In the first of a new series of articles exploring the reasons and justification of cancelled television shows, Vada brings you Axe to Grind, kicking off with HBO’s Looking.
Original Airdate: January 19 2014 – March 22 2015.
Admittedly, Looking hasn’t technically been cancelled yet, but rather is in the process of being cancelled. One final episode (a ‘movie’) will be produced and aired (presumably at the beginning of 2016) to act as the series finale.
At least it’s going to get some narrative closure.
Reason for Cancellation: A fall in ratings, presumably, as reviews for season two were generally high.
The second season was seen as markedly improved on its first run. But its earlier season two episodes were pitted against such award shows as the Grammys, so naturally viewership will have been down.
Justification: During the first airing of its first season, Looking fell to 0.118 million viewers for episode 3, ‘Looking at Your Browser History’, before climbing up to the dizzying (!) heights of 0.519 million viewers for episode 6, ‘Looking in the Mirror’.
Admittedly these viewing figures themselves aren’t brilliant, but Looking averaged around 2 million viewers per week in 2014.
Flash forward to 2015, and none of the first five episodes broke the 200,000 mark in terms of viewers watching it on its first broadcast. And even after that, the show only just broke past half a million viewers.
Whilst averages for season two haven’t been released yet, it is safe to assume that the show wasn’t much past one million viewers, so the justification for cancelling Looking is there.
But Looking wasn’t really an expensive show to produce. It required no CGI work, it didn’t have a large cast, and production didn’t have to travel halfway around the world for filming. It was filmed and produced in San Francisco.
Surely fans should have been warranted one final season of this inexpensive series to wrap things up properly?
Creator Michael Lannan was optimistic of a renewal, going to far as to say that season three would have likely seen a new love interest for Patrick being introduced to the show.
Looking is generally regarded as an exemplary depiction of LGBT life (well, maybe not so much the L or the B or the T, come to think of it…) in that Patrick, Dom and Agustín just happened to be gay. Their sexuality didn’t define them, and nor was it generalised, or rendered stereotypical.
These three characters were so much more than their sexuality. Or at least Patrick and Agustín were… Dom, well he didn’t really much do anything bar moon over his fricken chicken window. Bore off, Dom.
Agustín was a dick in season one, but Lannan listened to viewers and largely changed his character in season two, so much so that I genuinely began to love him as a character. He and Eddie were brilliant together.
But it was Patrick and his love triangle that had many fans enraptured. Season one was very much an exploration of Patrick and Richie, whilst season two saw Patrick and Kevin expand, though Richie was still very much a part of the show.
So the question remains: who do you ultimately want Patrick to end up with? Because, if we’re honest, that’s all that really matters now.
Agustín has his happy ending; Lannan best not fuck things up with Eddie. Doris, too, is happy with Malik, and she and Dom have found a new level for their friendship. And Dom… well he has his chicken window. I don’t much care what happens to him beyond that, so long as Lynn doesn’t come back.
As for me, I want Patrick to end up with Kevin. Or Richie. Or Kevin. Or Richie. Or both? Hmm, it’s too hard to choose, I love them both.
A Right Decision?: No, not at all. Looking was labelled boring by some, but it normalised everything about these characters, including their sexuality.
It made much out of little – just look at the episode focussing upon Doris’ father’s death. It was simple, but packed a punch, producing the best episode of Looking’s limited run.
There was so much more that could be done with these characters. But at least we get one final episode – that’s more than most shows.
So whilst HBO are dicks for cancelling, at least they care about the fans enough to give closure. That way, even if its run was cut short, at least fans won’t have invested a lot of time for nothing. At least they will know how it all ends.