Second Sight

Five Reasons To Give “Looking” Another Chance

Following months of hype and nearly unprecedented anticipation from the LGBT community, it’s perhaps inevitable that some gay viewers were disappointed by Looking when it premiered in January. It seems they weren’t prepared for the deliberately-paced naturalism of the first few episodes. Many, however, continued watching through the next few episodes hoping in the back of their minds that it would get better. Then…it did!

The past two episodes have been lively enough to restore faith in those who doubted the show and to make all of us look forward to the recently announced season two. If you were one of the viewers who looked elsewhere after the first few episodes, here are five reasons you should reconsider:

 richie and patrick

1. Episode 5: Looking For The Future

For many, Looking finally clicked into place with the fifth episode. Taking place directly after Patrick and Richie’s reconnection at the end of episode 4 (after a misunderstanding about Richie’s circumsized penis), it plays like the short and sweet gay romantic comedy/drama you’ve never seen. The chemistry between Groff and Castillo is natural, the writing is strong and the conversations about HIV anxiety and “bottom shaming” were refreshing and honest.

These 30 minutes are when Looking finally found its footing and earned the labels of “fresh” and “groundbreaking” that were thrown at it a bit prematurely based solely on those uneven first four episodes. Bonus points for that sex scene. It was both very sexy and just a little bit awkward. You know, kind of like real sex.


2. Murray Bartlett as Dom

Aging in the gay community is not a topic that is dealt with very often. The majority of gay characters in television and film are either young hotties or old sages, and there are very few representations of those in the middle. Right in between those extremes is Murray Bartlett’s Dom, Looking’s embodiment of what happens when the hot gay party boy hits 40 and has nothing to show for it but empty hookups and a ton of regret.

The beauty of Bartlett’s performance is how he handles the subtle indignities the character faces: making that awkwardly rejected pass at Scott Bakula’s Lynn or realizing that the druggie ex boyfriend he spent thousands to send to rehab has become a wildly successful businessman. Watching a 40 year old gay man struggling to build a successful career and take a shot at having a stable relationship with someone his own age is something we’ve never really seen before, and Bartlett makes every moment of it compelling.

 looking diversity

3. The Racial Diversity Of The Characters

In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Looking was criticized for a supposed lack of racial diversity when it was first announced. The promotional materials emphasized three very white-looking leads (of course, Frankie J. Alvarez is Latino) and the WASP-ily delicious Jonathan Groff definitely took the lead in the media push for the show. In 2014, an all-white cast of anything that is supposed to be contemporary seems extremely dated. However, once the show started going along the true diversity of the cast began to take shape, and this was diversity that had a real place in the plots of the show. Richie and Patrick first broke up because of a misunderstanding about “uncut Latin cock” that definitely seemed to be a bit of a stretch but it spoke to racial differences between whites and Latinos.

Richie’s ethnicity is a big part of that character, and their differences are ripe for some deep exploration that Looking doesn’t seem to be hiding from. While Agustin’s black boyfriend Frank is still at this point dreadfully underwritten, his presence gives us hope that perhaps the racial differences between he and Agustin can be explored at some point. There was also some very subtle tension between the Cuban-American Agustin and the Mexican-American Richie in episode 6 that was quite interesting. If the Looking writers can explore that a bit more and also make Frank more than just a supportive boyfriend archetype, it truly will become one of the most diverse gay shows ever.


4. The Strong Supporting Cast

Patrick is “adorkable,” but also childish and annoying. At this point, Agustin is pretty much a sociopath. With two lead characters that leave audiences so sharply divided in opinion, a good supporting cast is in order, and Looking definitely provides that. Lauren Weedman’s Doris is earthy and witty, and her relationship with Dom is a step forward from a lot of straight woman/gay guy relationships we’ve seen depicted. She treats him not as a fashion accessory or as a problem to solve, but with the kind of tough love that someone like Dom needs.

Russell Tovey is sexy enough to coast by on charm and a British accent, but Raul Castillo as Richie is so natural a presence that he grounds the show arguably even more than any of the leads. If Patrick and Richie don’t work out (and the promotion of both Tovey and Castillo to series regular status seems to hint at a love triangle on the horizon) we’d be happy to see Richie looking for love on his own. Also, Scott Bakula is amazing. Duh.


5. Surprise! Gay People Worry About Money, Too

When was the last time you saw a gay character on a television show mention anything about money that didn’t have to deal with spending outrageous amounts of it on clothes or a luxury vacation? Take your time, we can wait. One of the many pleasures of episode 6 was the show’s very explicit depiction of the different class issues that the characters face. Dom, facing down the barrel of 40 as a restaurant waiter, basically grovels to a wealthy gay couple to get a loan to open his dream restaurant. When confronted with his successful boss’s even more successful boyfriend (a doctor!) Patrick’s class anxieties about his relationship with Richie surface.

For just a moment, the fact that the sweet and sensitive guy he’s dating is a barber and doorman doesn’t seem to be good enough. Those anxieties are stoked by the typically horrible Agustin, who suggests that Patrick is “slumming” with Richie. We’ve become so inundated with the image of the gay man as wildly rich and successful that we seem to forget that most gays are neither fabulously wealthy nor practically destitute. Looking’s exploration of class is a nice change of pace, especially for those of us who may sometimes feel a bit out of place in Gay World if we don’t know Hermes from H&M.

So there you have it, five perfectly good reasons to watch the best gay-themed show on the air right now. We know a lot of you hated that pilot. But trust us…it gets better.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #frankiej.alvarez #hbo #jonathangroff stories and more


  • Caine

    I agree. I liked the show from the start but it’s been getting better and better with each episode. Episode 6 was SO good, I was disappointed when it was over.

  • andy416

    I agree with all these points. The one thing I would add is please bring on a gay Asian character. This is San Francisco. It’s about time a racially diverse cast on prime time TV includes an openly gay Asian character for those of us who would like to see some representation. I’ve lived in SF and the city is as Asian as they come. I’m not asking for token racial representation. But why not be as diverse as they are in a city known for having a big Asian population and take advantage of this opportunity to inject a dose of wider, truly rflective diversity? Everyone commends diversity about blacks and Latinos, but no one talks about representing Asians, one of the largest and fastest growing communities in America.

  • Wilberforce

    I like it because it’s so true to life. And the scenes of SF really take me back.
    I don’t like it because it’s so true to life. The characters are typical ghetto queens, ignorant and irresponsible. Patrick goes in Richie’s mouth when they barely know each other, without a word about testing or safety. Ugh. How gross. Agustin is a total idiot and calling everything ‘art.’ I like it when Scott B puts the brakes on Dom’s come ons, not letting himself be manipulated by sex. It’s the one mature piece in the show.
    That aside, it’s well made and I’ll definitely keep watching.

  • Wilberforce

    On the other hand, that sex scene was hot.

  • the other Greg

    You guys make a good case. It’s getting more interesting.

    @Wilberforce: You can’t even get HIV that way! – well the top definitely is 100% safe and the receiver is at least 99.999999999% safe, there’s never been a documented case of transmission that way. For all we knew at the start of that scene, Richie might have been poz anyway (turns out he wasn’t, in the conversation soon after) but apparently the characters are less “ignorant” about these matters than you are.

  • the other Greg

    I like the class stuff the best! That’s something I relate to as a relatively poor, non-college type in gay life. It comes up ALL the time but it seems no one ever mentioned it in gay screen fiction, until now.

    But they really need to explain why Augustin & Patrick are (ostensibly) long-time best friends. Really? Why? There doesn’t seem to be any rapport there.

  • Cam

    At first I was thinking “Ugh, give it up Queerty, stop trying to shove this down everybody’s throats” Figuring that since Gay Cities is in SF and the producers of “Looking” were also there that you were doing your friends a favor by pushing their show.

    However you redeemed it with this passage.

    “Patrick is “adorkable,” but also childish and annoying. At this point, Agustin is pretty much a sociopath. With two lead characters that leave audiences so sharply divided in opinion, a good supporting cast is in order, and Looking definitely provides that.”

    Admitting the faults of the show when recommending it just makes your other points ring more true. Well done. I think Patrick is redeemable, but the problem is, they have done nothing to show me why these folks are friends. And frankly at this point just send Augstine off to some artists colony somewhere, promote his boyfriend to full time cast member and be done with it. His character is pretty much salvageable and the storyline with the Escort is predictable and stupid. But his boyfriend and Ritchie are good characters.

  • Cam


    His character is NOT salvageable.

  • bgrkls

    It’s exhausting how often this show has to be repeatedly defended.

  • CCTR

    @bgrkls: lol

    It would be great if the success of this show lead to the production of other gay themed tv shows.

    The story has been compelling from the start to me, a nice departure from so many other shows on tv.

    I think the flaws of the characters, the underwritten characters, and the lack of “voice over narration” gives the viewer an opportunity to fill in some of the unexplained based on our own understandings and ideas of the characters…until they reveal specific details or explain otherwise.

  • CCTR

    @Cam: @the other Greg: As for Patrick and Augustin’s friendship I think it has been based on the fact that as young men they moved to SF together away from their families after college and were housemates since. I think that is the likely basis for their relationship and connection.

  • Mdterp01

    I agree. I thought watching paint dry was more interesting than this show after the first few episodes. However, the past two episodes pulled me back in. I had actually not even planned to watch that episode, but my man had not yet seen an episode and wanted to watch it that night. I loved episode 5’s intimacy focused just on Patrick and Richie. I liked Richie so when I saw he was back in the mix I was happy.

    Then, the most recent episode I also found interesting. The whole dynamic of the meeting of the friends and Patrick already calling him boyfriend and Richie initially being caught off guard but then wanting to be “all in’. Then the crap with Augustine saying that Patrick was slumming. I can’t stand Augustine, but I like his boyfriend. It was also hot when Richie shut Augustine DOWN!!!! There are things in Richie that remind me of my partner. I love a man with street smarts and a side to him that will let some uppity q*een know that he better STFU!! I loved seeing Augustine and his smug self cower and apologize to Richie. Someone needed to knock his ass down a peg and I’m so glad it was Richie. However, Patrick was clearly embarrassed by Richie’s job as a barber and then panicked and tried to salvage things by inviting Richie to meet the family. Patrick has some endearing qualities, but he’s such an awkward manboy.

    Then there’s Dom, who I really can’t relate to. I like the actor who plays him and I liked the scenes with him and his ex who was a drug addict who didn’t pay him back his money, but overall I can’t really relate to Dom’s character. I don’t do grindr and online hooking up. I don’t have this hang up about turning 40 (I’m 36).

    Also, there’s the sexual tension between Kevin and his boss. At first I thought he’d mess things up with Richie by hooking up with his boss (and I still fear he might), but now that Richie will be a regular character perhaps they will try and work it out if and when that happens. So yeah…I’ll be in for the rest of the season and hope that season 2 builds upon how well the show is wrapping up season 1.

  • Flaneur

    Maybe it’s a New York vs. San Francisco thing, and maybe it’s just that change always happens, but I see my experiences as a gay man in his 20s much more reflected in “Sex and the City” than in “Looking” (minus the Manolos, of course). Not that you have to find yourself reflected in a TV show to like it, but . . . I’m just bored by “Looking.” And I wish all the characters didn’t dress so drably.

  • Kenover

    The characters are whiny and boring, nothing ever happens, and the show looks like it was shot on an iPhone. Are we really obligated to love every mediocre piece of crap just because it’s gay?

  • Cam

    @CCTR: said…

    “As for Patrick and Augustin’s friendship I think it has been based on the fact that as young men they moved to SF together away from their families after college and were housemates since. I think that is the likely basis for their relationship and connection.


  • Bjk

    The pace isn’t even slow, it’s plodding. I get so bored I state flipping back and forth to other shows…and I’m watching it on my DVR!!! I was spoiled by QAF. Interesting characters and a quick pace. Who cares about the racial make-up if no one has anything to say. Perhaps the number of characters is part of the problem.

  • Cam


    For some reason what I typed underneath didn’t come out. I said, that yes, I realize that they are telling us that that is why they are friends, but they just never show us that. Just telling us that somebody is friends isn’t enough if the characters don’t fit together well in the script.

  • Daniel-Reader

    It is very entertaining to see a show with regular characters actually confronting issues of intimacy and relationships. Need more gay shows and movies – would like to see a decent show with a gay hero – notice how the Oscar montage of heroic films didn’t include a single gay hero since they aren’t made? That’s one reason I like this show – it is clearly created to be universal but from a gay-experience point-of-view.

  • DistingueTraces

    Episode 5 — with the full half hour devoted to a daylong date between Patrick and Richie — was absolutely lovely and the best possible showcase for Andrew Haigh’s style.

  • SFHarry

    I think it’s great. I have loved it from the beginning. I see a lot of my life and SF experiences reflected in the show in a more realistic way rather than a Hollywood way. I think the writer’s depicting these life experiences more closely to what they are actually like is both positive and negative. It’s great because I almost feel like a voyeur watching some of the scenes but not so good because I think it doesn’t engage a lot of people who expect a more polished show. I hope it makes it.

  • lailaichong

    I love the show

  • Mdterp01


    Yeah perhaps it is regional because I agree with your statement there. I have visited the west coast many times and it is a different vibe. I don’t think the clothes thing is going anywhere, but I did find myself commenting on that last night and I guess just have to accept the fact that is the style out there I guess. I’ve had a few different people I know who watch the show make the same comment about it looking like the show is shot in a different decade.

  • viveutvivas

    Only a small minority of gay men are style queens, so that is really not an issue of representativeness for me.

  • hrnpip

    @Cam: Even the best of friends don’t always seem to “fit” and, in case you hadn’t noticed, the script tends to jump time quite a bit. Best friends “fit” because, over time, they figure out what works and there’s so much time that’s just being jumped over. Also, I never got the impression that the point of the show was going to be how the friends justified their friendships but rather would be how they developed relationships outside these friendships with the friendships being accepted as is.

  • Kathukid

    The best way to describe the show is “boring.” After 6 episodes, I’m done with it.

  • Ron Jackson

    @Kathukid: Don’t give up so soon. I have been on the fence but after viewing episode 7 I can now say it was worth the investment. It was a great episode. I’m LOOKING forward to more.

  • bnard620

    The show is growing on me, the only character cant stand is the artist friend. He’s such a douche

  • the other Greg

    @Flaneur: “And I wish all the characters didn’t dress so drably.”

    Right? But I guess it’s true to life.

    Often when I’ve been to SF (or Seattle) and a guy starting talking to me, I had this instinctive reaction like, “Okay, put your hand out, I’ll give you a quarter.” Worried that they had bedbugs or fleas.

    Definitely a West Coast vs. East Coast thing.

  • TVC 15

    I haven’t seen this show because I don’t have live TV (I catch shows on Netflix or iTunes when they become available). I’ve only read the back and forth discussions on this site about it. My takeaway is that it isn’t a modern-day “Tales of the City.” That book/mini-series caught your attention right away.

    I guess I’m sticking to “Game of Thrones.” Now, THAT’s really good.

  • CCTR

    @Cam: I think the creators leave some interpretation up to the viewer on what is going on with the friendship (and the rest of the storylines). Although some things in the show are explicit, and they have indeed shown closeness between the two characters, somethings are implicit.
    Some people are unable to understand some of the shows subtleties and if they did I think they could enjoy the show for all its worth. Some would rather insult the writers as being “lazy” or incapable. Liking a fictional narrative and the way it is being told in a tv show is quite subjective, no need to discredit the writers. They are telling the story the way they want in the way that they want.

  • Stache1

    @Kathukid: Yah!! Does that mean you’ll stop posting about how much you hate it now too?

  • the other Greg

    I like the show more & more. I just don’t get why these guys dress like homeless Vietnam veterans all the time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…

    The name of the show is LOOKING.

    The name is not, My Husband Doesn’t Give a Fuck If I Dress Like a Slob.

    No wonder they’re looking! Jeez – make an effort, guys.

    I suppose this aspect of the show is true to life though, because from what I’ve seen, guys in SF really do dress like that.

  • alanj

    You might be able to help me – What’s this obsession with how the characters dress? Seems fairly normal to me, hoodies, jeans, plad shirts. It’s not cheap either. If that’s typical SF it’s also typical Manchester (UK) & Melbourne (Aus).

  • IJelly

    RE: the Patrick / Agustin Friendship

    Agustin is that guy who prides himself on being the most edgy among his group of friends. A suburban guy who grew up hating being from the suburbs, he refashioned himself as a artist in college. The only problem is deep down he feels like a fraud. So what kind of friends is a guy like Agustin going to have: straight-laced folks who don’t know enough about art to realize he’s faking it. And what to the friends (i.e. Patrick) get from Agustin: someone who makes them feel a little more edgy, but also someone they can relate to because he comes from essentially the same background as everyone else in the group.

    Art schools across the world have be producing Agustins for decades: people who love living like artists but also hate making art.

  • Cam

    @CCTR: said…

    “@Cam: I think the creators leave some interpretation up to the viewer on what is going on with the friendship (and the rest of the storylines).


    No actually it is lazy writing. Rather than actually building a character or a relationship, they just tell you it exists. i.e. Demise Richards is a Nuclear Scientist in a James Bond movie because they gave her a pair of glasses, not because they showed you she was smart. It is no different than if, in the show friends, they just told you that the characters were friends, then rarely had them interact, and when they did they were not friendly to each other. Again, it’s just lazy writing.

  • viveutvivas

    @akanj, yeah, I don’t get the complaints about the dress thing either. It’s just normal clothes. I don’t think it is a West Coast versus East Coast thing. I’m on the East Coast and guys here dress like this too. I think it is just a New York versus everyone else thing. At least that is the stereotype I have of New Yorker gays, being snobbish about dress.

  • CCTR

    @alanj: The characters attire on the show is very representative of the relaxed style in SF (and probably most other urban places right now)… hoodies, muted colors, fitted jeans and pants and lots of plaid shirts and facial hair.

    I think the people commenting on the dress simply want to see more intentionally stylish edgier name brand designer fashion (forever scarves, fedoras, diesel shoes, G Starr Raw hats and jackets etc.) and not the relaxed dress that is actually much more common.

  • CCTR

    @Cam: ok, i was just trying to help you look at the story and characters from a different perspective as you seem to be struggling between liking the show and not being able to get past what you consider flaws mistakes and lazy writing.

    Nonetheless you must admit the lazy writers have shown that there is some type of relationship between Augustin and Patrick regardless of “why” they are still friends. They have appeared in friendly but tense social situations together in all but one episode (if I remember correctly).
    It’s your perogative to be the lazy viewer as it is theirs to be the lazy writers. If you do not want to put the clues together and build your understanding based on the implicit story… then what you see is all you get.

  • alanj

    if you wore any of that “stylish” stuff around here you’d certainly get attention – for all the wrong reasons!

  • the other Greg

    @viveutvivas: Yeah but you’re in RI. If you did live in Boston or NY – which you always seem to be regretting that you’re not, btw – it would be different.

    I don’t think there’s anything radical about the clothes comments. When I was single (yeah in Boston) I had a lot of anxiety about clothes, agonizing over the right choices, hoping to make a good impression. And that was just dating and nightlife. Work was a whole separate set of clothing anxieties.

    I don’t think all gay men come equipped with a mysterious, automatic fashion sense. (My bf does, I don’t.) For most of us it takes attention, observation, practice. It’s work, and not always enjoyable work. And yeah, I was speaking from personal experience – my bf doesn’t care now if I dress like slob. (I’d be shocked if HE did it, though.)

    It was interesting to see the SF guys shined up for the wedding. But notice, they did that for straight people when they don’t bother ever doing it for each other. From a NY/Boston perspective it does all seem a little weird. Also they apparently have a severe shortage of laundromats in SF: maybe the rents are so high they’ve all been turned into Starbucks or something?

    Anyway you’re always complaining about being single – maybe a little improvement with the clothes might be worth a try? :)

  • viveutvivas

    @the other Greg, I do dress neatly, but no way I’m going to put on a fedora, beret, skinny jeans, a Gstar stretch shirt, or pants that stop above the socks. Only in New York do people not get laughed out of the room for that kind of ridiculousness. Bostonians for that matter dress very conservatively in my experience.

  • viveutvivas

    …but I do draw the line at plaid shirts. Those were over by the mid 90s already. And T-shirts with the sleeves cut off are just trashy outside the gym.

  • davincibarnette

    @bgrkls: The show has grown on me, and I completely agree with the assessment. I do find it odd, and a bit sad, that it does, indeed need so MUCH defending.

  • davincibarnette

    @Mdterp01: Perhaps you will never relate to Dom, at 36, trust me…there’s still time. ;)

  • davincibarnette

    @Kenover: …of course not, just don’t watch. See how easy ?!

  • Shawn

    The season 1 finale aired last night. I am not sure how to feel about this show yet. Augustin was terrible to his ex-bf and the whole thing with his being an artist is sad. He pays a hustler when he can not even pay his own rent. Patrick sleeps with his boss knowing its wrong and his boss is in a relationship. Dom is running a pop-up restaurant for Peri-Peri chicken(there’s actually a market for this type of restaurant?) but seems like he is using the other older guy. When he asks about doing it again and is told no, Dom then kisses him.
    I just do not know if I really like any of the main lead parts on the show and more importantly will anyone else? The Guest stars on the show are actually much more likeable than the main stars and portray gay people in a much better light with the possible exception of Patrick’s boss. I am not giving up on the show for next year but I think the show needs at least one more positive main character.

  • davincibarnette

    @Shawn: I completely agree with you. I realized I like the guests stars, or secondary characters far more than the main ones. They should make at least one lead character likable.

  • davincibarnette

    I really wish they would ditch Augustine & make his boyfriend a lead character, he’s far more likable. The only good thing about Augustine, for some anyway,is his beard, which is THE look of the moment.

  • Shawn

    Davinci I agree with you about Augustine it is very difficult to like the character he plays. I have known real life people like that and always went out of my way to avoid them because they were very repulsive people to me.
    Patrick seemed like he was trying to have a bf until he sleeps with his boss. By the way, that is not really explained at all as to why there was this incredible attraction on the part of his boss. They spent a lot of time together and liked computer games. But the boss seemed to have an awesome bf and why he wants to cheat on him does not seem to make any sense. Dom kisses the older man who helps him with the pop-up restaurant after he tells him he does not want to keep doing business deals with him. So it seems like Dom may be using the older man by pretending there are romantic feelings.
    I just think this very negative portrayal of all of the gay main characters feeds into bigots claims that gays can not be happy,
    healthy or faithful. I doubt I would want to tell my heterosexual friends to watch this show for that reason.

  • Shawn

    Oh I forgot to mention I agree with the other posters on here that the friendships of the main three on Looking are really not explained well.
    I understand that Augustine and Patrick once lived together but how did they become so close to the much older Dom? And how is it Patrick can not see that Augustine is really an awful human being.? Patrick is not any fool yet he can not see he is being used by Augustine for a place to crash? Augustine tells Patrick he is slumming with Richie who by all accounts seems to be an outstanding person. Patrick finds Augustine on the sidewalk on drugs after paying a prostitute for sex/art –none of this is a red flag to Patrick? The writers are free to take liberty with what they give us but please do not make it ridiculous or not ring true.

  • Marine

    Shawn I agree Augustine is a leech when he gets justifiably kicked out of his Oakland apartment he is immediately trying to move back in with Patrick in San Francisco. Patrick goes all the way with his boss knowing its not the best choice and could hurt at least two important people.
    I tried to give this show a chance but it will be hard to wait around until 2015 to see if it gets better. Not sure that I want to when the three main characters are such duds.

  • Shawn

    Well Marine its moot now until sometime in 2015. Season 2 really needs to have a lot more episodes and the writing needs to improve a lot.
    Augustine should move home to Coral Gables and be replaced with someone viewers would like to watch. Dom and that Peri-Peri chicken pop-up restaurant plot seems like a pipe dream. Patrick sleeps with his boss even though he is relationship oriented?
    I am debating whether I really will stick around to watch the 2015 season of Looking. It absolutely has to get better or I gone

Comments are closed.