Enough of the moaning and complaining about HBO canceling the show Looking. And please stop with the overwrought excuses about gay male psychosexual and sociological failures. Here's the deal: the show was cancelled because it was bad.
As a professional writer, I try not to pee on other people's parades. I do my thing. You do your thing. There's room enough in this world for anybody to try anything, and well they should. More power to you if you can deliver a good product and attract an audience. But if you can't, don't blame the audience.
Unfortunately the show's defenders didn't get the memo. First, Andrew Haigh tried to blame gay men for his creative failures, saying we refused to watch out of "fear" of not being portrayed in a perfect light. Now JD Stewart wants to double down on that babble and blames a "gay male viewing audience who tied [the show] to a cross and let it burn." Oh please, Mary. The problem with intellectualizations like these are that none of these arguments are actually based on the content of the show. It's all airy-fairy academic finger-pointing, combined with straight-up defensive egotism.
The main characters in Looking were badly written, and not just boring, but cringe-inducingly narcissistic in their dullness. The lead character, Patrick, dumped his attractive and loyal boyfriend because he wasn't of the right social caste. Patrick starts sleeping with a man (his boss) who is in a committed relationship. Patrick steals that man and then is furious when the man wants an open relationship. (He's actually hurt that the cheater doesn't want to be monogamous!) Then he goes running back to the man whom he treated as his social inferior - the guy whose heart he shattered - expecting to warmly and lovingly taken back.
The sheer magnitude of Patrick's irresponsibility and self-absorption was stunning. He was childish, petty, selfish, shallow, and completely numb to other people's feelings and needs. As a fictional character he was just plain gross. There was nothing sympathetic about Patrick. He was not fun to watch. There was nothing remotely attractive about his personality--the way it was written. Who's to blame for that? Are Haigh and Stewart really saying that it's our fault we didn't want to watch a trainwreck of a character with no redeeming traits? Really, it's our fault we don't find that interesting or compelling? If you're going to deliver the audience an unredeemable character at least make him interesting!
And we have not even begun to address the other issues with the show, like the irresponsible way it treated HIV. The episode about Patrick's HIV hysteria was both shocking and sad in that the writers clearly thought Patrick's ignorance was a punch line. No gay man should be that ignorant; that level of ignorance is not funny; it's scary. Yet, the audience got no insight into how or why Patrick ended up so ignorant, or the potential consequences of that ignorance. It was delivered as slapstick comedy and then dropped. To this viewer, it was appalling.
My fiancé and I would tune in every week, hoping against hope that the writers and producers would give us something redeeming - or at least some larger context for interpreting these sad sack characters - only to finish each episode more infuriated and less hopeful. Could gay men on TV could be well-rounded characters, rather than pathetic one-dimensional caricatures? This show delivered only the latter.
(And don't even get me started on Dom and Agustin. We're really supposed to feel sympathy and fraternity with these two self-destructive knuckleheads? We're supposed to enjoy donating a half-hour a week to wallowing in their misery? That's supposed to be enjoyable and entertaining?)
Face it. The show didn't work. It was a great idea, but the execution of the idea was flawed. The audience gave it a chance - maybe more of a chance than it deserved - but ultimately they didn't like the artistic product, and so they tuned out. Sorry, but that's the real truth about the demise of Looking. Trying to blame the audience may be politically correct and salve the ego, but it's lazy and wrong.