Any time a new comedy series premieres on HBO, there is a certain amount of expectation that it has to be something completely revelatory. It needs to give you that sort of “oh wow” moment that makes you feel glad that you’re paying for your subscription, and make you think about life somewhat different … even if you’re laughing.
The truth here is that as a comedy, “Looking” is not a particularly funny show. There are a couple of little awkward moments, but there were times during the premiere where the equally-dry “Girls” felt suddenly hilarious. However, we’re in an age now where a comedy does not have to necessitate big laughs so long as there is a meaningful story, and characters that you want to love and root for. “Looking” has that.
Jonathan Groff leads a strong cast as Patrick, a 29-year old level developer for a video game company who is still trying to figure out his place in San Francisco. While his sexuality as a gay man is important to the story, the nice thing about “Looking” is that there is nary a reference to any gay stereotype from him or any other character. The best part of the entire episode is when the show took advantage of a plot device that felt completely refreshing: Patrick using a business card of a failed date to pass himself off as a better guy than he actually was. It’s a little hard to do that with a heterosexual character unless you’re dealing with an androgynous name.
Sexuality play more of a supplemental role on the show, since some of the situations and relationships here are similar to a “Girls” or a “Sex and the City,” except on a more grounded level than the latter. The show just as a whole feels refreshing, as it deals with so many insecurities, heartache, and a struggle to fit in. But the show never feels sorry for itself, and neither do any of the characters; they take their lumps, keep going, and have so many good qualities that you can still root for Patrick even after he steals his failed date’s name and profession.
“Looking” is a very person, captivating show. It’s one that we’re looking forward to seeing much more of the rest of the season. Groff in particular has finally received the chance that he should have been handed years ago. Grade: A-.