This new HBO comedy series revolves around three thirty-something friends living in San Francisco, who explore the exciting, sometimes overwhelming, options available to a new generation of gay men. Looking offers up the unfiltered experiences of three close friends living - and loving - in modern-day San Francisco. Friendship may bind them, but each is at a markedly different point in his journey: Patrick (Jonathan Groff - Spring Awakening) is the 29-year-old video game designer getting back into the dating world in the wake of his ex's engagement; aspiring artist Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez - Smash), 31, is questioning the idea of monogamy amid a move to domesticate with his boyfriend; and the group's oldest member, longtime waiter Dom (Murray Bartlett), 39, is facing middle age with romantic and professional dreams still unfulfilled. The trio's stories intertwine and unspool dramatically as they search for happiness and intimacy in an age of unparalleled choices - and rights - for gay men. Also important to the Looking mix is the progressive, unpredictable, sexually open culture of the Bay Area, with real San Francisco locations serving as a backdrop for the group's lives. Rounding out the Looking world are Dom's roommate Doris (Lauren Weedman), Agustín's boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), and Patrick's co-worker Owen (Andrew Law), as well as love interests Kevin (Russell Tovey), Lynn (Scott Bakula), and Richie (Raúl Castillo).
The new show 'Looking' from HBO was billed as 'Girls' meets 'Sex and the City' in its promos. In its first season at least, none of that seemed to ring true other than the fact that story focused on a few friends, but what show or movie doesn't do that? Show creators Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh have produced an original if somber look at the life of a group of gay friends living in San Francisco.
This show is billed as a comedy-drama, but it was difficult to find where the comedy was here, as it focuses on the melodramatic aspects more than any laughs here. Instead, it seems like a true to life account of a few semi-successful people trying to make it through each day in California. And I applaud the creators for this, even though the show is a bit dull. So many times in film and television, we have seen gay characters who are extremely wealthy and successful with luxurious homes and apartments, who are always witty, funny, and have a wild adventure. That's not the case with 'Looking'.
These characters are not successful, but are rather awkward, unfunny, and don't always know the right thing to say. The show centers on Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a video game programmer who is coming to terms with his ex boyfriend now getting married to someone else. This causes Patrick to question his own lot in life and become depressed over whether he will ever find someone to love him. He becomes so nervous about how others think of him, that he usually says the wrong things and ruins any date he has. In his haze, Patrick takes a liking to Richie (Raul Castillo), a barber and nightclub bouncer who is uneducated, but a bad boy and fun. To add insult to injury, Patrick's new boss at the video game company, Kevin (Russell Tovey), is smart, handsome, and successful, which is something that Patrick is trying to be, causing him to also become infatuated with his boss.
Patrick's best friend, Agustin (Frankie Alvarez), seems like the voice of reason here, and tries to cheer up and give advice to Patrick on his dating life. But Agustin has problems of his own who moves in with his boyfriend, who believes Agustin will once again become the great artist he once was. The other friend in this group is Dom (Murray Bartlett), a 40 year old man who is a sommelier at a trendy restaurant, but isn't happy with his station in life due to his age and not being as successful he wanted to be. He crosses paths with a man named Lynn (Scott Bakula), a very wealthy business owner who seems to like Dom and might give him the chance to establish the business he dreamed of starting.
Through each episode, each of these characters struggles with their own insecurities as they try to find a reason to get up each day and continue on and of course find someone to love them. It's not always roses and chocolate though, as everyone seems to self sabotage their own happiness, giving this series outlook a grim setting, literally. With filming in the gorgeous California city of San Francisco, the filmmakers decided to mute all colors and film in a greenish blue setting as it looks like things are ugly and decaying. Even the Golden Gate Bridge looks rusty and bitter.
But that's the goal of the show, which is to show us a realistic group of people who are trying to find their own happiness. 'Looking' is a good show, but it might be a little slow and uneventful for most people to want to tune in every week.
'Looking: Season 1' comes with a very good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Once again, HBO has done another great job at the video presentation.
That being said, the entire show has a certain color hue throughout each episode. I'm not sure why the creators decided to do this, because this show could have been very colorful, but instead it has a green and blue tint to the whole show. That means that the detail is not as sharp as it could've been.The detail is sharp however it looks like the image has a rugged look to it, like it has been rubbed in the dirt. However, closeups reveal some individual hairs, wrinkles, and makeup blemishes well. Colors don't really pop off screen though, because again, the entire image has that greenish-blue tint to it, no matter the shots are interior or exterior. Skin tones are natural and the black levels are deep and inky for the most part.
There were no big issues with banding or aliasing either, leaving this video presentation with good marks. I only wish the natural color was present.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. There really isn't a lot of action in this HBO show, so don't expect a ton of explosions or gunshots really. Instead, this is a dialogue heavy series with the biggest sound coming from the soundtrack or music that is played in scenes where there are parties or clubs. So expect a front heavy track.
Ambient noises are full when in scenes with tons of people, which immerses you in whatever parade or party the characters are at. Sound effects are robust and realistic as well. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, but this has fast paced dialogue, so be sure to keep up. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this HBO audio presentation with solid marks.
Audio Commentaries - There are six episodes out of the eight presented here that have commentary tracks. The cast and crew to show up on each commentary track, which can get kind of jumbled. Instead of discussing how the show came to be, the writing, the filming, or characters; these commentaries are basically just a forum for the actors and filmmakers to tell inside jokes and remember what happened on set and praise each other. Not a whole lot of information about the show here. This is not worth the listen.
'Looking' certainly isn't the best HBO show. It's a rather mundane and natural look at a few couples and friends trying to make sense of the world and themselves. There are not a lot of upbeat storylines here, nor are there a lot of action beats. The video and audio presentations are both good, but I wouldn't ay spectacular, and the one extra is not worth clicking on. I know that every HBO original series is better than most of the stuff out there, but before you go purchasing this one, you might want to watch a couple of episodes first to take that plunge.