We open in the bushy forest within a San Francisco park. The year: 1980. From behind some leaves emerge two attractive men; one, clean-shaven and fresh-faced, the other with a thick brown beard that seems to perfectly match the brawny lumberjack look he’s pulling off with a plaid flannel shirt. The bearded man starts to grab at the pants of the other young man, who possesses a look of both anxiety and eagerness as his sudden suitor aggressively strokes at his crotch. Suddenly, an alarming sound: a chirping, with a repetitive rhythm. With flushed embarrassment and sudden flashes of red coloring his fresh cheeks, the young man pulls from his pocket the source of this disruption: a cellular phone.
Alas, we’re not in 1980, but in 2014, a year by all accounts full of much more exhausting complications for the modern gay man. Technology thwarts good old-fashioned human contact once again! (As if any app will work more effectively than the Hanky Code.) The bearded gent rushes off, and the young man, Patrick, must stroll to the park to meet his friends and admit his shame: he can’t manage to pull off cruising, not even in a way that’s riddled with ironic, nostalgic glee.
Patrick meets up with his pals, Agustín (who is Cuban-American for those of you who jumped to conclusions that this show would only have white characters, thank you very much) and Dom (short for either “Dominic” or “DomMustacheDaddy74”). If you were to compare this cast to, say, Sex and the City (not that you’d have to just because these guys are gay, because these are “real” gays who aren’t flamboyant or sassy and catty and effeminate and stuff and they probably wouldn’t compare themselves to Sex and the City) (but you know they secretly would, because Sex in the City is so ingrained in our collective cultural minds that it’s impossible to ignore its influence even if you plead ignorance to show you’re “above it”), then I’d say that Patrick is the Charlotte, Agustín is the Miranda, and Dom is the Samantha, but they all think they’re the Carrie.
Patrick has a lot of emotional turmoil — not because he has two separate invitations to competing white parties, or because he heard a rumor that the next season of Drag Race would be airing the same time as The Good Wife. Patrick is romantically disappointed. His most recent ex-boyfriend — his only ex-boyfriend (he is 29 years old, by the way) — has gotten engaged to his new guy just six months into their relationship, and they’ve invited Patrick to their “joint bachelor party.” You might imagine Patrick’s interior monologue to go something like, “Is this what all of the fighting and marching on the behalf of equality has brought down upon us? Joint gay bachelor parties? Oh, the indignity of it all!” (As someone who was once engaged after knowing someone for six months, I can tell Patrick that he’ll be less upset when he sees his ex-boyfriend Facebook status will soon be single again.)
But shockingly, Patrick doesn’t seem to register many feelings at all on that pretty, symmetrical little face of his, other than, “Oh, poopy. Why can’t I find a man?” in a very Jennifer-Aniston-in-Picture Perfect way. But he is totally grossed out, by the way, by the sounds of Agustín and his boyfriend (who is black! This show is so very diverse!) doing unseen sexual things (sodomy, probably) in the next room. “Oral sex?” goes Patrick’s inner voice. “Icky!” Luckily for Patrick, he won’t have to hear his roommate and his boyfriend have sex anymore, so that’s one less thing (i.e. normal sexual activity between adults) that’ll send Patrick into a low-level existential crisis: at breakfast, Agustín announces that he’ll be moving in with Frank in his new apartment in Oakland.
Speaking of shitty roommates, it turns out that Dom lives with the world’s meanest fag hag, Doris. I don’t know if it’s because her name is Doris, that she and Dom once dated, or she because she spends every morning drinking Grey Goose martinis and doing dramatic readings of Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea; this lady has a serious attitude problem when it comes to Dom. Dom tells Doris that he’s considering calling his ex-boyfriend, who has turned his life around and is no longer an awful meth addict and is now selling real estate (as if that’s a step up from amphetamines). “That’s gross,” Doris slurs. “Why don’t you just kill yourself?” (That is not what she said, but it was certainly the subtext.)
Patrick goes into work, where he is a “level developer” at a video game company. It is very important that you know his job title, which Patrick reminds people of very often, probably to overshadow the fact that all he ever does at work is work on his designs for some muscled video game character (I’m afraid this is not looking — ha! — like it’ll turn into a gay version of Weird Science) and checking OKCupid. His Japanese coworker — who casually mentions that he is Japanese, in case you missed another non-white character on this show — asks him about his dating life, which is very convenient because Patrick just so happens to be scheduling an OKCupid date with a doctor just that second. I guess technology isn’t so bad after all, huh?
But did we speak too soon? Patrick arrives at the trendy straight bar and walks right into an awkward date with actor Matthew Wilkas, who starred in Gayby, playing, here, some doctor. Now, I guess the date was awkward immediately because Matthew Wilkas is wearing a shirt, and if you follow him on Instagram you know that he is often not wearing a shirt, so it’d be perfectly normal, quite frankly, for Matthew Wilkas to be shirtless on this date. But look at sweet little Patrick, practically projectile vomiting terrible words and phrases out of his mouth in between glasses of rosé. “I got a really bad handjob from a stranger in the woods,” Patrick says. “Meeting people in San Francisco is so hard!” Not surprisingly, Matthew Wilkas is like, “You are sad and stupid” (subtext) and leaves, and now we’re not going to see Matthew Wilkas not wear a shirt on Looking. Thanks a lot, Patrick.
Meanwhile, Agustín meets a very cute skinny boy with a beard who looks just like him at his job, where he is an artist’s assistant. They hit it off, since they are the same person, while they construct a giant fort made of chairs. Art! Frank comes by to hang out under the chairs, as young gay men do on Friday nights in San Francisco, and White Agustín is all, “D’y’all wanna see my tattoo,” and he lifts up his vintage t-shirt to show off Dolly Parton’s signature branded upon his delicate ribcage. This, of course, is Gay Code for “I am willing to have two dicks in me at once,” and Agustín and Frank pounce and they have a threesome (off-screen, thankfully, because gay sex is too gross for cable TV).
Patrick gets on the subway to head to his ex’s bachelor party, and that’s where he meets Richie, a cute Hispanic guy (“DIVERSITY!” screams an HBO executive) who starts coming on real strong to Patrick. I mean, this is not a total shock, as Patrick is pretty much the cutest li’l guy in the world, but my little darling kumquat is so down on himself and his verbal diarrhea and inability to socialize like a grown-up! So naturally, when Richie expresses interest — a lot of interest — Patrick does the typical Gay Cathy move and gives Matthew Wilkas’ (but, you know, not Matthew Wilkas’) business card. ACK! “You’re an onc-ogist,” Richie says, pronouncing it like “ankh-ogist,” or, presumably, one who studies ankhs, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic that means “life.” In all honestly, Patrick could be an ankhologist instead of a level developer and I’d still refuse to accept that his profession gives him a semblance of personality.
Richie tells Patrick that he’s the bouncer at a bar and that he should come by sometime, and Patrick gets all giggly and is like, “I can’t talk to a cute boy, I am soooo embarrassed, lol bye.” He jumps off the train to join Dom at the double-gay bachelor party. Patrick runs into his ex in the bathroom, which should probably have not been a surprise for either of them since Patrick was invited, but still: they get all weird about it. (It doesn’t help that Patrick so obviously tries to sneak a peak of his ex’s penis while he’s peeing.)
Patrick comes back to Dom to complain about his life, and Dom is pretty non-responsive because he tried to fuck the kid from Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, for whom show business must not have worked out so well since he’s now waiting tables alongside Dom at a fancy restaurant. Dom storms home and immediately calls his ex, leaving a message on his work voicemail: “Heyyy, just thinking about you. Hope you recognize my voice even though I’m not leaving my name or number under the assumption you remember how to contact me despite all of that meth you used to do.” Patrick, on the other hand, goes right to see Richie at his job, presumably telling him he is not actually a doctor. And it seems that no one has found what they are looking for!