The latter comparison is actually the one I'd object to most, if only for the structural differences (QAF episodes ran at least 15 minutes longer) and the fact that the Pittsburgh-set (and Toronto-filmed) Queer As Folk felt almost defiantly white, middle-class and middle-American. QAF was also more of a traditional nighttime soap, featuring a larger principal cast and overlapping stories, while the core characters of Looking, Girls and SATC (the series, unlike the two feature films) mostly inhabit/inhabited their own storylines, coming together mainly to catch each other up.
On a purely aesthetic level, Looking has the more naturalistic feel of a talky big-screen indie, particularly Weekend, the 2011 gay romance directed by Looking co-executive producer Andrew Haigh. It's a whitewash, for sure (though less of one than the blindingly Caucasian QAF), but it also scrubs away San Francisco's picturesque polish to reveal the inner-city grit that lies beneath (by contrast, Girls' New York City is whitewashed in the opposite direction, to a shiny, happy sheen), and the episodic, plot-free structuring reeks of meandering reality.
But oh, those characters!
Sex and the City inspired endless conversations about which lady you are (me: Miranda with a Samantha rising), but I can't imagine anyone watching Girls or Looking and claiming any of the character types. I don't believe I've ever come across a TV show so full of unlikable people as Girls. The series regulars in the titular quartet are so self-involved it's a wonder they were able to pull themselves away from the Me! Me! Me!-obsessed drama swirling around in their heads long enough to become friends. I could do without the men in their lives, too. Now that Charlie is gone, there's really nobody to root for.
Looking's trio of gay friends fare better, but I don't find any of them particularly appealing or relatable either -- at least not in any way that doesn't involve how they look. I can imagine getting a kick out of Hannah at a party, and I'd go to lunch with Jessa, if only to rip her apart, but I probably wouldn't want to hang out with Patrick, Agustín or Dom in real life. And those things they do!
I would never just show up at the flower shop owned by a guy I met in a sauna -- looking for business advice! In these modern times of texting, emails and online stalking, when you no longer even have to call someone up and leave a message on an answering machine, why would anyone opt to make second contact in person anyway (which might have been the tell-tale sign that Dom wasn't looking for sex)? You don't even have to have sex in person anymore!
I would never fall for my boss who has a long-distance boyfriend one state away. Though I did sort of fall for my personal physician during my last decade or so in New York City. He looked great in a long, white cotton coat, which couldn't hide the bulges in his upper torso. What a dreamboat. I hope he's not reading this. I'm still not sure how I kept myself from getting, um, aroused during check-ups. Or maybe it would have been just what our doctor-patient relationship needed. Of course, it wasn't until I moved to Buenos Aires that I realized just how much size matters.
I would never have a threesome with my boyfriend and a co-worker. Back when I was more inclined to indulge in such sport, I had the same strict rule as Samantha Jones on Sex and the City: Only the guest star, never a series regular -- with an extra emphasis on guest star.
I would never go out in public wearing a leather vest with no shirt underneath it. It's not that I'm modest or prudish. After all, I once entered a shirtless contest in Melbourne (and won!), and I met my last boyfriend (again, in Melbourne, which seems to bring out the exhibitionist in me) because his then-girlfriend couldn't believe that I was wearing a pullover with no shirt underneath. How scandalous. I still have that pullover, and I'd still wear it without a tee, but nowadays, I'm wary of going sleeveless, unless I'm running or at the gym. At least then the sweat dripping down my arms will deter people from touching me. Otherwise, bare arms are like baby bumps. People seem to think sleevelessness gives them the right to reach out and feel you without asking.
I would never seriously consider selling access to my private body parts (or paying to handle someone else's). Several years ago, a friend and I took a Christmas road trip to Cordoba, Argentina. After our second night out, my friend ended up back at our rental with a guy that his wingman -- yours truly -- had scored for him. My helpfulness was quickly rewarded: I left with a with tall, handsome Argentine who didn't speak a word of English.
I wasn't thrilled when his roommate got into the taxi, too, but it ended up being for the best. I'd run out of money at the club, and I'd left my ATM card at the rental, so the roommate dutifully paid the fare. I figured that would be the last I saw of him. If only it had been.
A few hours later, as I was preparing to leave, he was the bearer of bad news. I was much farther from home than I thought, which was complicated by the fact that I had no cash and no map, and I was wearing boots that definitely were not made for walking. As I weighed my options in my head (make that option: enduring blisters and asking strangers to guide me along the way, as GPS-equipped mobile phones were still not commonplace then), the roommate, who had been feasting on me with hungry eyes since the taxi ride, made a seriously indecent proposal.
"I'll give you fifty pesos for a taxi, if you let me give you a blow job." His ponytail, his exposed pot belly, and the way he was dangling the money like it was a bag of cocaine made him look like a pimp. And a cheap one that: The then-exchange rate made 50 pesos less than $15!
"En serio? No way. Even if I was that desperate for money, fifty pesos wouldn't be enough. I'd never take less than one thousand!" It had to be a game, so I decided to play along to see how much I was worth.
"Okay, I'll give you one thousand, as much as you want." If I thought he was joking before, his desperation was now obvious. If I had the time, he had the money.
"No, I'm not actually for sale."
"Can I just touch it?"
"Um, no, you cannot touch it. Thanks for the offer, but I'm not a prostitute. Now explain to me again how I get home." I was relieved that the one I had come there for was preoccupied with a text and probably couldn't understand a word of our conversation. But I wasn't naive enough to expect him not to spill all the details of our tryst in Spanish and give his roommate a vicarious thrill as soon as I departed.
"Can I just look at it then? Please? I really want to see it."
It took me an hour to walk home. My feet may have been killing me, but what was left of my virtue remained intact. Had his first offer been $220 (the amount that CJ on Looking charges for one hour of his time), might I have reconsidered? Of course, not. But it's always nice to know that your value is closer to air fare than the cost of a 15-minute taxi ride.