Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sunday TV: Looking, Girls, Togetherness

HBO's Sunday lineup continues to impress me. Girls, Looking, and new baby Togetherness share a quiet sensibility, dedication to character, and a willingness to let things get a little uncomfortable or awkward in place of the usual sitcom tropes. Over the past few season, it's been exceedingly difficult to talk about Lena Dunham and company without acknowledging the show's lack of diversity. It's gotten better, but Dunham continues to be a polarizing figure, to the point that it's almost irresponsible to write about her with the usual caveats. I'm probably in the minority, but I wanted Hannah to succeed at Iowa. My main issue? The workshop scenes are a stand-in for the kind of criticism Lena Dunham faces regularly online, and it's getting tiresome. That being said, I'm enjoying this season. I like watching these characters grow up, so to speak.

Unlike Girls and Togetherness, Looking has yet to be renewed for the next season. It's a shame if it doesn't, because there is a lot of good in it, particularly the way it shows gay men qua gay men without being "message-y." Looking excels at those smaller moments -- Ritchie's mouthing, "you okay" to Patrick, Patrick wiping away tears as he walks home alone -- things that could have easily read as treacly. The show gotten a lot of criticism for being boring or lacking a kind of sexual energy, and Patrick is a pretty unsympathetic character. I find the latter more disappointing, although understandable as the average tv audience has trouble accepting characters who are neither villain or hero, or like a Dexter or Walter White, an obvious anti-hero. People are uncomfortable with fallible humans.

I've only seen two episodes of Togetherness, a show I had really high expectations for (and I'm a sucker for aging gen-ers because I am one), but I can't get into it. The characters are well-writtin, but it still plays into the trope that past a certain age, single people are irreparably damaged, especially single women over forty. This is where Looking has the edge. Maybe it's because queer people are "allowed" to develop horizontally instead of only vertically, or maybe I just don't like shows with only straight couples, but I can't get into it. I'm hoping this show hits its stride mid-season the way Looking did where everything just kind of clicked into place.