Erin Roan MacDonald

Looking Like Potential

By now it’s a bit past the first season of Looking on HBO, the new “gay” show. It has been renewed for season two which I am looking forward to, no pun intended.

Maybe you’ve seen the series by now and have your own sentiments. I caught up a bit late viewing via HBO Go. I still wanted to put my two cents in because for me–it’s a Bay Area show just as much as it is show about gay guys living in San Francisco. Actually I think it is a show about “people” living in San Francisco.

I’m not going to say that straight and gay people have the same experience moving in the world. But I will say that at the core–we are the same. The show rings true of this. We experience the same emotions: a desire for love, intimacy, sex, friendship, to express our talent, our creativity and how to pay the fucking rent in San Francisco.

The issue of rent in the most expensive city by the Bay doesn’t come up except in the first episode when characters Frank and Augustin move into together and they do it in Oakland. It is cheaper to find a place big enough for two over there, for now. Anyone living here wonders how the fuck Patrick (the protagonist) is going to afford a two bedroom apartment in SF after Augustin moves out. There is one dirty word they never mentioned during entire season one of Looking: rent control.

Enough about that. If you are from the Bay Area you are probably sick of the whole topic already and want to just get on with life and go back to when you could count on certain things. Except you can’t because your favorite Mission business might be closing or you have to move to Oakland because your landlord won’t renew your lease. Oh wait, that already happened.

Being featured on Looking wasn’t enough to save Esta Noche the beloved bar of Latino Drag Queens (They are queens so should it be Latina?) and queers alike that had been a fixture on 16th Street in the Mission for a long, long time. Serious fans of the show visiting San Francisco could have made it part of their pilgrimage.

The show is about actualization and that is why a lot of people want to live in the Bay Area. We want to live well, to be able to express ourselves in our work and to enjoy ourselves in our pursuit for sex and love. We don’t discriminate and this is why would Augustin would hire a sex worker for an art project and not think twice about it. And so it is very surprising for San Francisco when Augustin stoops low to criticize Patrick in his dating choice of Richie the Mexican, in a not so subtle racist way.

The show has a slow pace and is like a train going up a hill but as the episodes build what draws you is the sincere expression of emotion. Particularly with Richie, played by flawlessly by Raúl Castillo and Lynn played by Scott Bakula. I hope they come back for next season. Raúl Castillo expresses a charm and sweet vulnerability at the same time. One thing about it being a gay show is they do show men crying and this is something you rarely see on television.

I don’t know how I feel about Patrick as the main character. White clean-cut guy works in tech. Appropriate for San Francisco and appropriate to show that not all guys that work in tech are straight. Surprising at times that he is so clueless but as a game developer he falls into the geek category as someone who is still a little bit clumsy. I enjoyed seeing the episode where him and his boss meets at a party on a Naval Ship because I had worked an event on the SS Jeremiah O’Brien just a few months ago. That’s just the kind of shit we do here.


Which brings me to other important San Francisco landmarks featured in the show. I found myself wondering on how the fuck did Frank and Augustin get all the way over to Baker Beach from Oakland? That shit takes time. Also they show Augustin riding Bart while ‘high the clouds’ on his way to San Francisco after he is kicked out of his new home with Frank in Oakland. He is obviously at the Glen Park Bart station. What the hell is he doing over there? He is drinking a Kombucha at the moment so it’s all good.

Looking caused quite a stir for a FB friend who thought that the Punjab restaurant on 24th and Bryant was now out of business due to gentrification. The location was used for a set on the show as a Pop-up restaurant for the wanna be chef character, Dom. I was walking in the Mission shortly there after and photographed the open sign inside Punjab so she could rest easy.

Being the proud hedonist of my city I wanted to see more of Folsom Street Fair in the episode #4 but I can apprentice the challenge of filming in that type of event. You have to be careful or you might have an erect dick in the shot or someone dressed like a Panda might be peeing on a naked dude.

I’ll be looking to see what happens next year on Looking.



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