and its gay writing staff, is inching closer to what we are saying we want from a show about "our lives," which, admit it, are sometimes a little less than exciting. But we need those moments to remind us how fucking amazing it is when your drunk boss kisses you in the bathroom at your sister's wedding while his boyfriend is waiting outside. Trish Bendix is the Managing Editor at AfterEllen.com.

tweetThrough the “Looking†Glass—Why We Can’t Wait for Season Two 

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By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
At least half the time I mention that I love “Lookingâ€â€”whether on social media or at some packed queer dance party—I’m greeted with catcalls and loud declarations: “That show sucks. It’s boring.†While I think my esteemed colleague, Trish, outlines plenty of reasons why it’s not “boring†above, I still feel compelled to declare: I am delighted “Looking†isn’t some strange hybrid of “Girls,†“Sex and the City,†and “Will & Grace.†I’m glad it is more “Weekend†than “Queer as Folk.†I am happy I actually feel like I know people like Patty—I don’t have to suspend disbelief and liken someone in my cohort to Brian Kinney. To everyone who’s ever felt compelled to call me out about my “Looking†infatuation, and in honor of your disdain, I offer this list of all the things I’ll miss while it’s gone. (Yes, dear haters: I know you think it’s a “version of ‘Girls’ without the ‘clever’ writing.†I get it. You’ve made your point.) —Patty: I will miss his dimples, his smile, his arms, his chest, and his complete awkwardness around anyone who’s not in his inner circle. I also have a real thing for boys who appear to have their shit together but are actually complete emotional messes. From that awkward first date we saw towards the beginning of the season (I’ve been on those dates) to his complete mishandling of the Richie scenario (pardon me while I bend to Richie’s every whim), Patty has managed—in just one season—to sum up all the poor dating choices I’ve made in my life. (OK, almost all.) I can’t wait to see what he does with a second season. Did I mention I find Patrick wildly attractive? —Hating Agustin: As anyone who’s ever met me can attest, I love a Latino man. But my God, I love to hate Agustin. His complete breakdown and subsequent downward spiral have been so completely compelling to watch—I can’t turn away, even though I really want to. (I do a lot of screaming at my television.) Did he self-destruct because moved in with Frank? Was he headed that direction anyway? Let’s face it—he’s hard to watch. (Superb acting.) Two things: I have been where he is in relation to Frank, and I have definitely been where Frank is. Splits are nasty, gritty, and almost always hit below the belt. Like Craig Seymour argued in The Advocate, this show provides the impetus for introspection—and perhaps no one more than sweet Agustin. —P.S. Who the hell would ever sabotage anything with Frank? Idiot. —Feeling ambivalent about Dom: It’s hard for me to feel sorry for an absolute hunk like Dom, but “Looking†sure makes me try. His unfulfilled dreams! He’s so old! (But has no problem on the Grindr.) I will miss his screen time with “Quantum Leap†and I’ll miss his sassy best friend, who in and of herself dispels the myth that gay men “get over†their female companions at a certain age. True friendships evolve, like theirs has. Or are they both co-dependent? No one knows. But I want to taste Dom’s chicken. —“Quantum Leap†and “Enterprise.†I love Scott Bakula, and I’d certainly sit on his lap in a bathhouse. —San Francisco! I will miss seeing my favorite city by the sea on the silver screen. The show bathes me in nostalgia, and makes me recall everything from trips as a closeted gay youth—who was attending Bible College in a nearby town—to more recent adventures with friends who now call it home. From Folsom to the Castro to the Mission and beyond, “Looking†has me feining for the bay. I’ve already planned one trip for April, and it probably won’t be my last. The city should consider sharing its gay profits with Andrew Haigh and Michael Lannan. —Episodes like number five—wherein the entire 31 minutes is dedicated to the fledgling relationship between Patty and Richie, an entire episode dedicated to a lazy, impromptu day between two lovers. I am, as my friend Ryan says, “a real lez†for loving this episode so much, and so be it. Having just been through something similar (although it ended in utter ruin), there is absolutely nothing like the magic of dating someone in those beginning days, when it’s all discovery and sweetness and adventure. Whether or not it turns into hell on earth is sort of beside the point. I’ll take it every time they give it to me. —Patty’s family: Can we have an hour-long special dedicated to this dysfunction? Mom’s on pot Rice Krispy Treats and antidepressants and turns the table on Patty’s projection. Is it our job to reach out to parents or is it theirs? That’s why I like this show so much—it quietly asks tough questions, nudging you ever so slightly—and as has been said repeatedly now, begs for introspection. I might not want all my shows like this, but I sure don’t want this one to change. More than any other show before it, it questions who we are as gay men. And I welcome it. In terms of critiques, I’ll give you one. For an “untrained bottom,†Patty sure knew his way around unscheduled office sex. What’d they use? Spit? And he was just ready to go after a long day of work and eating Dom’s chicken? I don’t know about you, but I have a window of opportunity to work with during workdays and after meals. But I digress. Back to my neverending “Looking†love: I’m sorry the boys aren’t standing in a kitchen in their bras screaming at each other while vacationing in the Hamptons; sorry there’s no Jack McFarland to give you all the LOLs; sorry there’s no mystical Brian Kinney to get you all hot and bothered. If you’re bored, “Queer as Folk†is now available to stream in its entirety on Netflix.