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Writers Behind HBO's 'Looking' Say 'Boring' Style is Intentional

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"Boring" is the adjective most tossed-around over the past few weeks by critics of HBO's new gay show Looking, and the show's writers and executive producer discussed the criticism on a panel Tuesday moderated by the WGA West's gay and lesbian writer committee chair Gary Goldstein, according to the Hollywood Reporter:

LookingMembers of the panel all placed emphasis on the style of their show (which has also faced criticism for being too slow-paced), a conscious decision on their part. They've heard the criticisms. "The B-word is what they keep calling us; you know, 'boring,' " said Saracho. "I would rather they hate it than call us boring."

From the decision to bring on writer-director Andrew Haigh of the quiet British drama Weekend, Lannan and his teamed acknowledged the style they wanted to create. "Not to be in defense of boring, but that is very intentional," Hoffman said. "I think that has become part of the show. [The episodes] do feel like little half-hour indie movies."

Lee emphasized truthfulness in the show's storytelling, an atmosphere that he said is created in the writers' room, where discussions about sexuality, race and their own personal stories (sometimes an "awful, trashy sex story," as Lee noted) make it into episode scripts.

The panelists also revealed that Looking was the last title they came up with while brainstorming. The show might otherwise have been called Homos or Golden Boys.

Read our recap of the latest episode, which was its strongest yet, HERE.

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Comments

  1. I like the pace. I enjoy getting to know these characters rather than just immediate gratification. I think the build-up of Patrick with his boss will create great tension between Patrick and Richie.

    Posted by: Alex | Feb 20, 2014 12:01:49 PM


  2. I'm afraid it's going to be called 'Cancelled'

    Posted by: Steve | Feb 20, 2014 12:03:45 PM


  3. Well they succeeded in making it boring and I suppose they also intended that it be cancelled as well. It was all part of the plan... Brilliant!

    Posted by: not looking | Feb 20, 2014 12:07:34 PM


  4. not watching it is intentional too.

    and it's not an indie film when the main character is hateful and needs to be slapped hard.

    Posted by: Truthiness | Feb 20, 2014 12:08:54 PM


  5. It's only boring if you have the attention span of a goldfish and you require Real Housewives-like antics to entertain your feeble brain.

    I happen to find watching people get to know each other in an authentic, naturalistic way to be quite compelling.

    Posted by: crispy | Feb 20, 2014 12:10:26 PM


  6. As someone who lives in SF, I honestly wonder if the writers have ever been here. They have managed to make a very interesting, vibrant and edgy gay culture into one of the more boring things I have watched on TV. When reality is more exciting than fiction, you have a problem!

    Posted by: Castro Craig | Feb 20, 2014 12:11:10 PM


  7. i would be happy if it were boring but it's just aimless...there's so much potential there. the characters are terrible, it's slow as hell and that whole instagram-feel of every shot is tiring. the lead character is 29 going on 17, and the rest are so throwaway that they literally don't exist without patrick. i hate myself for saying it, but cancel it so someone somehwere else can come up with something better. look at '25', 'hunting season' and 'hustling' as great gay-themed web series that don't get the attention they deserve. there's plenty of better content out there....

    Posted by: jake | Feb 20, 2014 12:13:20 PM


  8. I agree with Crispy.

    Posted by: Merle | Feb 20, 2014 12:13:46 PM


  9. "i would be happy if it were boring but it's just aimless..."

    Have you even watched the show? One character just quit his job to pursue being an artist. Another is seeking financing to open his own restaurant. The lead just started a new relationship.

    All three of those are distinct plots with clear beginnings and endings. Nothing about them is aimless. Jeezus.

    I'm honestly not bothered when people complain about this show except when they clearly don't have a goddam clue what they're talking about.

    Posted by: crispy | Feb 20, 2014 12:20:09 PM


  10. The only reason I continue to watch this is because at some point I want to see Murray Bartlett naked. Full frontal naked. And, full backal naked as well. Show pictures of him naked front and back during the closing credits every week and I'll keep watching. Throw Scott Bakula in there as well, just for fun.

    Posted by: anon | Feb 20, 2014 12:21:34 PM


  11. Besides being Boring with a capital B, I think the main reason I am not engaged with the show is Jonathan Groff - he's far too pretty to play the conflicted character he's supposed to be, and it just doesn't sell. He doesn't come across like a real person.

    Incidentally, I love Weekend. Looking? Not so much.

    Posted by: JBizzle | Feb 20, 2014 12:28:22 PM


  12. JAKE nailed it on the head. The characters are supposed to be long-out gay men but the lives we are watching are those of newbies just thrust into the scene all wide-eyed and naive. Sorry, but what gay man that's been out for eight years and is living in San Francisco hasn't seen an uncut penis? What "experienced" gay men living in San Francisco go to Folsom and act like they've never been there before or go to a sex shop and act the same way.

    Give me a show about mature gay men having everyday issues and stop showing me cliche gay scenes. I swear they must have a gay topic list that they check off each episode.

    I expected more from the head writer. I really liked "Weekend".

    Posted by: Jeremy | Feb 20, 2014 12:30:32 PM


  13. I like the slow, deliberative pace. It seems more like real life than the typical melodrama you see on television. The issues these characters grapple with are mundane, and that's kind of the point.

    Posted by: shawnthesheep | Feb 20, 2014 12:34:30 PM


  14. I like the slow, deliberative pace. It seems more like real life than the typical melodrama you see on television. The issues these characters grapple with are mundane, and that's kind of the point.

    Posted by: shawnthesheep | Feb 20, 2014 12:34:32 PM


  15. I don't so much mind the Indy film pace, but that the pace too often leaves nothing significant or interesting happening in the 22 minutes that pace takes up. If the pace were quicker, more could be accomplished in that time; but if the pace is slow on purpose, the show should not be in a 22-minute format.

    That all said, I think last week's episode takes a giant step back from the promise of the previous week's - exposing what to me, in a play on my own words here, is the show's biggest weakness. The main character's naivety is just too much for me.

    If they'd made him significantly younger and a newbie to San Francisco from Des Moines or somewhere similar, I might believe his bumpkinhood and obvious inexperience in all things sexual and relationshipish. But if this guy is a gay man approaching 30 who's lived in San Francisco for many years, I just can't buy it anymore.

    This most recent episode was entirely focused on him, and it brought this glaring central weakness to the fore in ways the show has not until now.

    It's nice to see a show about young gay men in San Francisco, but I think I'm going to be glad when this one is over and done with a few episodes hence. My bf is already done with it, so I'm slogging it out by my lonesome till the bitter, but hopefully imminent end.

    Posted by: Zlick | Feb 20, 2014 12:35:48 PM


  16. I am all for a slow burn on TV. I have been slavishly devoted to Mad Men and it has paid off. But the difference between Mad Men and Looking is the level of investment viewers have in the characters. I just don't feel invested in them or their outcomes.

    And yes, people have rightly praised the "Weekend"-esque episode that just aired. But it makes me worry that Haigh is a one-trick pony. Every episode so far has been progressively more interesting but the question is: will there be any viewers left by the time the finale airs? And will HBO want to keep a show that doesn't even attract hate viewers around?

    Posted by: Derek | Feb 20, 2014 12:41:09 PM


  17. Actually, they just addressed Patrick's naivety in the most recent episode. He's terrified of contracting HIV. Which would easily explain why he hasn't seen an uncut penis and why he's not as experienced as some viewers demand that he be. You do know not every gay man is a huge whore?

    Of course, you have to actually think about the characters and their motivations to pick up on things like that. Apparently, not everyone is capable of that.

    Posted by: crispy | Feb 20, 2014 12:41:56 PM


  18. cliche cliche cliche. Watched 4 episodes in a row the other night to catch up on all the talk. Went from excited to bored to.. hmm..the boss is kinda cute cuz of his accent really.. but ultimately.. its rather stereotypical.

    Posted by: northoftheborderguy | Feb 20, 2014 12:43:18 PM


  19. Sf has a "vibrant" and "edgy" gay community? I was there just a few months ago and it was relatively dull and the people weren't particularly engaging. I guess I prefer NYC. Oh well.

    Posted by: Hrm | Feb 20, 2014 12:47:16 PM


  20. "Truthfulness in storytelling"?!? Like never seeing an uncut penis before? Gay adults in SF can't be this socially stupid. It's almost like were dealing with 28 year-old virgins.

    Posted by: Steve | Feb 20, 2014 12:51:23 PM


  21. One problem people seem to be having with this show is that they are assuming that their experiences are absolute.

    While Patrick is generally too awkward for even me to find completely believable, my life was not entirely dissimilar to his a couple years ago. I moved to a diverse urban area after having grown up and gone to college in a very white, conservative part of the country. I'd say I didn't truly come out of my shell until about seven years after the move, due to a combination of awkwardness, intimacy issues, and focusing on other areas of my life.

    Personally, I thought the show fell short for its first few episodes, but the last two have started to introduce some dynamism into the story. I even found Richie and Patrick to be endearing together.

    Posted by: OddBet | Feb 20, 2014 12:52:45 PM


  22. I agree with Alex - I like the pace and getting to know the characters......its not QAF - we know this.....as a Gay man of 53..I enjoy the pace..and the nuances coming out of each character.....tho I DO wanna see Scott Bakula in a bedroom scene I gotta admit...

    Posted by: disgusted american | Feb 20, 2014 12:54:44 PM


  23. "It's almost like were dealing with 28 year-old virgins."

    Actually, that's not so far off. It's been made more than clear at this point that he's relatively inexperienced.

    I don't understand why such a character is so hard to imagine. Gays aren't all the same.

    Posted by: crispy | Feb 20, 2014 12:55:33 PM


  24. Hey Jake - can u give it a chance...it just started ---- NO show is Perfect - its getting it legs

    Posted by: disgusted american | Feb 20, 2014 12:56:03 PM


  25. I am loving the show..and I have no problems with the pace of it.
    =)

    Posted by: George F | Feb 20, 2014 12:56:41 PM


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