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Looking premieres Sunday, January 19 at 9:30pm on HBO.

Looking TV review

HBO's new comedy about a group of gay friends living in San Francisco is both charming and funny.

Written by
Jessica Johnson
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Perhaps a side effect of the fact that they don't consider themselves to be TV, but a higher form of entertainment that can only be described by their brand name, HBO doesn't often seem concerned with creating cohesive line-ups. Rather, the premium cable channel bundles together its Sunday night programming based on whatever shows appear to be ready to air at that time. This leads to odd pairings like this summer's peculiar one-two punch of The Newsroom and True Blood. So it's refreshing that with the launch of it's new half-hour comedy, Looking, an intimate portrait of a group of gay friends living in San Fransisco, the network has elected to pair it with Girls, its tonal soul-mate. As a pair, the two make up a lovely and unique hour of comedy about people struggling to determine what and who they want in life.

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Like its lead-in, Looking hones in on a small group of friends, peering into their personal lives. The main focus is Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a 29-year-old video-game designer who's frequently fretting about his tendency to go on a lot of first dates when what he really wants is to be in a relationship. Additionally, Patrick's roommate, Augustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), an artist with a case of creation block, is moving out to live with his boyfriend, Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), in Oakland. Their friend Dom (Murray Bartlett) is working towards his mid-life crisis as he approaches 40 and wants to do more with his restaurant career than waiting tables.

It's refreshing that Looking offers a view of the young, gay lifestyle that isn't set in the midst of the AIDS crisis or focused primarily on the experience of coming out. Patrick's, Augustín's and Dom's stories are incredibly relatable as they work their way through the awkward and tangled mess of relationships, work and all of life's little problems. Sometimes their missteps can be groan-inducing, but Looking isn't afraid to make its characters unlikable, which brings an honesty and authenticity to the series that's captivating and frequently very funny.

Aside from Groff and his Glee fame, Looking's ensemble is largely composed of lesser-known actors that are all engaging and have wonderful chemistry with each other. Raúl Castillo, who plays a potential love interest for Patrick, is particularly magnetic. Thankfully, this dynamic isn't upset when more recognizable faces like Scott Bakula and Being Human's Russell Tovey pop up in later episodes; they blend right in with the rest of the cast and work well in world of the show.

Looking is a delightful new show that's funny, insightful and endearing.

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