Often a TV show will make a point of comparing itself to another successful show in an attempt to boost it’s pilot episode audience. The HBO drama Looking did exactly that, comparing itself to the other successful HBO drama, Girls.
To start off with, there is a lot of credibility to this claim. Girls and Looking both focus on a central, core set of characters who are friends with each of their own, unique issues. These issues between the two shows are also very similar, mainly relationship problems, success at work and questioning the direction your life is taking. Unfortunately the show’s biggest difference is the actual characters themselves.
Girls has a central cast of four to five characters that have unique, likable, annoying, irritating but mostly very interesting traits. These traits drive their narrative and story, meaning that even a character you don’t like will actually keep you hooked as you watch them self-destruct, succeed or support one of the other character’s story. Regardless of whether you like the characters that Lena Dunham has created for her drama, they are always entertaining.
Looking can not boast the same. It suffers from characters that are very dull. They aren’t annoying or irritating. They aren’t likable or appealing. They have issues which could be very interesting but it is all happening to very dull characters that you just don’t care about. A man questioning his relationship with his boyfriend and general career direction, or a guy who wants to open his own, risky restaurant after a life of busking tables and finally the character who is longing for a relationship and finds himself entangled with his unavailable boss. All very credible stories, all quite well-delivered, but by characters who you just don’t care about.
It’s a shame because the central idea, following three gay men who are all “looking” to better themselves in San Francisco, has a lot of potential, but there doesn’t seem to be redeeming traits for these characters. They are whiny, cocky, selfish but ultimately two-dimensional, with little to actually hold on to.
The show has some ample support though. Interest picks up when both Scott Bakula and Russell Tovey appear. They are actually the better characters of the series but it ultimately means that you are watching for the support, rather than the regular, central cast.
Overall, Looking had potential to be the male, gay-orientated version of the very good HBO drama Girls. Unfortunately, it is full of characters you don’t care about and are wholly unappealing. The stories a good, the support cast are often inspired but the actual central core cast fail to deliver the interest their HBO cousin manages to. That is why after four to five episodes, I stopped watching Looking.