As soon as we all figured out what was happening in the opening moments of Looking, I suspect that most San Francisco gay men between the ages of 20 and 50 quietly thought to themselves, "Oh god I hope my mother isn't watching this." And that is part of the point.
The first shot is one in which the main character, Patrick (Jonathan Groff), is cruising for sex in a park for the first time, and getting a brief and awkward handjob in the bushes. If we had to guess, this was supposed to be Buena Vista Park, and in this age of Grindr it's not unrealistic that a group of thirtysomething gay men might not have tried this before. Patrick is all cute and nervous about it, trying to kiss the other guy, who just says, "No, no" before shoving a cold hand down his pants. Do we get to see anything explicit? No. And we're likely not going to since full frontal male nudity is still more taboo on HBO than Lena Dunham's tits. But I digress.
Patrick ends up cutting the hookup short because his cellphone rings, and he thinks it's his mother. We're then introduced to the trio we'll be following on this show, Patrick, Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), and Dom (Murray Bartlett), walking through the Mission and getting the recap from the park. As Patrick explains, it was a two-second handjob, and the guy was "really hairy. Not hipster hairy. Like gym teacher hairy." Agustin congratulates him, "Yay you're a pervert now!"
Creator Michael Lannan's new half-hour HBO comedy is looking to portray how a certain segment of thirtysomething gay men in this particular North American city learn how to get by, and get laid, and all the new rules and wherefores that all that entails. For those of us already all too familiar with the cultural anthropology lessons that are going to play out here, this could get kind of boring. But aww, look, they're getting on Muni. And was that a shot down Pennsylvania Street in Potrero Hill?
Patrick, Agustin, and Dom proceed back to one of their houses to drink bourbon out of wine glasses (who does this?) and smoke pot. We find out that Patrick's ex-boyfriend is getting married to someone he's only been with for four months, and Patrick's invited to the joint bachelor party this, by the way, is a phenomenon I'm hearing more and more about lately, because gay men all accept how slutty they can each be, and they think it's healthier just to do it in front of each other, but as Dom says, a bachelor party should be between "one man and one stripper."
Then we're treated to a couple of classic San Francisco scenarios: 1) Waking up hungover in a drafty Victorian and having to listen to your roommate having sex because all you have are pocket doors between you, and 2) Deciding to move in with your boyfriend in Oakland because you can't afford to live in the city anymore. Agustin is the one in bed with his bf Frank, and after he suddenly decides he's moving to Oakland, he has to tell his roommate Patrick, and Patrick goes about "killing two birds with one stone" by roommate hunting on OKCupid.
This leads to a terrible, terrible date I'd say unrealistically terrible, though I've maybe been on one or two that have approached this level of terror. Patrick meets a nice doctor at the Press Club who annoyingly only has one glass of wine, while Patrick orders a second (atta boy), and then Patrick unrealistically decides to admit that he was cruising for sex in a park the previous day with a friend, which turns the doctor all judgy, and it ends with him basically saying, "This obviously isn't working."
Meanwhile, Dom, the mustachio'd waiter character who's pushing 40, lives with a female nurse, Doris (Lauren Weedman) who is both his close friend and his long ago ex. She seems like she's going to be cool. And we see Dom working a shift at Zuni (!), where he laments the fact that a table of assholes being douchey about ordering wine reminds him of the dot-com bubble, saying it's "like fucking 1999 again." He ends up trying to hook up with a young coworker, and when that doesn't work, he calls up an allegedly psycho ex-boyfriend who now sells condos in L.A., and leaves a voicemail.
And Agustin's plot is obviously going to be about becoming a slutty, S.F.-style gay couple. By the end of episode 1 they've already had a threeway, with Scotty, the cute new artist assistant who works with Agustin and just got Dolly Parton's signature tattooed on his stomach. Best part: they both work for Ann Magnuson!
Patrick gets cruised by a Latino guy on Muni named Richie who invites him to his friend's party at Esta Noche. Patrick says he's late for another party (that ex's bachelor party at El Rio), but, obviously, he can't resist and Esta Noche is where he ends up at the end of the night only after Dom tells him to stop worrying about what his mother thinks.
So, while Patrick was talking about not "becoming one of those gays that looks for sex in parks," he ends up becoming one of those gays who tries to comfort himself after a bad date with a judgy yuppie in the arms of some rough trade at Esta Noche. Atta boy.
I'm looking forward to Looking getting a little less vanilla than this, but only so long as Mom isn't watching. But maybe this is what over-educated Brooklyn girls in their early 20s feel when they watch Girls?