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Looking (Sky Atlantic), TV review


On Sky Atlantic last night, we finally had a chance to see Looking, the new HBO series, which has inspired a deluge of internet comment, despite disappointingly low viewing figures on its US debut earlier this month.

Set in San Francisco, it's a Girls-like study of metropolitan dating, only instead of four affluent straight women in their twenties, it focuses on three affluent, gay men in their thirties: Paddy (Jonathan Groff), Agustin (Frankie J Alvarez ) and Dom (Murray Bartlett). The naturalistic visual style came courtesy of British film editor-turned-director Andrew Haigh who won several festival awards for his 2011 film Weekend.

Like any TV programme about an under-portrayed group, Looking will struggle with the burden of representation. Some critics have already dismissed it as a timid, sanitised version of gay life. Not being a thirtysomething gay man living in San Francisco, I'm not best placed to comment on that. I will note that this isn't an issue we'd have to worry about, if only Looking were one of several, varied representations of gay people on TV.

True, the "singles-have-fun-in-the-city" set-up is familiar, but it usually features straight women. Since most TV about gay men has been either coming-out stories or Aids epidemic sagas, this still felt fresh, and as attractively filmed, wittily scripted drama, it works for any audience.