Looking for versatile
February 18, 2014 1:15 PM   Subscribe

'Looking': On Bottom Shame. The fifth episode of HBO's Looking, "Looking for the Future," focused solely on the relationship of Patrick and Ritchie. Ritchie will be your Rachel (and your Ross).
posted by crossoverman (86 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, excited to read this! I've been really enjoying this show. The writing is smart and nuanced.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:22 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Really? I find it's like answering the question "What do all those really boring people I met in college talk about all day?"
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]


RELATED: Bob Costas Will Make Triumphant Return Tomorrow Night

Am confused allllll to hell and back...
posted by Thorzdad at 1:26 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


My theory is that, just like Grey's Anatomy isn't for doctors, Looking isn't for gay guys. It just feels off.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:26 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


While I'm glad that anyone on TV is having a discussion about (hopefully safe) anal sex, I am really disturbed by the Ross/Rachel thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:32 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Really? I find it's like answering the question "What do all those really boring people I met in college talk about all day?"

I dunno, I find it fairly self aware in a way you don't often see on TV, especially about class and race. Patrick stumbling into racist attitudes with Ritchie over and over again, for instance, not here played defensively or for laughs like it would be on Girls but as completely and genuinely cringe worthy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:37 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


My theory is that, just like Grey's Anatomy isn't for doctors, Looking isn't for gay guys. It just feels off.

Yes, because gay guys are a monolith and all believe the same things.

I actually find the characters really believable and the style of the show fascinating. Like, it's really very low stakes a lot of the time - and I know some people find that boring, but I find that refreshing. Especially in queer television, where everything feels like it's a statement or a cautionary tale or it's bold and in your face. I like that this show is quiet and contemplative.

I am really disturbed by the Ross/Rachel thing.

The scene in the show made that really natural to the conversation and told us a lot about Patrick and how he views things. I like the use of pop culture references, especially in this episode. They felt completely natural and unforced.
posted by crossoverman at 1:43 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


I'm watching the show for the location shots, friends cast as extras, and to critique their transportation choices (why is he on Muni instead of BART? You don't take Muni Metro from downtown to El Rio!)
posted by gingerbeer at 2:25 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]


I couldn't agree more with crossoverman and PBWK. I like that the show portrays some gay characters who have made it through the volatile coming-out phase, and who are okay with the basic facts of their sexuality, but who may still have absorbed a lot of messed up ideas about masculinity, femininity, queerness, sex, relationships, etc. that they've never really interrogated.

And bottom shame is unfortunately, absolutely a thing, and is part of the generally fucked up way that gay men relate to femininity and masculinity. I'm thrilled to see it get called out in a show this close to the mainstream.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:30 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


My theory is that, just like Grey's Anatomy isn't for doctors, Looking isn't for gay guys. It just feels off.

Based on all the FB chatter from my gay friends, you are incorrect. So it's for at least some gay guys.
posted by phearlez at 2:32 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


And bottom shame is unfortunately, absolutely a thing, and is part of the generally fucked up way that gay men relate to femininity and masculinity. I'm thrilled to see it get called out in a show this close to the mainstream.

This, definitely this.

I just recently took a tour of a progressive adult video studio that is (not so coincidentally) housed in the old SF Armory. They produce porn for a bunch of different niches (straight and gay), including one where the scene is: two men wrestle and then have sex. The tour guide explained that the wrestling portion is actually competitive, with the two participants scoring points in various ways, and at the end "the winner fucks the loser."

That made me like the idea a little less.
posted by psoas at 2:35 PM on February 18


Yes, because gay guys are a monolith and all believe the same things.

It always feels weird when there's a show about Your People, and it just doesn't resonate at all.

I remember feeling this way about The L Word. Obviously tons and tons of queer women really identified with it, but meh. I also feel this way about most TV shows set in Louisiana, and while I enjoyed the first season of Girls, I have similar sort of alienated feelings about it and my relationship with Brooklyn, nowadays.

It's nothing against any of the shows in question. (Well, except for True Blood, which, ugh no seriously just no) I think it can just be hard to watch other people comment on something you've lived really intimately. Especially when it feels "off", or not representative of that world as you experienced it.
posted by Sara C. at 2:48 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


The tour guide explained that the wrestling portion is actually competitive, with the two participants scoring points in various ways, and at the end "the winner fucks the loser."

As someone who, uh, has a friend who has watched a few of those adult videos: subject:top::object:bottom is not as clearcut an equation as you (and granted, probably the tour guide) think.
posted by PMdixon at 2:52 PM on February 18


It always feels weird when there's a show about Your People, and it just doesn't resonate at all.

Yeeech, I don't know anyone who acts like these people, or asks these questions, or has these conversations and they're not interesting people to begin with aside from mustache dude who actually seems to have a conflict besides a completely insular, made up non problem one that feels increasingly like reading someone's livejorunal.
posted by The Whelk at 3:00 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


OK, thank you for that AV Club piece in the second link. Says a ton of what I feel about why I like this show, particularly this:
Imagine if every straight romance was met with a yawn and a “Haven’t we seen this already?” That’s the burden placed on gay TV, as if there have been so many such stories. There are gay characters everywhere, or so say the cultural gatekeepers. Meanwhile, lonely urban heteros are sinking the comedy line-ups of every broadcast network with their emo decadence, and just next door, sister-in-arms Girls is talked to death by mass media. Whatever your experience with gay pop culture, there is activism in this story of two guys falling for each other, and it works by simply selling the reality. Hence fly-on-location long takes and funny, naturalistic performances. The conversation is specific to the characters, as in Richie’s story about being sent to Mexico, but there’s a lot of universality here—for gay men. Patrick can’t bring himself to come out on the first try, the camera drools over Richie’s armpit and body hair, Patrick worries he has HIV every time he sneezes. Hell, Patrick refusing to bottom is a key to the season. How’s that for not gay enough?
I like how, different from the now-innumerable shows where there's a gay neighbor or friend, or something like Modern Family where there's a whole gay family but it's still very much about them being gay within a larger straight world... Here's a show that's just the gays, in a gay milieu. "Queer As Folk" you say? Well, yes but QaF was highly agenda-driven. It was always Making A Point. It was Gay Community Issue Of the Week, and none of them handled terribly subtly, and with a lot of gratuitous gogo dancers thrown in now and then. "Looking" doesn't seem to be trying to prove anything. I think it's just trying to be "a show," like other shows, that happens to be pretty much all gay.
posted by dnash at 3:03 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


psoas - I too took that tour and our guide phrased it in the more Dom/sub angle of the winner got to pick what the loser had to do. If that included topping him, then that was part of the denigration angle (forced to do what winner says). Perhaps your tour guide just put his own angle of bottom = bad into the tour, since that hasn't been my experience with the studio.

As for the show, I haven't bothered. I just don't have the time to care about more gay navel gazing. Maybe someday when I'm sick and stuck at home I'll marathon it, but overall I'm solidly meh on the concept and parts I've seen.
posted by msbutah at 3:21 PM on February 18


I don't know anyone who acts like these people, or asks these questions, or has these conversations and they're not interesting people to begin with

Yeah this is basically everything I think about Girls.

The first ten or thirteen episodes or however many were pretty exciting, and it felt like every episode was something that had specifically happened to me in my 20s in NYC.

By the beginning of season 2 I would have rather watched a "Barefoot In The Park" esque show about Jessa and Thomas John.

At this point I'm just completely uninterested; it's as you say, like reading someone's livejournal. There's no actual conflict. Nobody really wants or needs anything or has real problems to solve. Bleh.

It's really difficult to sustain more than about 15 episodes of "bored navelgazing white people whine about their lives".

(That said I have not seen Looking yet, and from what I understand there are more potential conflicts there than Girls came pre-loaded with.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:21 PM on February 18


I too took that tour and our guide phrased it in the more Dom/sub angle of the winner got to pick what the loser had to do. If that included topping him, then that was part of the denigration angle (forced to do what winner says). Perhaps your tour guide just put his own angle of bottom = bad into the tour, since that hasn't been my experience with the studio.

Ah, that makes more sense. I've watched clips of a few of them; I just hadn't watched any all the way through and didn't know about the point-scoring system. Our tour guide was a woman, so I have no idea how specifically familiar with it she was.
posted by psoas at 3:26 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Yeeech, I don't know anyone who acts like these people

Apart from the fact I do know people who act like these people, it seems totally bizarre to me that this is a criticism of the show - people on TV don't act like real people? I know the show is going for a verisimilitude that might seem off if it's not quite your experience, but of course people don't have perfectly executed conversations about sex and bottoming and coming out on a single day at the burgeoning of a new relationship - although they might.

It's an unrealistic expectation people seem to be bringing to the show - I don't know these people, so these people are fake. Occasionally they do feel like made up TV problems: Patrick telling Richie he's a doctor, Patrick expecting Richie to be uncut and then visibly reacting when he wasn't - but that's just that character's naivete. And I know guys like Patrick.

People don't really act like people on The Office, either - but that didn't make Jim & Pam's relationship unrelatable.

But, of course, it's also good that we don't all agree about it. Because no show can reflect everyone's experience. I just wish we didn't have an expectation that it should.
posted by crossoverman at 3:26 PM on February 18 [7 favorites]


The show is purporting to be a naturalistic slice of life about a slice of life I'm pretty familiar with ( urban late 20s gay men in both professional, service, and art industry jobs with various romantic lives ) that bears no resemblance in any way to anything I've experienced or any of my friends' have experienced to my knowledge, despite two characters having literally the same exact job as two of my closest friends, which really shouldn't be a thing- I'm not asking to see my life literally copied on screen, but they're also tedious, boring characters with nothing going for them. I see no reason to hang out with these peopple and thier situation is not novel or compelling nor does it fit anything I've ever seen or lived through.
posted by The Whelk at 3:36 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Yeah but when Jim And Pam act like ...characters in a sit-com, it's ...funny and thus ...entertaining.
posted by The Whelk at 3:37 PM on February 18


There's no actual conflict. Nobody really wants or needs anything or has real problems to solve. Bleh.

Don't ever read Proust, then.
posted by dnash at 3:41 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Novels are not TV shows.
posted by Sara C. at 4:04 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Yeah, QaF did absolutely nothing for me. I saw one or two episodes, got bored, and turned it off. I remember being vaguely annoyed that the straight people were the best-written characters.

Even though it is so far a critical success, I seem to be the only gay person on my FB feed who seems to actually enjoy Looking, or even to think there's something I relate to there, which is puzzling to me. The criticisms seem to boil down to the following (my responses afterwards):

posted by en forme de poire at 4:10 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]


I just don't have the time to care about more gay navel gazing.

Not to single you out, but I think this is related to what I brought up above. I think it's funny that I rarely hear, say, "Before Sunset" characterized as more straight navel gazing. I think there's also a lot of pressure on gay people to reflexively disavow any representation of us that focuses on sex at all, or that acknowledges that some of us do have long-term baggage about sex and relationships that is directly linked to our homosexuality, or that some of us do care a lot about sex and romance and want to have fulfilling relationships. I think it's part of the general pressure on minorities to feel like they have to be twice as "good" as the majority because otherwise we won't be able to assimilate, and sex and relationships are something most gay men get a crazy amount of snooty judgment about as it is.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:18 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


The show is purporting to be a naturalistic slice of life

Is it though?
posted by yellowcandy at 4:27 PM on February 18


Novels are not TV shows.

Really? I had no idea. Wow.

No, you see my point was that not every piece of narrative art is going to conform to the standard model of plot and conflict. If you read Proust looking for plot you will HATE it and miss what it actually is. "Before Sunrise" (and its sequels) have already been brought up here, and there again, if what you're watching for is just plot, you're going to be bored and hate it. And so if this different kind of book or movie or TV show isn't to your taste, that's fine really. Personally I feel you're missing out a bit.
posted by dnash at 4:45 PM on February 18


My point is that, while novels often are not really required to have strong plot and conflict elements, TV shows generally are. It's not a field where you can say "OMG open your mind, maaaaaan..." Even Seinfeld, "the show about nothing" had inherent conflict. Most of the shows on TV that are bad and dull and get canceled are that way because they lack conflict.
posted by Sara C. at 4:56 PM on February 18


Conflict can be within a character's own self, y'know. Even on TV.
posted by dnash at 5:46 PM on February 18


I basically agree, Sara C. - you generally can't have a television show that's conflict free. I don't really think Looking is conflict free, but as I said earlier - it's low stakes. It's not about creating drama for the sake of it.

Which is why I think it works great in its 30 format - it can be quiet and meandering and give me a certain feeling (of character and of place) without feeling forced at all. I don't think a show could sustain this for an hour a week.

Yeah, QaF did absolutely nothing for me. I saw one or two episodes, got bored, and turned it off.

I loved QAF for being a big, ridiculous gay soap opera. A lot of people called those characters unrealistic - and I would agree! But just as I think there's room for a quiet contemplative show about gay characters, there's a place for big loud soap operas as well. (Some of the characters on QAF were straight up annoying/appalling - and I totally get not liking them. But some times I like characters to be appalling.)

And basically everything else en forme de poire said.
posted by crossoverman at 5:46 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Conflict can be within a character's own self, y'know. Even on TV.

I guess? Even so, it needs to be externalized in some way in order to make it visible to us as viewers. I think this is one of the main challenges of a show like Girls, and by extension probably Looking as well. How do you get a character's internal conflict across in a way that makes sense in a visual medium? Novels are great at internal conflict. TV shows are not.
posted by Sara C. at 5:55 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I don't think Girls is conflict free, though I see your point about it Sara C. Right now I think it's about four people who were friends for a long time realizing that maybe they shouldn't be friends anymore, that they've grown apart and they feel like that's not right, because they're this GROUP see, and the group does not split up. It reminds me of stuff I went through a few years ago pretty closely actually. If it were real life they'd mostly find new friends and hang out every once in a while and stuff. But it's not real life so they sort of found common ground already and will still go to all the same parties and be mean to each other and meh.

Also the Apatow-cowritten episodes are much worse IMO than the others. They're really romcommy (obviously).

Re: Looking, I saw one episode and didn't love it but would try again. It was the one with the Pride Parade or something where the one guy was desperate for a place to shit.
posted by sweetkid at 6:52 PM on February 18


I think it's about four people who were friends for a long time realizing that maybe they shouldn't be friends anymore, that they've grown apart and they feel like that's not right, because they're this GROUP see, and the group does not split up.

This is very strange considering that they only knew each other semi-tangentially in Season 1.
posted by Sara C. at 7:16 PM on February 18


Yeah in a sense it's Marnie/Hannah who are the group or maybe Marnie/Hannah/Jessa and Shoshanna is tacked on. It works though. It's not really that strange.
posted by sweetkid at 7:24 PM on February 18


That makes sense. When I wanted to write a Girls spec it was all about whether Marnie & Hannah could be friends again after the endgame of Season 1. When I started watching season 2, I dropped the whole thing when I realized they weren't ever going to deal with that. Interesting to know that I was right, it's just playing out in a much longer timeframe than I'd have guessed.
posted by Sara C. at 7:49 PM on February 18


I think Season 2 wasn't as good but it's kind of rerailed in S3.
posted by sweetkid at 8:26 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


I'd love to watch a show about gay men that isn't constantly about fear of contracting HIV, or dealing with the drama of a partner with HIV, or some political or social justice issue du jour that appeases the feelings of a nervous straight audience. Maybe I need to go back to my Sex in the City DVD sets.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


I'd love to watch a show about gay men that isn't constantly about fear of contracting HIV, or dealing with the drama of a partner with HIV, or some political or social justice issue du jour that appeases the feelings of a nervous straight audience.

Can I recommend this show called Looking?
posted by crossoverman at 9:36 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I'm ambivalent about this show. I find the characters to be simultaneously dull and sort of charming, and I don't really know how that works. I really enjoyed the last episode, but I'm a total sucker for those Before Sunrise-type movies in which people just walk around and talk and there's virtually no plot whatsoever. I know it's all a pretense -- and not a very creative one at that -- but I find them very, very moving.

The music on Looking is amazing. The final scene on Sunday with the cut to Morrisey at the credits? That was electric.
posted by venividivici at 2:04 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I am gay, live in the Bay Area, and like the show. It seems to hit the mark of popular gay culture in the Bay Area pretty well. I'd rather watch shows like this more than new episodes of modern family. I suppose your mileage may vary depending on how much of a snowflake you or your friends are.
posted by grizzly at 2:31 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


We need gay characters who define themselves by more than who they are or aren't sleeping with, and whose gayness isn't central to their lives. On one level, sure, we need gay characters in all kinds of genres beyond relationship drama. But also, I think there's a level on which this is kind of a fucked up argument to level at this show. Sexual interest in men is only one part of a gay man's life, obviously, but it is sure as shit a fundamental difference with a whole host of attendant issues that you are just never going to see brought up in a straight-focused show.

Plus it seems to be okay to have shows where a group of straight people define themselves purely by who they are or are not sleeping with, their quest for a partner, etc etc etc. We have a term of art, the Bechtel Test, to illustrate just how poorly Hollywood does in creating media where the female characters do anything other than revolve/obsess around/about the male characters (presumably because of cultural expectations that they are [Potential] Wives, not agents of their own).

HBO has been making serial shows about people pursuing love/sex for much of my adult life, from Dream On to Sex in the City and who knows what else. If careers and other issues occupied a larger percentage of plotlines in those two shows than they do in Looking I will be shocked. Why can't the circle of friends happen to be gay without the standard for quality/content be different?
posted by phearlez at 7:28 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Looking is another in a long line of "attractive people have lots of sex" HBO format comedies.

I'm not sure how you could have "group of gay characters do [blah]" without it falling into that format or something in the world of Will & Grace.

I'm all for fighting for better representation of LGBTQ people in a variety of roles across all media, but Looking isn't that show. It's gay Entourage/SATC/Girls. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Meanwhile over on Brooklyn 99, we've got a black and gay police captain.
posted by Sara C. at 9:28 AM on February 19


Meanwhile over on Brooklyn 99, we've got a black and gay police captain.

Moreover, the question "How do you become a black gay captain in the NYPD?" is explicitly answered with "Be really fucking good at your job."
posted by PMdixon at 9:56 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


One thing that would be pretty interesting would be to have a show that takes place at an LGBTQ-oriented nonprofit or something, sort of in the vein of Milk or How To Survive A Plague, or a slightly queerer take on Getting On (which should soooooo do an "aging LGBTQ population" storyline, actually).

Which is the sort of territory Orange Is The New Black is mining. You've got a non-romantic format and a setting that lends itself to queer themes, but it's not a "group of attractive people finding love" kind of show.
posted by Sara C. at 10:04 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I'd love to watch a show about gay men that isn't constantly about fear of contracting HIV, or dealing with the drama of a partner with HIV, or some political or social justice issue du jour that appeases the feelings of a nervous straight audience.

Can I recommend this show called Looking?


I loved how this was addressed in Sunday's episode--Ritchie had a partner with HIV but even though Patrick is like OMG, weren't you freaked? Ritchie is pretty much like, no biggie.

Actually, I might not really like this show at all if it weren't for Ritchie. In some ways he seems like he's there to explicitly address a lot of problems in television about queer people--the whiteness and the economic privilege and the petty anxieties which seem to be more about appeasing the heterosexual base than actually addressing the stuff of peoples' lives. Come to think of it, other than Dom (who also is sort of a step above most TV characters), the rest of the cast isn't all that compelling. Patrick is okay, but you kinda just want to shake him a lot. He's not really naive so much as ridiculously clueless.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:23 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile over on Brooklyn 99, we've got a black and gay police captain.

Moreover, the question "How do you become a black gay captain in the NYPD?" is explicitly answered with "Be really fucking good at your job."


There is essentially nothing I don't love about how they handle that character and situation (even aside from the fact that I would tune in to watch Andre Braugher read the phone book). The fact that making it in the field would represent a huge effort and involve overcoming a ton of adversity is neither soft-pedaled or beaten like a dead horse when it comes up... and it comes up more than once, but not incessantly. It's not treated as something that's an old problem that is all done with, but for the most part his contemporaries treat him as a fellow professional with a trait that doesn't really have anything to do with them. It's never used as a cheap joke, either about him or other people's reactions to him.

I will be really sad if that show goes away. Mostly because I just think it's funny, but also because I am kinda misty-eyed at the idea that this is how all shows will eventually portray gay folks on television - as just other people who are there in every walk of life.
posted by phearlez at 11:13 AM on February 19


I also love the episode where they introduce Holt's husband and reveal (possible minor spoilers?) that he has a kneejerk reaction against any of Holt's colleagues because they were all so uniformly homophobic and awful back in the day. That felt like a very real and very human fear, to me.
posted by Sara C. at 11:17 AM on February 19


I'm all for fighting for better representation of LGBTQ people in a variety of roles across all media, but Looking isn't that show.

Looking isn't what show? Not a better representation of queer characters? A worse one?

It's gay Entourage/SATC/Girls.

In a very basic "these are humans having relationships" way. But, for me, the difference is in the execution. Which can be said for most television, because so many ideas have already been done. I love SATC, hate Entourage and am agnostic on Girls.

I don't think Looking is revolutionary from a basic premise kind of way. I think it's stylish in a way that none of those three shows are. I think it's subtle and ambiguous in a way those three shows are not.

And I really need to see this Brooklyn 99 show, because I love Andre Braugher.
posted by crossoverman at 11:58 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Looking isn't what show?

A show that isn't about sex/romance at the most basic level.

I mean, the format of the show is "light comedy about attractive people's love lives". It follows a long tradition of this style of show from HBO. Which is why I described it as "gay Entourage/SATC/Girls" -- it was almost certainly pitched to the network that way, even if it transcends the style.

I'm not really talking about the quality of the show, here, or how people will feel about it. I'm talking about the basic format, like is it a cop show, a soap opera, a workplace comedy, science fiction, etc. Looking is a show about relationships and sexuality. As such we can't really ask it to not be a show about relationships and sexuality.

There's no such thing as an "ambiguous" TV show.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 PM on February 19


I think crossoverman is saying that the show uses ambiguity more than SATC or Entourage, not that it's ambiguous in its basic premise. And even if it's not the first to go there, I could count the shows we've had that have treated relationships and sexuality from a mostly-gay perspective with the fingers on one hand, and still have enough left over to be able to play "Chopsticks." (Which is not even getting into how different, e.g., Looking and QAF are in most of the aspects beyond the elevator pitch.)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:52 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


That AV club piece is pretty magnificent. I have to reiterate what dnash said here; that quotation in particular I think is pretty relevant to this conversation. Also, lol:
But showing America what it looks like when two guys have sex with each other has a normalizing power, even if the audience right now is just me and my gay friends. Turns out there’s nothing to be afraid of. Can we have our rights now?
posted by en forme de poire at 1:59 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


I'm by no means dismissing the show by saying "gay SATC". Bring on the queer rom-com series, in my opinion! Hell, as someone who writes a lot of TV-ish comedy-ish things under the rom-com rubric, I can only hope that Looking is wildly successful and heralds a new wave of this type of show.

But, you know, it's a queer rom-com series. That's what it is. Just like Mad Men is a workplace drama. Calling Mad Men a workplace drama doesn't make it a bad show. It's just stating what genre it's in.
posted by Sara C. at 1:59 PM on February 19


Its not a romcom. Its pretty blatantly a drama.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:11 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Yeah, agreed, I'd say dramedy at most.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:31 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


BTW, Sara C, I'd watch both of those shows you floated above. I think a show focusing on elderly queer people could be absolutely brilliant.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:36 PM on February 19


It's okay, Sara C thinks Before Midnight is a rom-com, so you know.
posted by crossoverman at 2:36 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I'd like to watch a sitcom about Scott Bakula and his flower shop.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:36 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


It's okay, Sara C thinks Before Midnight is a rom-com, so you know.
Any movie starring Ethan Hawke is by default a comedy. An unintentional comedy, of course.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:48 PM on February 19


Looking is 30 minutes, which puts it in HBO's comedy slot. All the shows I compared it to (Girls, SATC, Entourage) were also half-hour HBO comedies.

HBO's comedies aren't formulaic sitcoms with laugh-tracks and live studio audiences, but they all definitely correspond to established genres of comedy television.

"romantic comedy" in TV doesn't exactly map to "romcom" feature film. Friends, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, etc. are all "romantic comedy" TV shows.
posted by Sara C. at 2:56 PM on February 19


Yeah, but it has less "comedy" in it than, say, Mad Men.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:58 PM on February 19


It doesn't matter how many times you laughed.

"Looking" is in the same genre as "Friends" and "How I Met Your Mother", and not really in the genre of like NCIS or Breaking Bad.

This is not that controversial.
posted by Sara C. at 3:03 PM on February 19


As a definition, it doesn't feel at all grounded by anything in the actual show, though. The writing seems to be aiming for a sort of high verisimilitude and deliberate quietness. Sort of like if every episode of Girls were that bottle episode with Patrick Wilson. To call it a comedy, even a romantic comedy, seems to be to fundamentally misunderstand it.

Which isn't to say that you should find what they're doing particularly admirable, or whatever. Just that "this is a rom-com" misses the point and "this is a light comedy" almost certainly does. Anyway, is it just me or is most fiction fundamentally about relationships? To dismiss any show as "merely" about relationships and therefore not serving any higher or more ambitious purpose is so weird to me, and I'm struck by the thought that media about women or gay guys with a romantic component is more likely to be treated dismissively than other media about other types of relationships, say, the relationship between the detectives on True Detective.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:32 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


To put it in a more familiar context for you, it's like if you said Fahrenheit 451 was science fiction and were told it couldn't be, because it doesn't take place on a spaceship.

Fahrenheit 451 doesn't have to take place on a spaceship to be science fiction. Likewise, Looking doesn't have to be a 3-camera laugh-track sitcom to be a comedy.
posted by Sara C. at 3:38 PM on February 19


Can we please talk about something more substantive about the show rather than quibbling over definitions? Honestly, my real beef is that your understanding of the show (which you admit you haven't watched) and it's potential for progressiveness seems really limited. I disagree that this show can't be about better representation in media for QUILTBAG characters because it shares a genre in common with shows like SATC, not in the least because it shares almost nothing with SATC in terms of the writing. But mostly because Looking itself seems deliberately self-aware about issues of class and race and age within the queer community, while also being about the dating life of queer people. I don't think these are by any means mutually exclusive.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:45 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it seems like you're using some industry term of art in kind of an opaque way that is kind of orthogonal to basic things about the show like its structure, filming style, writing, etc. - which are also aspects that really make this show different from its predecessors.

(I mean, both "Mad Men" and "Looking" are largely about relationships and feature a lot of internal conflict interspersed with "attractive people having sex," and to me, they seem more similar in tone and style than either is to "Friends." Does having episodes that are 30 minutes long instead of 42 automatically mean it's classified as a "comedy" under this definition? If so I guess I don't really understand how this definition helps clarify anything important about the show.)
posted by en forme de poire at 3:52 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]


Does having episodes that are 30 minutes long instead of 42 automatically mean it's classified as a "comedy" under this definition?

Yes.

This is sort of like asking if, just because it's printed on paper and bound into a codex format, does that necessarily mean it's a book.

On television, if it's a half-hour, it's a comedy. If it's an hour, it's a drama. There is room to get a little bit "peanut butter in your chocolate" about it (for example Scrubs), but by and large, yes, it is agreed upon that half-hour shows are comedies and hour shows are dramas, and all shows fit into one format or the other.

None of this is in any way controversial.
posted by Sara C. at 4:04 PM on February 19


If so I guess I don't really understand how this definition helps clarify anything important about the show.

It doesn't. I'm not even sure that genre matters in these borderline cases. It's like Nurse Jackie winning for Best Comedy - and it's like, sure it's funny, but mostly I don't find it funny, I find it excrutiating because of all the dramatic situations she finds herself in. But apparently Emmy/the Golden Globes also think 30 mins = comedy, regardless of content.

Anyway...

Getting back to the subject of the post, I really liked how frank this discussion of sex was - and even the depiction of sex was. Patrick cleaning himself in the shower. Richie blowing and rimming him. The early talk of Patrick not wanting to be penetrated - which lead onto the discussion of bottom shaming later in the episode.

I don't think every gay guy who doesn't like to be fucked is feeling "shame" but it makes sense for the character of Patrick. I do like it in the context of a new relationship and these characters feeling out what each of them like - and what they like to do together. As Richie says, the terms "bottom" and "top" are for websites not people.

And I like that the reference to Ross and Rachel actually made Rachel the "top" - neatly avoiding the cliche that anyone who bottoms is the woman of the relationship. In fact the whole episode plays with the notion of dominant and submissive in interesting ways - though Patrick is the more passive in the relationship (ie. Richie talks him into taking the day off work, Richie leads the way on the tour around San Francisco), Patrick's the one the ends up fucking Richie at the end of the episode.
posted by crossoverman at 4:06 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


This is sort of like asking if, just because it's printed on paper and bound into a codex format, does that necessarily mean it's a book.

There's really no need to be so fucking patronising.
posted by crossoverman at 4:07 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Patrick's the one the ends up fucking Richie at the end of the episode.

I rewatched the episode last night, and was sort of curious about this moment--Patrick saying he wants Ritchie to fuck him, but not yet. With the previews for next week (Patrick's friend accusing him of slumming it), I wonder if there's any real hope to be had for Patrick to change his attitudes--either his sexual attitudes or his earlier missteps with Ritchie about issues of race and religion. Patrick's refusal to open himself up to Ritchie's psychic also seemed significant.

I think Patrick wants to be seen--and wants to see himself as--progressive but I'm not sure if he's really capable of it. I suspect the way the rest of the season plays out will let us see if he's a character with any hope for change or if he's essentially another Hannah Horvath.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:10 PM on February 19


But apparently Emmy/the Golden Globes also think 30 mins = comedy, regardless of content.

Because... it is.

Nurse Jackie is comparable to Scrubs in that sense. Both are comedies with a lot of drama sprinkled in. Nurse Jackie is especially difficult to parse as a comedy because the humor is dark. Sort of like HBO's current medical comedy, Getting On.

Looking doesn't have that hard "we're in a hospital so sometimes people die" edge that the aforementioned shows have, though. It's almost certainly a comedy. It couldn't be anything other than a comedy. You don't even have to watch the show to know it's a comedy. It's a half-hour long and about people's love lives. Thus, it's a comedy. Just like an hour show about a police precinct is, by its very nature, a drama.
posted by Sara C. at 4:11 PM on February 19


(I should add that I've been starting to start to write a medical comedy, lately, and thus have been thinking a lot about what makes shows like Nurse Jackie and Scrubs tick.)
posted by Sara C. at 4:18 PM on February 19


On television, if it's a half-hour, it's a comedy. If it's an hour, it's a drama. There is room to get a little bit "peanut butter in your chocolate" about it (for example Scrubs), but by and large, yes, it is agreed upon that half-hour shows are comedies and hour shows are dramas, and all shows fit into one format or the other.

Okay, so again, I get that this is an industry term (although this series appears to be classified as a dramedy by other industry sources), but in the end I'm more interested in how this classification helps us understand or interpret the show as opposed to how it would help sell it to an industry executive. For instance, short stories, novellas, and novels are all different, and it might certainly be interesting or relevant to talk about those differences, but they don't map cleanly onto things like tone or theme or style. There are both novels and short stories where the writing is dense or serious; likewise, there are both novels and short stories that are airy or light-weight. And of course there are plenty of dramas where nobody is in danger of dying ("Before Sunrise" being one of them, as well as "Weekend", the movie Andrew Haigh directed before starting "Looking"), as well as shows (and novels, and movies, and...) where people are regularly dying and getting maimed which are essentially slapstick comedy.

I don't think this distinction is meaningless; I'm sure 30-minute shows have different constraints than a 42- or 60-minute show. But I can't see right now how those constraints are in fact relevant to what we've been talking about.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:30 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Patrick's refusal to open himself up to Ritchie's psychic also seemed significant.

Well, I don't know. I understand his hesitation at needing Richie to translate for him - essentially knowing Patrick's secrets/future before Patrick himself does. But I think dramatically it works really well - clearly Patrick doesn't open up for just anyone and as much as he did open up that day, there was only so far he would go. Hence, "I will let you fuck me... in the future".

I'll let you fuck me in the future seems like a decent/realistic of a possibly advancing relationship - even though I don't think the series will let Patrick be that open to change, yet. I don't think he's anywhere near as self-centered as Hannah Horvath, so I have more hope for him changing. But probably not for Richie - at least not yet.
posted by crossoverman at 5:55 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


> I'd like to watch a sitcom about Scott Bakula and his flower shop.

Yeah, me too.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:57 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I'd like to watch a sitcom about Scott Bakula and his flower shop.

Quantum Leaf?
posted by crossoverman at 7:14 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


BTW, has anyone in here seen Weekend? It got great reviews and I heard it was very much in the same vein as Looking, but I never got around to watching it.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:31 PM on February 19


If you like Looking you will really like Weekend.
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 PM on February 19


dnash: "Well, yes but QaF was highly agenda-driven. It was always Making A Point. It was Gay Community Issue Of the Week,"

But blessedly not so in the original UK QAF! I guess the Showtime QAF is probably what everyone's referring to in this thread, though.
posted by desuetude at 7:54 PM on February 19


If you like Before Sunrise and you would not be opposed to it having more cute naked guys rolling around in bed, you will like Weekend. It's on Netflix.

I liked Weekend. (I have not yet seen Looking.)
posted by psoas at 4:57 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


"Queer As Folk" you say? Well, yes but QaF was highly agenda-driven.

QAF (USA)'s agenda was "How can we possibly make this show suck more every week? Oh and more shirtless dudes and paper-cutout stereotypes please."

Christ that show was fucking awful as soon as they stopped recycling the original British scripts.

Also I found it hilarious that they made Fly (the club where they filmed the club scenes) less hedonistic on television, yet everyone was like OMG CRAZY GAY CLUB. I mean, that place... you know you're in a fucked up club when you hear one of the security people saying "In a k-hole again, Steve?" and then just keep walking. They sanitized the hell out of it for TV.

But seriously, fuck that show.

I haven't seen Looking yet. I'm honestly not sure if I ever will--there's some triggery stuff around it, for me. But I think by and large it's a good thing to have a QUILTBAG TV series that doesn't do Issue Of The Week.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:34 PM on February 20


I keep intending to start watching but falling asleep before I can actually do the watching.

(Not out of boredom/dislike, I literally have not successfully clicked "Looking" in the HBOGO TV Series menu.)
posted by Sara C. at 1:41 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


The bland niceness of Looking , calculated to never offend or interest.
posted by The Whelk at 11:16 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I’ll confess that I’m slightly jealous of Cruising; I would rather have the “homosexual lifestyle” depicted as dark and dangerous, a place of arcane codes, furtive glances, and twilight predation than the current portrait of “us” as a collectivity of handsome cheery men (the fact that this representation ultimately favors men is another subject altogether) with nice jobs, nice apartments, nice friends, and nice sex lives.

Ugh, really? Cruising? Seriously? I mean, I understand that people might think it's bland (I don't) or filled with stereotypes (but I know guys like this) or doesn't represent them (NO SHOW IS EVER GOING TO REPRESENT EVERYONE EVER JESUS CHRIST), but to wish it were more like Cruising?

No.
posted by crossoverman at 3:18 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Dude isn't even making internally consistent sense. Looking has a handjob interruptus in the park and a scene set in a gay bathhouse within the first few episodes. The first one is a foil for Patrick's squeamish awkwardness, and the second one is played soberly: Dom happens to be in a cruisy bathhouse and in between getting off meets someone there with whom he has a non-, or not-exactly sexual connection. This show actually has one of the more neutral and non-judgmental approaches to gay male cruising I've ever seen in non-fringe media, and like, what, that makes it not edgy or cool enough or something? jfc.

But really, it seems like any gay media that isn't full of over-the-top caricatures and manufactured drama (I think it says a lot that he prefers the gonzo histrionics of Girls, even though it is way more problematic on class and race, things he ostensibly cares about when it's Looking's turn under the microscope) is going to get slammed by someone for being too understated and thus too hetero-friendly. And as this review proves, you can also just level both contradictory criticisms at the same time for maximum impact.

I also just can't agree that this claim about being sanitized for hetero consumption is accurate. There's just-off-screen blowjobs and ejaculation and rimming for Christ's sake. I mean, maybe this is totally hetero-friendly if you have a super rad expat lifestyle and mostly hang out with young avant-garde artists living in Berlin -- and not to diminish that, it sounds like a pretty great life, but it's also not the frame of reference of most straight Americans watching Looking.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:57 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I thought this article made more sense: After Normal
posted by en forme de poire at 8:04 PM on February 26


(Though Jesus Christ, spare me from Camille fucking Paglia)
posted by en forme de poire at 8:07 PM on February 26


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