Looking For Heart – Review

Looking For Heart

Tony Bennett once lamented that he “left his heart in San Francisco.”

Well, at least he had one to begin with.

Looking seems to want to be the antithesis to Queer as Folk in style and in substance.  It soars on the first point but sadly crashes like a lead dove on the second.  Style wise there are no lens Lookingflares present here, profanity is kept to a minimum, music montages are almost non-existent, the sex/nudity present would hardly make a Mormon blush, the settings are modest/realistic, and at least in the pilot episode clubs like Babylon don’t seem to exist.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that, nor the color grading that vaguely resembles that of an Instagramed selfie.  Unfortunately though style does not equal substance.

While the cinematography of Looking might be different, the show embraces the lesser angels of Showtime’s now retired opus.  The “Brian Kinney” character has been reincarnated into the much hairier “Dom” (he’s a top presumably; get it?) and despite not having a loft, he ALWAYS gets the guy (or so we’re told).  The aforementioned character’s proclivities are found manifest in many other ways in the pilot: Patrick goes cruising in a park (in broad daylight; WTF?), everyone smokes pot, a threesome is negotiated with a quick approving glance, and a young heart patient is made fun of, etc.  In the end it all comes off as empty and mean.

Queer as FolkFor a show so intent on throwing off the flashy tropes of gay cinema, it’s also discarded what made previous shows memorable and fun.  Amongst Queer as Folk’s flashy vaudeville and gratuitous nudity, there were heartfelt moments of genuine compassion and love;  Debbie reaching out to Justin’s mom, Melanie and Lindsay taking in the runaway teen, Brian trying to protect his lover, and Emmett’s numerous acts of compassion and strength.  Queer as Folk and the L Word certainly had their faults, but both shows had a heart that seems to be missing here. Even hedonist Brian had a moral center that Looking’s characters can’t seem to be bothered with.

Looking, instead prefers to focus on a group of “friends” that hang out because… well I don’t know why they hang out, other than the fact that we’re told that two of them hooked up once.  That may be how they met, but where’s the rest of the backstory?  Why do they still grab drinks together?  Why are they still friends?  We’re given no explanation.

All that said, there are glimmers of promise in the pilot.  Patrick’s inept attempts at dating are as fun as they are biting bits of reality.  Who hasn’t gone on the date with the doctor or accountant that insists on splitting the bill according to what they ordered.  (You asked me out, buddy…)  The scene in the bathroom at the bachelor party was also a home run, as was the chance encounter on the train.

Looking 2Three watchable scenes, however, do not make a show.  The producers and writers of Looking, in their attempt to be completely different than their predecessors, have created a dramatic half-hour that doesn’t seem to know what type of story it wants to be or what it wants to say.  That might have worked if this was an actual documentary, but it’s not.  It’s a drama shot in cinéma vérité style, and style does not equal substance.  As it stands now, I can’t tell you who or what we’re supposed to be rooting for.  Will Patrick tell Bouncer Boy that he lied about his identity?  Will they hook up?  Will threesomes become a regular staple of the racially ambiguous couple?  Who knows?  Who cares?  Currently, I don’t.

Looking’s characters and story seem to be looking for something.  Maybe they should start with a heart and a plot.

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