Television shows can generally be addicting, but in recent years, one that really comes to mind in the LGBT community is “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. The show has become a cultural phenomenon, with millions tuning in each week to see who shantays, and who sashays away. Whereas this show has been a vital movement in the media presence of LGBT over the past decade, I have to wonder why this is the only damn show on television right now where the entire cast is gay, and not just a supporting character, IE “Modern Family”. [Read more…] about Why, as a Gay Community, Do We Only Have RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Why “Looking” Was Canceled… Regardless of Ratings
Ladies and Gentleman, it is a sad day that the only gay series on pay television (or television) has officially come to an end. This week, it was revealed that the HBO series “Looking” would not be returning for a season three for reasons unspecified by the network itself. They did however reveal plans to wrap the show up in an upcoming TV movie where we will hopefully find out if Patrick’s haircut made him act like an adult and not a pre-pubescent girl, if Eddie & Agustin hopefully go the distance and how many Chickens Dom sold from his window. Whereas this show did have some strong points to it, there were too many negative ones (in my opinion) that led to its demise.
Strong points as to why it could’ve been saved-
It’s the only gay show on television where the characters aren’t supporting roles or competing for a Drag Race title (no shade). As far as television has come, we really have never had the opportunity outside of a select few (Queer As Folk, The L Word) where gays have had the entire perimeter of a show about them. Its insane to think that in 2015 this is actually true, and like it or not, that is why a lot of us watched “Looking”. For all the issues that I saw it have, it remained the only show on television today like it and was met with quite a bit of anticipation, criticism and much more when it premiered in early 2014. Gay characters on television have always been the supporting cast members (Modern Family, Glee, Orange Is The New Black, etc) and in rare cases have been the focal point with a mainly straight supporting cast (Transparent, The McCarthy’s even). HBO and “Looking” had the prime chance to change that and really did a great job in bringing together the LGBT audience to sound off on the show and their own viewpoints. Positive or negative, it really made people talk about a gay show like this for the first time in years. With the emergence of social media, our voices are louder and larger than the days where TLW and QAF were on, so this was the opportunity to have them heard front and center and boy did they ever.
With the exception of “The Comeback”, HBO has always done an amazing job at its cinematography for the shows it produces. I exclude “The Comeback” because it is shot reality style minus the last scene of season 2. “Girls” is shot beautifully in showing New York City in a different amount of locations, and the same thing goes for “Looking”. As cheesy as it sounds, “Looking” kind of inspired me to want to visit San Francisco even more than I did beforehand as the way it was shot really was quite eye-catching. They captured the city and its essence without being stereotypical and shooting in tourist friendly spots like the Golden Gate Bridge for an example. If you remember, people said the same thing about “Sex And The City” as the city really was its 5th character and brought the show to life in ways the characters necessarily couldn’t. As “Looking” tended to be normal and boring at times, the way it was shot never was, and that is something worth noting.
You want to know what happens next of course. Let’s not kid ourselves. As much as this show drove me crazy, I would like to see the conclusion of what happened in the finale- in particular the Eddie/Agustin relationship progressing. Note how I didn’t say Kevin & Patrick? More of that to come later. I think the best part of season two was the former of those two relationships, as Eddie (Daniel Franzese) really did an amazing job at pulling Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) out of his narrow minded, self absorbed & depressed shell he was in and find that there is a good person inside of all that jadedness. Seeing that bears on television are there but not portrayed the way Daniel did, I was happy to see his addition in season 2 and how their relationship would’ve progressed. Dom wasn’t necessarily a big part of season 2, but I did love Doris & Malik (more to come as well) and would’ve liked to have seen how they progressed too. I know HBO is giving them a movie of sorts to conclude things, but they have said this before. So I’m not holding my breath on that until their is an official release date.
Why It’s Canceled (In My Opinion)-
Please keep in mind that this has been my opinion on the show and how I have seen it. The main point in my opinion is this- the length of time. I am pretty sure it is HBO’s decision and not “Looking’s” creators who determine this, however this sort of a show screams for character development. This couldn’t have been true for this particular season, where the Kevin/Patrick relationship dominated the 25 minutes per episode allotted time amount and the supporting cast barely got a word in edgewise when it comes to their development. The focus of Dom’s maturity from cater-waiter to restaraunt owner when the series ended didn’t develop the way it should’ve, especially with the relationship between him and his best friend Doris. Doris, played brilliantly by Lauren Weedman, deserved way more screen time, in particular with her relationship with Malik. The basis of their relationship relied on both of them telling Dom how much they were in love, yet you never saw them and their relationship issues outside of that. Seeing as the lack of diversity on the show has been a bit prevalent over the course of two seasons, this would’ve been a nice counterpoint to that point in showing what is rarely seen on television- an interracial relationship and its normal issues that everyone else goes through.
Same can be said about Agustin/Eddie. When you introduce a Poz character on the series, and you briefly chatter about the issues of his disease and PrEP, it doesn’t do justice for people who either live with it or are in a serodiscordant relationship. The Halloween Party episode is a clear example of that, as it becomes a discussion for under a minute then goes back into Patrick’s ridiculous shenanigans about being drunk, somewhat single and absolutely stupid. That was the entire season, why not focus on something important and controversial in the gay community that is such a relevant topic as opposed to something we’ve seen all season long? I felt like the show had ample opportunities to really go there when it came to big topics in the gay world and failed on that because of the focus of one storyline.
I feel with Patrick & Kevin you either loved them, or hated them. I’ll take the latter. Not because of Kevin, because of Patrick. This is why the show had its issues is the way that Patrick was written. Jonathan Groff, for as talented as he is, really made the protagonist character of Patrick quite unlikable, frustrating and insanely unbearable throughout. I am aware that main characters have the tendency to do that, yet main characters also have a way to make you root for them even with their mistakes. I never once rooted for Patrick at all throughout the course of two seasons. The way his character came about was like a 21 year old moving from Nowheresville, Alabama to San Francisco and being the fresh face in town. Not a 30 year old who is vastly uneducated and scared of things like AIDS tests, uncut men, douching and a ton of other things that seem to be pretty common for someone his age, no matter where your geographical standpoint is. His incessant whining and frustration with “why doesn’t the world/Richie/Kevin/friends get me” type thing was infuriating at times, especially with the series finale. He had an annoying aspect about making everything about him, most notably the episode where Doris’ father died. Sidenote- was I the only one who thought these three guys would never be friends in real life? I did.
I get how people have said that the fight they had in the finale was realistic in many ways, but his character really rode the pathetic train with his inability to understand that Kevin cheats and prefers open relationships. You know, the one you got into after one episode? Another flaw in the show- how the f do you move in with someone after declaring being together in one episode? If they knew there was a shot of this being a series finale, a good way to intro it would’ve been “Six Months Later” and then reality would’ve been a bit more realistic. It moved at the speed of light for most of it, which made it a bit unnatural with how the characters moved along.
This is just my take on it. Would love to know what yours is.
Get To Know “Looking” Star & Gifted Actor Daniel Franzese
For any person in the late 20’s to early 30’s, they know how much of a fucking rockstar Daniel Franzese is. The uber talented and incredibly handsome actor & activist has been at the forefront of many people’s minds and laughter since he shot to superstardom as the “Too Gay To Function” Damian in the megahit Tina Fey/Lindsay Lohan movie “Mean Girls”. Damian possessed a huge comedic wit in that movie that paired incredibly well in his scenes with Lindsay Lohan and star of Masters Of Sex Lizzy Caplan, that there was no doubt in my mind that he had quite a bright future ahead for himself.
Since Mean Girls, his popularity has continued to be on the rise. He has had guest starring roles on shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and my personal favorite TV series, “The Comeback.” He also has launched a hilarious Youtube series called “S**t My Italian Mom Says” which has reached millions of views since its inception. Now Daniel is starring in the 2nd season of HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Looking” in which he plays Eddie Bear, a openly HIV positive counselor in a homeless gay shelter who takes a liking to Agustin’s character, played by Frankie J. Alvarez. Although the show has had its back and forth critiques, something that seems to be a constant with social media and critics is the positive feedback his character gets. He has breathed a new life into the 2nd season of this show, and his ever growing relationship with Agustin’s character on “Looking” is a great distraction from the very present main character’s story lines of Kevin & Patrick.
With the season finale airing tonight at 10PM eastern, 9pm Pacific on HBO, Daniel was nice enough to sit down with me and discuss his rise in the entertainment world, his take on “Looking” and his new series that is debuting on ABC Family this coming fall. Take a look at what the Brooklyn native had to say.
Hey Daniel, thanks for sitting down with me! So I just saw that you went to TBRU (Texas Bear Round Up), one of the biggest bear events in the world. Did you have fun and have you ever gone to one of those events before?
I’ve gone to bear parties before but I have never been to an organized bear event like that, ever. It was absolutely wonderful and the bears there couldn’t have been nicer to me. The friendliest group of people I have ever met. This was a great indication of how I am known in the bear community as there wasn’t a bear there that didn’t recognize me from my work, which was quite the awesome feeling.
Let me ask you about the show you are on at hand and what everyone is talking about, Looking. I’ve been a fan of the show since the first season and when i found out you were going to be on the show I was ecstatic for several different reasons. How did this whole thing start for you?
Well I was having a conversation about the show with my friend Lori Malkin who is a casting director. She asked if I was watching the show, which I wasn’t. When she asked why I said no, I simply replied, “Because they never have bears like me on a gay show like that”. She then followed up simply, “Then why not become the bear on that show?”. I was all about manifesting destiny so I looked up the casting director who happened to be the first one I ever encountered when I did my first movie “Bully” back in 2001. I wrote her an email, sent her some photos, and said “If you ever need a sexy bear!” to which she said “Well, you never know!”. It turns out they were already thinking of the character Eddie and even further thinking of me to play him and then offered me to play the part.
Not only are you the only bear on the show, but your character Eddie is also openly HIV positive which is a big part of your storyline with Agustin’s character, in particular the past two episodes. Can you get a little bit into the process of how you immersed yourself into this character?
My neighbor and one of my best friends Ryan is HIV positive and we have coffee every morning together. I knew him before he was poz and when I was getting the script and talking to him about it. The look on his face said it all as he was so excited that Eddie wasn’t being played as a victim and living a full and well adjusted life. I know that was the intention from the beginning for Andrew Haigh and Michael Lannon was that they wanted Eddie to be someone who just happened to be HIV Positive and that it really wasn’t affecting Agustin’s decision to be with him. Going into that portrayal I was excited more than anything to represent a very underrepresented community.
You surprised a lot of people by doing a full frontal sex scene with Agustin a couple of weeks back on the show. Was that the first time you’ve done a scene like that and was it tough to film?
This is why I think it is good that you brought up the bear community as growing up as the chubby kid who wore my shirt in the pool all the time to having an opportunity in my first movie “Bully” in which I take my shirt off was really uncomfortable for me. I have since then become very comfortable with my body and just from talking about guys in the past who have been into bears that aren’t bears themselves even and where their first inkling of where there attraction to a larger man came from. I heard several people reference James Gandolfini being naked in a film was when they realized they were attracted to bigger guys, and I knew that being part of an underrepresented community that displaying nudity in “Looking” would possibly do that for future generations of guys to see the male form in a different view. We all come from different shapes and sizes and I thought this was a way to see it sexualized in a different way.
Eddie is so vulnerable in that moment and has so many walls up and is trying to figure out if Agustin is really real and can handle his baggage. I think in that moment he feels that “Oh no, this is where the HIV gets in the way and I lose this great thing, that’s why I don’t want to get serious”, and I think its such a difficult moment for him because he is naked.
What is your take on how gay men are portrayed in the entertainment world in 2015? Do you think we have hit our stride or do you think we still have to push forward in order for us to become more normalized to the general viewing public?
I’m not sure that Hollywood will ever get any minority right because it is totally judged off of a bunch of people’s different opinions and based on each individual project. There will always be women that are marginalized, there will be African Americans that are marginalized, and in the same token there are gays that are. I feel like I love the way how “Looking” does it and how they show gay people in that story in San Francisco. We get to see so many kinds of levels of stories and places that straight people live and I think there is a lot of pressure on “Looking” to represent the entire gay community, but I think that they are just telling a story about some people in SF and I think that is interesting in an under-looked at subculture.
On top of looking, you have a new show set to air on ABC Family this coming fall called “Recovery Road”. What can you tell us about it?
One of the coolest things about this is that it is written by my roommate in college Bert V. Royal who wrote the movie “Easy A”. The other show runner Karen DiConcetto is a friend of mine for over ten years who played Snooki in the musical that i co-wrote called “Jersey Shoresical: A Freaking Rock Opera!”. It is so great that I have two of my dearest friends that are going to be creating the part for me. It is about a 17 year old girl named Maddie who has some problems with drinking and drugs in school so she makes a deal with her guidance counselor so they won’t expel her if she spends certain nights and weekends in an adult sober living facility. I play a gay man who has addiction issues contributing to a weight gain; essentially I was a former gogo boy with a cocaine issue.
So these are some pretty deep roles you have been taking lately, however a lot of people know your comedic side from “Mean Girls” and your part on season one of “The Comeback”. Do you prefer the dramatic side of things or the comedy parts?
Well “Recovery Road” is actually a comedy. I think on “Looking” I’m pretty funny and definitely do love comedy. It is my first love. However I love horrors if they are scary and I love comedies if there is drama and dramas if they are poignant and meaningful. I just love good stories so if there is one there that is where I will go ultimately.
On a complete sidenote here, I hope that when they submit you for the Emmys that at least you and Lauren Weedman (Doris) get nominated for Guest Actor & Actress in a Supporting Role because you both really do great work on that show.
Actually, we are being submitted in the supporting categories. I am being submitted for Supporting Actor In A Comedy.
Oh! Well in that sense I hope they give you and “Looking” some love because it has kind of been the same shows winning year after year there and they could use some sprucing up with some new blood. I mean, enough with “Modern Family” winning. In other words… I WANT YOU TO WIN!
Thank you :).
You had a hit on Youtube with the hilarious “S**t Italian Moms Say”. How did that whole thing get started?
My mother was the big inspiration for this, and she is sitting right here next to me while I’m chatting with you. My mom thinks that you said that i might get an Emmy is phenomenal! The “Shit Says” meme was happening everywhere and I was waiting personally for an Italian one to happen. Around the same time, right before the meme happened, my friend Michelle said to me “You can come to my apartment but I don’t have anything to offer, not even a piece of cake”. We laughed for an hour over that and then we thought of all the things we could say or do and then my friend Lisa said “Let’s do this”. We pulled it together one weekend and did two episodes and then the following weekend did another one. It was really fun and hit a million views in six days. It was really fun to watch it unfold.
Besides all of these amazing things, what else do you have going on in 2015?
I have a comedy coming out about five people who get hypnotized while the hypnotist has a heart attack and the people are stuck in its trance. I play a gay man who thinks he is a pregnant woman during this whole thing. Really looking forward to seeing what people think about that.
Thanks again Daniel for sitting down with us and good luck with “Looking” and everything else you have going on!
Thank you so much!
For more on Daniel Franzese, you can check out his official sites here!
HBO’s Looking Goes From Sullen to Spectacular
Looking Brings Something Real… And So Much More
Not that I am known for doing things prematurely (insert as many jokes as you want to here. That’s why I wrote that), my first article basically loathing HBO’s “Looking” is something that I do regret in many different ways. It was based off of a combination of the endless press the show was getting even before the show premiered, the seemingly lack of men of color on the show and the way people were treating it that really led to that write up. Add a not so great premiere (sorry, not taking that back) and I was quite apprehensive about the show.
Well now that the first season has ended, and it already has been given the green light for season two, my opinion on the show has drastically changed since that first episode. The characters have developed quite well over the past eight episodes, even though each of them are only half an hour long. Whereas I do believe if they made each episode an hour long they could develop even further, I am happy to see where the show has landed and am looking forward to what happens next season.
Strongest factors of the show-
Murray Bartlett (Dom)- I remember Murray as Oliver Spencer, the gay man who stole Carrie away from Aiden for a short period of time on “Sex And The City”. In the first episode of this series, he came across to me as the a-typical Chelsea/Hell’s Kitchen guy, musc/masc and nicely dressed and refusing to accept that he is getting older and turning 40. He consistently went after younger men and got insecure if a simple cater waiter denied him. His character over the 8 episodes did a complete 180 in my opinion, by going through somewhat of a growth in terms of opening up his own restaurant, listening to his friends advice and in the end falling for someone even older than him, Lynn (an uber-hot Scott Bakula). I am really looking forward to seeing how his character plays out in season 2, especially with him and Lynn.
The Supporting Characters (Boyfriends, best friends, coworkers)- Great shows are designed best when the main characters intrigue you but the supporting cast members add that particular something to make the show gel. This works with so many people like Patrick (Jonathan Groff’s) boss and now lover of sorts Kevin (my future husband Russel Tovey), Dom’s roommate and funny lady Doris (Laurel Weedman) who pretty much champions him to open the restaurant and point him in the right direction, and my favorite is Richie (my side boyfriend Raul Castillo) who challenges Patrick in his insecurities and ability to have a grown up relationship, even if Patrick doesn’t know if that what he particularly wants. Although I am bummed with how Richie leaves him in the end, I am hoping that he comes back for Season 2 in some sorts because the show really seemed to pick up steam in the episode that was just about the two of them.
The Dialogue- I love how this is how REAL friends talk to each other, and address their concerns on such a better level than just being like “GIRLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL” every other sentence. All three (Augustin will be mentioned later) really care about each other and keep it real when they have to. No sugar coating necessary. I think the writing for this show is one of its strongest points indeed because it is relatable no matter if you are gay or straight. A lot of these things are what everyday people go through in friendships, relationships and life issues and “Looking” does it really well.
Factors that could be improved-
Patrick- Love Jonathan Groff and I like that he is being utilized for something outside of his singing voice (Frozen, Glee) and really his acting chops, which he does tremendously. Here is my issue- his character doesn’t make much sense to me. If you watch the show, a lot of the stuff he seems to get into (dealing with an “uncut” guy, awkward dating, flighty attitude towards a lot of things) would be cute if he was a fresh faced 22 year old in San Francisco, but he’s not. He’s 29 and from the episodes have lived there for a while, so I don’t get why they wrote him like that. At the same time, he has had some great moments this year with his growth in his relationship with Richie and his somewhat standing up to the back and forth he has going on with Kevin. I personally hope he ends up with Richie on some level next season, but I hope his maturity continues to improve and he becomes a lot more aware of his behavior as time goes by.
Augustin- Ugh. I get it. Every show needs one character that you can’t stand, or love to hate, etc. Problem with him is that the evolution of his character doesn’t really make any sense. I get how you can do the whole “this is my bottom, can’t get any worse than this” type thing but I keep thinking that each episode is his bottom. It takes his now ex, Frank (awesomely played by O.T. Fagbenle) to tell him what we all feel- spoiled rich kid who is at best a mediocre artist. Yup. Granted he is a good friend to both Dom & Patrick, and I get that, but as a person on the show he really sucks. I hope that the revelation that Frank gave him really makes him improve next season so his sucking ability goes down and he starts to act like an authentic person and not some hipster douchebag that seems to be growing in population.
HBO’s Looking- Predictable and Pretentious… as Promised.
Looking for… Substance?
HBO’s highly anticipated and publicized show “Looking” premiered last night as the latter part of the comedy hour they are now sharing with “Girls”. There has been a ton of hooplah surrounding “Looking” even before it started, as social media exploded with its accusations of the cast alone looking very one note without much diversity (something that I agree with). Also, to some annoyance, it has been touted by websites such as Buzzfeed as “The Next Great Gay Show” which is a bit premature as I’m sure they only got a screener of the first episode and can only judge so much from that. Seeing as there isn’t much gay shows on TV where we aren’t supporting characters but much more an entire cast, I severely looked forward to dissecting this show to it’s fullest content.
Then I watched it, and my primetime erection went down faster than Chris Christie’s political dreams. This happened for so many reasons honestly, but there is a smidgen of hope I feel for this show as a whole. That hope is Jonathan Groff, who many people know as being Rachel’s love interest on the former hit now please cancel it before I shoot myself “Glee”. He plays Patrick, the lead of the show who starts at the beginning attempting to get fellatio in a park from a rather hot bearish type guy. This was the high point in the show as he nervously answers his phone in the midst of it as he thought it was his “Mother”. Cute.
Here is my problem with his character- the problems he encounters throughout the episode would be cute if he was in the 21-24 age range, but I feel if you are an out and proud gay man at 29- these things shouldn’t be happening to you still. The BJ thing maybe, but the awkward date, the “6 month relationship” and so on and so forth. I just think his character lacks maturity that is made up for in his cuteness and impressionable behavior which is lose it’s gum flavoring very fast if things don’t pick up.
Murray Bartlett, who most gays know as the shoe maven who stole Carrie away from her wing eating time with Aiden on “Sex & The City” plays Som, a pushing 40 waiter who whines and bitches that a twinky 20 something rejected him mainly because of his age. At the end of the show he tries to get redemption on said twink by going to the bar with Patrick to make himself feel better about the rejection. So boring, no depth and if there is one character that should be a one off it’s him.
Lastly the one diverse character we have in this show is Agustin, played by Frankie J. Alvarez, who is Patrick’s roommate. He is in a relationship with Frank, played by OT Fagbenie. They run into the ever so present problem of having an open relationship which seems to be a big topic of debate in the gay community and end the episode not necessarily wanting the same thing. Should be interesting to see how it plays out.
Overall I would give the first episode 3 out of 10. Sorry if it’s harsh, but “Looking” is “Queer As Folk” for the iPhone digital world. The semi digs at bears or guys that don’t fit the size 29 stereotype, the severe lack of diversity ESPECIALLY in a place like San Francisco, and the dialogue which no one really says (“Are You Drug and Disease Free”, on a first date) lead this show to be just like the rest. I am not saying I need to watch this show to find a guy exactly like me, however this show has been done before. So until I see some changes and maturity in the upcoming episodes, my thought process is this.