What Philly Gays Thought of the Premiere of HBO’s “Looking”

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Looking’s principal characters, played by (L-R) Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff and Frankie J. Alvarez.

We’ve all been waiting for Looking … and it finally started last night with a bang (or, I should say, a Handy J in the woods.) Pilot episodes like these are meant to be mere introductions into the lives of the key players, and last night’s episode followed that formula to a tee. Here’s what we can derive so far:

Jonathan Groff (who we interviewed over the weekend) plays Patrick, the Carrie Bradshaw/Lena Dunham/Hal Sparks-esque central, who’s just plain annoying and awkward. With a successful career as a video-game developer, he has been unable to maintain a serious relationship longer than five months, and the show begins with his search for Mr. Right (and, not surprisingly, he’s looking in all the wrong places — like OkCupid-wrong.) On the first episode we see a terrible date go horribly wrong, only leading him to a chance encounter with a cutie, Richie, on the bus who is so not his type.

Agustin, played by Frankie J. Alvarez, is an artist’s assistant and Patrick’s best friend, who seems to be in a stable relationship with boyfriend Frank. They are about to move in together when a sexual encounter with a third spices things up, challenging their decision to nest. Can someone say #plottwist?

Dom (Murray Bartlett of Guiding Light fame) is a soon-to-be-40-year-old waiter struggling with aging and the thought of losing his sex appeal. He is sick of 20-something d-bags denying his advances, which forces him to face the fact that he may just be mediocre. A sexual past with Patrick was also hinted at one point. He obsesses over a successful-yet-narcissist ex (Facebook-stalking included) and breaks down by drunk dialing him at the end of the episode.

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Dom’s scene with his roommate Doris was my favorite. They served a realistic and well-acted moment with some LOL-worthy banter. Another favorite moment was Dom’s quote to Patrick, “Stop giving a shit what anyone thinks.”

I had trouble distinguishing characters from each other, what with the superfluous amount of flannel and facial hair. Maybe that’s what the trendy San Francisco gays are doing these days: Looking like each other.

Curious about what others were thinking, I reached out to some local “critics” via Facebook. Here’s what they had to say:

Cetra Language Solutions Senior Project Manager — and burgeoning photographer — Evan Schapiro says he “loved that the creators decide to make the first on-screen kiss during a threesome.”

Y-Not Radio on-air personality Robert Huff: “No one that looks like Jonathan Groff would ever dress or carry themselves like that. I’m already more invested in the relationship between Dom and his hag than anything else on the show.”

Joshua Durando, an assistant director of special events at Penn — and G Philly Six-Word Memoirist says that, “At first, I wanted to be turned off by what seemed to be them just playing up a few stereotypes, but then I realized that nothing happened in the show that me and my friends haven’t experienced ourselves (except maybe cruising in the park.) At the end of the episode I had high hopes for the way they would handle the characters moving forward. It seems like they will handle situations honestly and authentically, even if that means acknowledging/dealing with stereotypes we don’t always want to admit are true.”

Exeunt Magazine editor Richard Patterson weighed in on the show’s lack of diversity: “I love the furry one. My concern is that ‘diverse’ means one Latino so far, but if the show ultimately ends up being good enough, I’ll let it go. Girls has the same diversity issue but is also great.”

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Vlahos PR founder Matthew Vlahos: “I love it. It’s like a new Sex and the City … if the girls took mass transit and did their own laundry, of course. I’m pretty sure the stripper in the bear costume and red g-string was in both [shows] though.”

G Philly contributor Brandon Baker disagrees with the SATC comparisons: “This is a show that’s almost entirely driven by its character development. Which, in turn, means that this isn’t like Girls or Sex and the City, because those are shows that, more often than not, have either had very clear storylines or use characters as slapstick puppets for social commentary; they’re a means to an end, as lovable as they may be. This is a show that, through its cast of (sometimes annoying) characters, is trying to be honest in a more self-examining way and, in the process, comes off as a slow burner. It dares viewers to stick around for characters who aren’t immediately likable, and that – for better or worse – makes it a gutsy move. But to be sure, anyone who claims this was not a thoughtful 30 minutes is missing the bigger picture (or dozing off mid-episode): Everything from the “Looking at the map makes you look lost” comment lobbed at Patrick on the subway, to Dom jabbing with that I’m-kidding-but-not-really-kidding line about painfully pretentious Patrick rejecting Subway Guy because he wasn’t one of the usual “Stanford assholes.” Am I sold for the long-term? Not yet. But, having just watched Girls and Looking back to back, it felt awfully apparent that Looking isn’t the one lacking in the depth department.”

And Brandon Kirby from The Hollywood Report exquisitely and eloquently summed up last night’s premiere with this:

“By the end, we see each of the three guy’s scenarios set in place: Patrick stepping out of his dating comfort zone, Dom wrestling with his past and Agustin debating the fate of his relationship’s future. These are life struggles and choices that everybody could be navigating — no matter gay or straight.”

What did you think about the show? Hooked? Weigh in in the comments section below.