sun 08/12/2019

Looking, Sky Atlantic | reviews, news & interviews

Looking, Sky Atlantic

Looking, Sky Atlantic

San Francisco series appeals with gently-paced story of overlapping gay identities

Riding the streetcar of sex and intimacy: best friends, left to right, Agustin, Dom and Patrick

“If I didn’t want to have a life, I’d move to LA,” was one of the (many) funny lines in the new HBO series Looking, and brought home that, along with the show’s three appealing gay male leads (main picture), it’s the city of San Francisco itself that plays a central role here.

Looking has drawn comparisons variously with the likes of Queer as Folk, Sex in the City, and fellow HBO show Girls, but there’s surely another spectre looming over it, in the very best possible sense: Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. The adaptation of the first of Maupin’s books reached television two decades ago, largely thanks to the efforts of Britain’s Channel 4. Though Maupin’s stories were more plot-packed than Living has proved so far, and his depiction of the city back in the Seventies would become more darkly shaded with the onset of AIDS, the sheer enjoyment of the place and its associated style of life remains. There’s strong British input in Looking too, with Andrew Haigh, best known to date for his impressive 2011 gay indie film Weekend, brought in by HBO as co-writer and director alongside Michael Lannan.

Patrick's attempts at dating tended to go clumsily, often rather embarrassingly wrong

San Francisco is where Haigh and Lannan's characters explore life and attempt to find their place in it, all at a leisurely pace, and with a lot of help from their friends. Best buddies Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Agustin (Frankie J Alvarez) moved straight there from college – “I heard the siren,” as Patrick remembered it – and have been sharing an apartment for years. That was about to change, though, with Agustin, a budding artist – long in the budding, slower so far in the flowering? – deciding in the opening scenes to move in with his boyfriend, even though that involved relocating to the suburbs.

That left the fresh-faced, seemingly naif Patrick, who’s a designer for a video games company, alone at home; recently out of a relationship, his attempts at dating tended to go clumsily, often rather embarrassingly wrong. Completing the trio of friends was Dom (Murray Bartlett), a decade or so older than the other two: approaching the end of his thirties, he’s been working as a waiter in the same restaurant for rather longer than he cares to remember, and is nurturing hopes of making an independent mark somewhere.

With a friendship as close as the one these three enjoy, new contacts can seem grilling. That was true of Patrick's dating let-downs, and also when old relationships come along for reassessment (Dom is bruised by a re-encounter with an exploitative previous partner). Sex and a desire for intimacy both appeal, though they beckon in different directions.

It’s an easy-going world, attractive in its sunny details, and alluringly shot up and down the San Francisco hills. The pressures of work don’t seem too strong, though that may change for Patrick when his new boss, a Brit played by Russell Tovey (pictured right), comes on the scene in episode three. That appearance may also rock the balance of Patrick’s life, though we feel any tremors will be gentle. Looking may not have quite revealed its final direction yet, but this introduction to its laid-back world was a smooth one.

It’s an easy-going world, attractive in its sunny details, and alluringly shot up and down the San Francisco hills

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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