An Open Letter to HBO: Save Looking
I watch a lot of television for my job, and as we all know, there are a lot of good and bad offerings out there. I have to watch shows because they’re shows that warrants coverage and sometimes I surprise myself by liking the shows, but other times they don’t hit me in the heart and I get through the 22 or 42 minutes so I can do my interview and/or write my coverage.
Then there are shows like Looking.
Looking is one of the few shows that exists to look forward to, to indulge in, and to simply love. And, like many shows in television history, Looking falls into that category of shows that are low-rated but greatly loved. My So-called Life, Friday Night Lights, the recently departed Parenthood are all shows that had rabid fan bases but lived as long as they lived because ratings were not the bottom line. (I contend MSCL would’ve lived longer had it aired during the time of social media.) Even a show like Community owes its new lease on life (at Yahoo!) to fan love and support, not ratings.
It’s true that the numbers could be better for the Michael Lannan-created series about a group of gay friends working their way through life in San Francisco. But Looking is a show that goes beyond ratings for many reasons, and I thought as we wind down to Sunday’s second season finale, it might be a good time to remind you of a few reasons why this show is infinitely special and why a third season should happen. (I’ve had the opportunity of seeing the perfectly crafted season finale already, and in short, it just can’t be the end.)
Subtlety: The show deftly tackles a number of issues grounded in the kind of reality that everyone can relate to like monogamy versus open relationships, money coming between friends, and dealing with your family. Specifically for the gay community, this season has also tackled the controversy and debate surrounding PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and an HIV-negative guy dating a positive guy. Lannan and his team of phenomenal writers (and directors, led by exec producer Andrew Haigh) never have a heavy hand when exploring any of these topics. They’re portrayed as a part of life and also in a manner that talks to us, as opposed to at us, when educating, entertaining, and just making us feel like we’re a part of the conversation and the world, and not merely watching it from the outside.
Relationships: Looking doesn’t just settle into focusing on the love lives of its main characters, since the friendships between Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Dom (Murray Bartlett), Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), and Doris (Lauren Weedman) are as deep, complex, and important as anything else on the show. Take episode 207, where Patrick, Dom, and Doris head to Modesto for the unexpected funeral of Doris’s father. It would be alarming if Doris had embarked on that journey alone instead of taking Dom and Patrick with her, since, as with many gay people, family ends up becoming the friends you choose more than the people who share your last name.
Also, what’s the only thing more heartbreaking than seeing funny lady Weedman beautifully tackle the dramatic notes of that episode? The subsequent fracture in the Dom-Doris friendship, that’s what. The problems start by being about money but end up being more about two people that realize they’ve become too dependent on each other and need to step away. Will that relationship survive?
We’ve also seen how Patrick’s ex, Richie (Raul Castillo), has stayed in the picture even though Patrick has been with his boss, Kevin — first as "the other man," since Kevin was not single, and then as a legit boyfriend. Like everything Looking does, it reminds us that finally getting the one you want (or think you want) doesn’t mean everything is tied in a nice little bow. And, trust me on this, whether you’re Team Kevin or Team Richie, the debate won’t come to an end with the season finale.
The Gay-Centric Series: Gay characters are everywhere in television, including high-rated shows like The Walking Dead, Empire, and How to Get Away With Murder, and nothing against any series that includes LGBT characters and issues, but there aren’t many shows on television that operate by putting the LGBT audience first, not in a supporting role. But on the other side of that statement, Looking also isn’t written so that straight people can’t watch, identify with, and enjoy the series. In fact, I hear from my straight friends as often as my gay ones (even lesbians when there aren’t any lesbian characters — yet!) about the series and how much they’re loving the second season and want more.
Buzz: While there isn’t Game of Thrones-type buzz out there for Looking, it does have a following that overnight numbers cannot represent. I talked to Scandal star Guillermo Diaz recently, and he told me, “I’m obsessed with the show Looking. I love that show!” He’d even love a guest spot on the show (working with Raul Castillo if he could choose). Also, Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson tweeted this past weekend about also needing a third season. How about utilizing some of these names for a third season to bring more eyeballs to the show?
Finally, this is an open letter to HBO, but it’s also to everyone reading this. It’s time to make some noise and get HBO to see that Looking is a show that deserves to keep living and thriving. It’s not just an entertaining show but an important show that says so much without standing on a soapbox and shouting. But even if the show doesn’t stand on a soapbox, that doesn’t mean we, the viewers, have to follow suit. As I said during the recent Paley Center panel with the cast, Lannan, and Haigh in Beverly Hills, if you have a social media account, make some noise and spread the word that we’re not done with Looking.
HBO, you shouldn’t be either.
This letter was originally published on Xfinity LGBT. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast or The Advocate.