Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff and Frankie J. Alvarez.
HBO's Looking premieres this Sunday, which means that the early critical reviews are already coming in. We'll freely admit—we're in the tank for the show, which we put on the cover of our magazine. (Our own Ellen Cushing: "It is, first and foremost, a good show—a great show, even: more than just gay great or HBO great, but simply, unqualifiedly great. And it’s also, inarguably, very, very gay.") But what about the rest of the world? What are TV critics saying about the show—and most importantly, what kinds of comparisons are they making to Girls?
Critic: Willa Paskin in Slate
Take: "Looking is doing some important representing. But what elevates Looking above being a “symbol of serious progress,” is that it is not content to be just that: thus the perfect, knifing observation about the worst person in the world, the guy counting everyone else’s drinks. Progress is admirable, but progress is dry, as pleasures go: Looking provides more."
Obligatory Girls Comparison: "Looking, and maybe HBO more largely, appear to have learned some important lessons from Girls, the most obvious of which is: diversity. Looking tells a diverse story, and not in some cheap just-hire-a-Hispanic-person-to-play-the-friend way."
Critic: Rich Juzwiak on Gawker
Take: "Looking is made in and for a world that's more accepting of homosexuals than ever. As much as it seeks to shape the culture, this show is also a product of it. Things aren't perfect, but they're getting better—for most of us—and acceptance opens a lane in the middle of the road. Looking's mediocrity is ultimately a reminder of something wonderful: our advancement. But it's still fucking mediocrity."
Obligatory Girls Comparison: "While the snappy and fast-paced Girls feels like a trip to an amusement park, Looking is like paging through a magazine in a dentist's office."
Critic: Todd VanDerWerff on the AV Club
Take: "Lannan and Haigh have crafted something that’s bittersweet and funny and surprisingly quiet, willing to simply let the characters hang out and try to figure out what the rest of their lives are going to be like.
Obligatory Girls Comparison: It’s a very, very similar show, but with enough things changed on the surface to more immediately appeal to those who find Hannah Horvath and company to be turn-offs."
Critic: Brian Lowry in Variety
Take: "This is a show with a strongly universal quality to its themes — foremost among them being what people sacrifice in the way of freedom and excitement as they look for love, or a longtime companion, in at least some of the wrong places."
Obligatory Girls Comparison: "Tonally compatible with Girls, but a lot less whiny."
Critic: Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker
Take: "This is not your father’s homosexuality."
Obligatory Girls Comparison: "With its unglamorous sex scenes, the show will inevitably be compared to Girls, but Looking has far more in common with Nicole Holofcener’s sweet-and-sour ensembles, or the eighties film Parting Glances."
Critic: Tim Goodman in The Hollywood Reporter
Take: "Does an excellent job of highlighting the contemporary gay experience of three friends in San Francisco."
Obligatory Girls Comparison: "With any luck, HBO's newest dramedy, Looking, about the lives of gay men in San Francisco, will sidestep all the trumped up controversies that continue to swirl around Girls."
Critic: David Wiegand in the San Francisco Chronicle
Take: "A convincing, multidimensional portrayal not only of contemporary gay life but also of contemporary life in general. Sure, the guys are looking for sex at times, but, really, they're looking for a sense of purpose and direction in their lives. "
Obligatory Girls Comparison: "The folks at HBO say they don't really like it when people say Looking is the gay Sex and the City, but, hey, if the comparison fits, flaunt it."