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HBO's 'Looking' - good performances, story not so much: Review

Broadway actor and former "Glee" guest star Jonathan

Broadway actor and former "Glee" guest star Jonathan Groff attends Miscast 2013 at Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. (March 4, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

And this Sunday, Jonathan Groff's return to the small screen in HBO's "Looking."  This eight-parter is intriguing, certainly, and part of HBO's on-going effort to build up its "comedy space" or more specifically, perhaps, its "half hour" one, as some of these shows aren't so conveniently or easily categorized..."Getting On,"  "Ja'mie Private School Girl," and so on. 

  Now, "Looking." 

"Looking," HBO, Sunday, 10:30 

What it's about: The leaves rustle, the branches part, and Patrick (Jonathan Groff, Broadway's "Spring Awakening," "Glee") steps into a clearing. Another man is there. They kiss, fondle. Then...Patrick's phone rings. And so begins "Looking," an eight-part series about gay life in modern San Francisco, centered around Patrick, a single thirtysomething video-game programmer who is still searching for that one true thing - love. His friends, who include Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett, "Guiding Light") aren't so conflicted. (Also with Scott Bakula, in a recurring role as Lynn, a flower store proprietor.)

My say: "Groundbreaking" is not the word that applies here - believe me, this ground was broken long before, on series like Showtime's "Queer as Folk," or long long ago on the adaptation of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City." Instead, think of "Looking" this way - as if a camera dropped from the sky into San Francisco, to instantly lock on characters who are mostly interesting, and mostly fixated on themselves, with side excursions to their own self-contained and not even remotely well-behaved worlds of boozing, drugs and sex (none of which is particularly graphic Sunday.) The acting's good, and Groff - as usual - is pure charm and on-screen grace. But what's missing here is a point of view. ("Looking" is based on a short film by Michael Lannan, who is one of the creators, along with British director Andrew Haigh who wrote and directed the 2011 romantic drama, "Weekend.") A comedy? Not really. Drama? Not that either, at least in the early episodes. Instead, "Looking" occupies some fuzzy ill-defined middle ground filled with uni-dimensional characters.

 Bottom line: At least the performances are good.

Grade: C+

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