Looking: The Complete Series and The MovieOverview -
Looking revolves around three 30-something friends living in San Francisco, who explore the exciting, sometimes overwhelming, options available to a new generation of gay men. Friendship may bind them, but each is at a markedly different point in his journey: Patrick (Groff) is a 29-year-old video game designer returning to the dating world in the wake of his ex's engagement; aspiring artist Agustín (Alvarez), 31, questions 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 dreams still unfulfilled. The trio's stories intertwine dramatically as they search for happiness and intimacy in an unparalleled era for gay men.
The movie picks up when Patrick, who has been living in Denver for nearly a year, returns to San Francisco for the first time to celebrate the wedding of old friends. In the process, he must face the unresolved relationships he left behind and make difficult choices about what's truly important to him as he finds himself still drawn to former flame Richie (Raúl Castillo), while being vexed by memories of his crash-and-burn relationship with his former boss Kevin (Russell Tovey).
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
'Looking' was billed as the new TV show that mixed 'Girls' with 'Sex and the City'. While I never really got that analogy other than it involved a group of friends and their relationships in a big city, 'Looking' never really stood out as being one of the better shows HBO said "yes" to. After two seasons, HBO cancelled 'Looking' in 2015, because of poor ratings. After this happened, most of the fans took to a petition and made their voice heard that they wanted more episodes, since the seconds season ended without any closure. Even show creators Andrew Haigh and Michael Lannan thought HBO was going to renew 'Looking' for a third season, but that never happened. Heck, we never even got a second season on Blu-ray until now with this set. Since the fans were adamant about getting more from 'Looking', HBO gave Haigh and Lannan some money to make a TV Movie that wrapped up the television series, which aired in the summer of 2016.
Now, HBO has released season one, season two, and the film all in one set. This series and film centered around Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a video game programmer living in San Francisco. Through season one and two, we see him in and out of relationships with hot guys, his bosses, and other flames. Patrick's best friend is Dom (Murray Bartlett), who is an older man who is wanting more out of life, who meets Lynn (Scott Bakula), a wealthy man who wants to help Dom. For being a show billed as a comedy, you would expect to have some laughs here and there, but that's not the case. This is a fairly melodramatic tv series that seems muted in both personality, fun, and even the stylistic color in which it's shot.
If you want to read the review of Season One, please click here. Season two begins with Patrick, Dom, and Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) having a nice stay in Northern California. They are staying in the woods at Lynn's (Scott Bakula) place. Soon though, Dom's roommate Doris (Lauren Weedman) joins them. From here, we see each character look at themselves and their relationships from an internal perspective. Not all is sunshine and puppy dogs either, which keeps this second season bleak like the first season. Dom and Doris head back to their home town where they begin to examine their current lives and how they could improve, which causes Dom and Doris to change some things in their lives, which have been present throughout the season.
Augustin and his friend Eddie (Daniel Franzese) start spending more time together as Augustin realizes he needs to change his life. Meanwhile, Patrick is still trying to find true love, which seems to not be happening with any of his suitors. This season was definitely open ended, and again, the creators thought they would be back for season three, but that never happened. So the film came along and is a pretty present, topped with a nice red bow to wrap everything up nicely. In the film, Patrick has moved to Colorado, but comes back to San Francisco for a wedding, where he takes a look at his past relationships of everyone from the previous two seasons.
After some long talks and realizations with every character, we get to see what they have been doing over the past year, which every story arc and character receives a tightly wrapped happy ending, which is what fans wanted. 'Looking' was never a great show, but it certainly was very different than how other shows and films portrayed the gay community, which I applaud them for. Everything seemed more realistic and toned down from what we are used to seeing. It was just difficult to connect with any story line or character due to their own self sabotaging relationships and careers. Still, it's nice for fans to have every episode and the wrap of film in one set, even if you have to receive season one again.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This 'Looking' set comes with five Blu-ray Discs, three of which are 25GB Discs and two of which are 50GB Discs from HBO that are all Region A Locked. The only insert is that of a digital download for all episodes and the film. The discs are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
This set comes with five Blu-ray Discs that have a 1080p HD transfer and an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The series is not as bright and colorful as you'd expect for being set in San Francisco. Every color is muted to give a dreary and vague look, which is like most of the characters here. Colors are not very saturated and look bleak with muted blues, greens and reds. There even seems to be a blueish tint to the picture. Needless to say, the colors don't pop off screen at any certain time, even though the change in cinematographers from season one and two offers a bit of a lighter and brighter image.
Detail is sharp and vivid throughout, giving closeups some excellent textures and facial features. Wrinkles, freckles, individual hairs, and makeup blemishes can be seen easily here. Black levels are somewhat deep and inky, but never overly dark. Flesh tones are somewhat natural here too, but never look ultra realistic due to the blueish tint. There were no major issues with any compression issues either. I do wish there weren't any filters or vague colors here, because this series really needed to lighten up in both story and style.
Both seasons and the film come with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 mix and does its job well for being a mostly dialogue driven series. Sound effects are realistic and robust throughout and ambient noises of the big city life and even in the cabin in the woods sound excellent in the surrounds.
The biggest moments usually come with the music cues in club and bar scenes. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills. There isn't much to this audio track really, although the bass kicks in to gear in the big party and club scenes, which is nice.
Audio Commentaries - Every episode has a commentary track with the show creators and most of the cast. Five to six people are on each commentary here as they discuss making the show and give praise to everyone involved, which can get a tiny bit crowded. There isn't a ton of information on the technical aspects or making of the show, but is rather just talking about characters and anecdotes from the set. It gets redundant for sure. There is NO commentary track or other extras here. Even the film has zero commentary track or extras.
'Looking' wasn't a great show, but it had a lot of promise. The problem here was the the show took itself way too seriously and never had any fun with itself. Like the stylistic filming choices to the story arcs and characters, everything and everyone seemed vague, bleak, and dreary. I like that this show was doing something different in that aspect, but it never broke off that line and added any comedy or laughs to bring out a brighter side, even for just a little while. Performances were good and the fans got the sendoff they wanted after HBO cancelled the series after two seasons. The video and audio presentations are both decent and the only extras anywhere are commentary tracks on each episodes that don't provide any real information to the making of the show. The film itself doesn't even have any extras either. So, if you're a big fan of this show, then you'll want to own this, because this is the only way to get it. If not, feel free to skip it.
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