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Why ‘Looking’ Being Canceled is a Good and a Bad Thing

From left; Richie (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Patrick (Jonathan Groff) in Looking's final cut
FINAL CUT; Richie, left (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Patrick (Jonathan Groff) in Looking‘s 2nd (and last) season finale

HBO decided to cancel Looking today, just a few days after its superb 2nd season finale. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise; renewals usually arrive while a current season is still airing so the waiting game was inevitably going to end up as bad news. But, it’s not all bad news. We’re getting a “wrap-up special,” says HBO. Not likely to be a major motion picture like the upcoming Entourage movie, but it’s something, even if it sort of feels like the gay crumbs we’re often thrown like Hansel & Gretel hungry for more. But I digress.

Looking was a complicated show about damaged people trying to get undamaged. So many gay men I’ve talked to about it really hated it. Like really hated it. “It’s too negative.” “The characters lack self respect.” “I don’t see the gay community like that, where’s the fun?” Well, sorry guys, but sometimes the harsh truth is harsh. I thought it was a very well written show but possibly too on the nose for some. Gays say they want to see themselves represented more in television and in film but when they see negative versions (which exist) then they push it away. I have to wonder (best Sarah Jessica Parker voice), was the show too much of a gay mirror for them? Part of me thinks that the show’s characters being mainly millennial (and probably the viewership too) doesn’t represent the joy and lack of repression the current state of being gay is for many. I can see that. I watched the show as a gay, married X-generation viewer. I come from a place where it wasn’t easy to be as out as current day gays are. Where it was a struggle to simply survive, much less know how to be equipped with the self-confidence and self-respect to have a relationship. There is probably a dichotomy in that the show’s creator and executive producer, Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh, respectively, are also Gen X-ers and wrote the show from that perspective. To me, that perspective is what gave the show its structure and balance. If it erred anywhere it’s that it was an hour-long drama trapped in a 30-minute comedy. Call it a crisis of category. Still, two seasons of a great, progressive show is better than none of nothing.

Hopefully the show will open doors for more shows with gay leads. It was both the right and the wrong time for Looking, at least at HBO. Right time because no network or even cable show has really been ready to explore gay sexuality since Showtime’s US remake of Queer as Folk. But also the wrong time because HBO is more viewer-conscious than it used to be. They never used to care about ratings and a show could run for 5+ seasons without a thought into how many people actually watched it (see Deadwood). That’s different now. Sidebar for a moment: since the end of Will & Grace nine years ago there has been no network television show with a gay lead. NINE years. So much for progress there. But I digress.

Hey, maybe we’ll get a 3rd season in 10 years like HBO did with The Comeback. It would be pretty fascinating to see how (if?) Patrick, Agustín, Eddie, Kevin and Richie grew out of their millennial late 20s and find themselves at Dom’s age range in their lives. And what of Dom and Doris?  I need to know what’s happens with the chicken window. Spin-off, please?

About Erik Anderson

Erik thanks his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched the Academy Awards together since he was in the single digits; making lists, rankings and predictions throughout the show. This led him down the path to obsessing about awards. Much later, he found himself at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

3 comments

  1. I crying (( so sad.

  2. Great write-up… someone should point out, though, that it hasn’t been nine years since the last gay-themed sitcom. Last year NBC was home to the short-lived “The New Normal,” perhaps the most consistent and emotionally honest show Ryan Murphy ever produced, but which was of course canceled after one season due to low ratings.

  3. Jason, you’re absolutely right about The New Normal. I had forgotten about it. Thanks for the check!

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