"Their collaboration is a real beauty, the standout among several smart series launching in January. (Remember when the big TV season started in September? Not anymore.) In contrast to Weekend which was set in a grimy, depressing city in the Midlands, Looking takes place in that Emerald City modern San Francisco, where same-sex marriage is legal and older definitions of gay identity—rebel, outsider, artist—have begun to curl with age. With its unglamorous sex scenes, the show will inevitably be compared to Girls, but Looking has far more in common with Nicole Holofcener’s sweet-and-sour ensembles, or the eighties film Parting Glances —unhurried portraits of sprawling social worlds. Some critics will surely find the show insufficiently transgressive, or “slight,” that code word which is often applied to stories about love and dating. But Looking is a stealth breakthrough, if only because it treats its highly specific circle of gay men with warmth and playfulness, viewing their struggles as ordinary, not outrageous."
After listing the many gay showrunners and their successes of the past 15 years, Nussbaum writes:
"Looking is a whole different ball of wax. Sneaky-funny instead of brassy, it is interested not in extremity but in small-bore observation. In this way, it shares a sensibility with the charming Please Like Me an Australian series, now airing on Pivot, which people also initially called “the gay Girls." Both shows feature diffident heroes, young men who regard retro gay culture with a sense of bemused incredulity, like Christopher Isherwood with a Webcam. Looking establishes this generational theme in its first scene, in which Paddy goes cruising, very briefly. He gets a truncated hand job—“Cold hands!” he complains—but it’s less a sex act than a prank. “The guy who gave it to me was very hairy,” he marvels to his friends. “Not hipster hairy. Like, gym-teacher hairy.” (The scene reminded me of the old Onion headline “Ironic Porn Purchase Leads to Unironic Ejaculation.”)
"That mock-cruising moment feels a bit blunt, like a thesis statement: this is not your father’s homosexuality. A few other early elements are similarly on the nose, like a debate about whether one can separate sex and intimacy. But, as the episodes build, Looking gets subtler, and also more original, sending out tendrils of intrigue.
If it streams online, I'll watch, though after the trailer below I worry "small-bore" and "diffident" may be code for tedious and self-pitying, plus atrocious lines like "Commitment looks good on you."