HBO Series “Looking” Better Than Ever by Kevin M. Thomas

LOOKING Cast: Raul, Castillo, Murray Bartlett, Frank J. Alvarez, Lauren Weedman, Jonathan Groff, Daniel Franzese

LOOKING Cast: Raul, Castillo, Murray Bartlett, Frank J. Alvarez, Lauren Weedman, Jonathan Groff, Daniel Franzese

“Looking,” the gay hip San Francisco-based HBO series, returns Sunday, Jan. 11 to new and exciting episodes.

The season premiere picks right up where it left off last year – Patrick and Agustin healing their wounds from broken romances by finding comfort in the arms of other men while Dom is trying on monogamy for size.

LOOKINGpremiereThis season starts off with more focused plots and stories. It seems creator/writer Michael Lannan has found his stride and is marching forward with a show that’s better than last year. A credit to him and director Andrew Haigh for honing in on the stories with great precision.

Part of last year’s success is truly the raw and often titillating frank look at gay life. True  it’s cable where anything goes. Well almost anything. But roadblocks often prevent shows from truly seeming real.

HBO has actually proved to show they have bigger balls than one would imagine in Season 2 with frequent acts of sex and partial nudity. It’s enough to make it seem like real gay sex without being porn. Perhaps some prudes might shy away from the partially nude and suggestive scenes. But they deliver enough to keep the interest of gay viewers. If man-on-man action wasn’t your reason for watching (or the well crafted episodes) you might tune in for one of its “stars” – the Bay Area as the show take us to the less cinematically traveled roads and showcase many facets of the Bay Area.

Last season, besides the city, there were a lot of Oakland shots and scenery. Since Agustin has broken up with his Oakland boyfriend, we don’t know if there will be a return to the East Bay.  After all, San Franciscans don’t often cross the Bay Bridge.

The season premiere starts off with a retreat for our trio as they take a break and a trip to the Russian River. At the river, they uncover some other welcome additions to the show. As a bear, I was delighted to see “Mean Girls” star Daniel Franzese carrying the bear banner in the first two episodes of the season. He makes a beautiful and welcome addition to the show and he came back for more as he was also in the season’s second episode as well. Hopefully, his blossoming relationship with cub-ish Agustin grows to keep him around more often.

The first two episodes of the season also brought out stronger performances from our stars.  Jonathan Groff’s,  Patrick is awkwardly cute and adorable while Murray Bartlett still possesses his suave persona even though his character is now in an open relationship with Scott Bakula’s character. Frankie J. Alvarez’ does the bear community proud as he lets the fur fly in so many fun ways that he makes you drool for his droll sense of humor and delivery. But the real gem this season seems to be Lauren Weedman as fag hag friend Doris – whose dialog is a delicious feast of fodder and fun. She had great moments last year, but has already been a scene stealer this season and the early episodes tease that she has her own developing storyline.

“Looking” was good last year…but this year, it’s off to a tighter, more concise season, making it truly one of the highlights of HBO and definitely worth looking into when it comes back to HBO this Sunday