During a panel discussion following a press screening last night for HBO Films’ The Normal Heart, HBO President Len Amato (pictured left) announced that Ryan Murphy, the film’s director, would be taking over as showrunner for the HBO original series Looking in its second season.
“HBO had a great experience with Ryan on Heart,” Amato said. “We’re really thrilled about continuing that partnership and seeing what his unique vision will bring to Looking.”
Looking, which follows three gay men in present-day San Francisco, received mostly positive critical reviews but failed to pick up the kind of watercooler buzz surrounding HBO’s more popular series. Industry insiders view the decision to bring Murphy on board as a clear-cut strategy to bring in a wider audience.
During the panel discussion, Murphy elaborated on the exact changes he plans to make in Looking’s second season. “The biggest change — and the one I’m most excited about — is moving the show to Los Angeles,” he said, adding, “No offense to San Francisco, but L.A. is just so much more exciting and glamorous. And it will enable us to have all these amazing celebrity cameos!”
Murphy elaborated that he’d already lined up Gwyneth Paltrow, Zachary Quinto, and NeNe Leakes for recurring roles.
To facilitate the move to Los Angeles, Murphy explained that Season Two will find Patrick (Jonathan Groff) inheriting a karaoke bar in the Valley, and deciding to move to Los Angeles to run it with help from his friends Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett).
Murphy (l) with Looking star Jonathan Groff
“I’d worked with Jonathan on Glee,” Murphy said, “and he’s got this incredible instrument … But honestly, they were just wasting his talents on the first season of Looking.” Murphy elaborated that the karaoke setting would afford Groff’s character continuous opportunities to sing, kicking off with a soulful acoustic version of “Let It Go” in the Season Two premiere.
Additionally, Murphy plans on tinkering with the look and design of the show, starting with mandatory close shaves and waxing for the main characters. “I just never got the whole facial hair thing,” he said. “Blech, who wants to see that?”
He’s also enlisting Glee costumer designer Elizabeth Martucci to “brighten” things up. “I want to see those guys in Technicolor blazers and shorts and bowties and porkpie hats,” Murphy said.
Speaking of Glee, Murphy said that he’s looking forward to potential Glee crossover episodes. One idea is to have Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) coming to L.A. to find a surrogate mother for their baby, perhaps to be played by American Horror Story alumna Emma Roberts. “I’m thinking the guys could stumble into Groff’s bar and all sing an a cappella version of ‘Baby It’s You.’ Or maybe ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ we’ll figure that out later,” he said.
Asked about other potential storylines for Looking, Murphy said some ideas include Agustin accidentally undergoing gay conversion therapy and starting to date women, and Dom entering a monastery being menaced by a demented monsignor secretly turning the monks into freakish alien hybrids.
When asked if Murphy is worried about alienating the show’s existing fans, Murphy reassured, “These are just some minor cosmetic changes … I promise it’s going to be the same show everyone knows and loves. Just completely different.”
In other news, Murphy announced he’s planning a reboot of The New Normal, this time with a straight couple.
Also, happy April Fool’s Day.