The supporting cast, Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett, occasionally try to break free from the confines of the clunky dialogue, but there’s little about their roles, motivations, or actions that are truly compelling. The sole standout is Lauren Weedman, who offers some actual comic relief in the role of Doris, Dom’s ex-girlfriend turned roommate. Unfortunately, Doris is the stereotypical fag hag, spouting off lines that resemble Chelsea Handler’s stiff-lipped, vodka-soaked zingers. (In the fourth episode, Doris affectionately quips that she’d like to douse Agustín’s boyfriend in gasoline. Considering the etymological origin of the word “faggot,” one would think the writers would have come up with a less aggressive one-liner.)
This is a shame, when after years of hoping to see more LGBT characters on TV, we’ve finally received what is by all accounts a “realistic” depiction of gay men in an urban setting. There will be much to pedantically critique about the show — that the characters are overwhelmingly trim and straight-acting, that queens appear only on the characters’ laptops rather than in “real life,” that there’s an undercurrent of the misogyny that exists very openly within the gay community which is represented by the ideal of the “masculine” gay man, and so on. But Looking is overwhelmingly non-controversial, even if the audience it’s supposed to be serving is pretty unclear. Are urban-dwelling gay men desperate to see people exactly like them on television, represented by what New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum described as “ordinary, not outrageous” characters? Possibly.
But there must be something in between the ordinary and the outrageous that is, simply, “interesting.” Maybe it’s because I’ve given up on finding a “relatable” gay character to be a prerequisite to my enjoyment of a television program; maybe it’s that I can find bits and pieces of characters — straight men, straight women, gay men, trans individuals — who, when written well, exhibit characteristics representative of the larger human experience. (Take a look at Treme, an HBO series with no LGBT characters and one that was dismissed by many viewers as boring, but a show that was written exquisitely and realistically and, you know, actually had a strong plot).
I’m not sure, exactly, what I’m supposed to get out of Looking, and I’m not sure that its creative team knows, either. It feels like a show about gay men that simply exists for the sake of being a show about gay men. And, frankly, we deserve something a little more well-developed than a flimsy series that proves TV executives aren’t sure what they’re looking for, either.