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‘Looking’ At Gay Life Now

We take a look at the new HBO series “Looking,” and its take on gay life now.

In HBO's new series, 'Looking,' Paddy (Jonathan Groff) is looking for a steady boyfriend in modern San Francisco. He meets Richie (Raúl Castillo) on a BART train. (John P. Johnson / HBO)

In HBO’s new series, ‘Looking,’ Paddy (Jonathan Groff) is looking for a steady boyfriend in modern San Francisco. He meets Richie (Raúl Castillo) on a BART train. (John P. Johnson / HBO)

Gay America stepped sidewise into popular television culture with shows like “Will & Grace,” “Three’s Company,” even “Modern Family.”  Jokey, campy.  Send-ups, really.  Fun, but just going for laughs.  The light side.  Meanwhile, actual gay life has gained a widening place in mainstream culture.  Awareness.  Expanding acceptance.  Marriage.  A new series from HBO looks to drop the jokey routine and tell it more like it is.  Everyday gay life.  It’s called “Looking.”  This hour On Point:  “Looking” creator Michael Lannan and star Jonathan Groff on “Looking,” and gay life in the culture now.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Michael Lannan, creator and co-executive producer of the HBO series “Looking.” (@MichaelLannan)

Richard Lawson, Hollywood columnist, Vanity Fair. (@rilaws)

Jonathan Groff, actor. Plays the lead character of Patrick in HBO’s “Looking.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Vanity Fair: ‘Looking’ Is As Gay As It Needs To Be — “The more we’ve ached and clamored for representation, the more impossible expectations we’ve put on any instance of it, to the point that when we arrive at a show like ‘Looking,’ a hazy and kinda soapy glimpse of three guys bumbling around the Bay Area, people like Lowder immediately begin the tried-and-true practice of tearing it down for not being representative enough, or not correctly representative in some crucial way.”

The New Yorker: Boys’ Town — “‘Looking’ is a whole different ball of wax. Sneaky-funny instead of brassy, it is interested not in extremity but in small-bore observation. In this way, it shares a sensibility with the charming ‘Please Like Me,’ an Australian series, now airing on Pivot, which people also initially called ‘the gay ‘Girls.’  Both shows feature diffident heroes, young men who regard retro gay culture with a sense of bemused incredulity, like Christopher Isherwood with a Webcam. ‘Looking’ establishes this generational theme in its first scene, in which Paddy goes cruising, very briefly. He gets a truncated hand job—’Cold hands!’ he complains—but it’s less a sex act than a prank.”

Gawker: ‘Looking?’ Mmmmm, Maybe Another Time — “It’s not easy being a TV show about gay men in 2014. Thanks in part to the power of the internet as a platform for activism and outrage, the responsibilities of representation have never seemed more urgent, or more complicated. To appeal to your gay audience—built-in and notoriously loyal—you need to be realistic. To appeal to everyone else—whose patronage will ultimately make or break—you can’t be too gay. The ideal is something satisfying without the ick factor, something like, and about as likely as, a spontaneous orgasm.”

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