If you haven’t heard of either Cucumber or Banana (or Tofu for that matter…) then you’ve probably been out of the country, hiding under a rock or something, because it has been everywhere! After seeing the trailer for Cucumber at the cinema before watching (the amazing film) Pride, I became more and more excited about the new dramas heading to channel 4 and E4, which apparently have been in the planning since 2006.
I was such a huge fan of Russel T. Davies’ first gay-based drama, Queer As Folk. I was a little too young when it was first shown on TV (1999-2000), so had to make do with buying the box set 6 years after series 2 had finished. This led me on to buying the American version which I ended up preferring, but that’s only because it went on for an extra 3 seasons which enabled much deeper character development, and it also included some fabulous females too!
As soon as episode 1 of Cucumber began, there was this familiar Russel T. Davies feeling. You could just tell that this was by him – the way he writes his characters and how they come across to the viewer. Main protagonist Henry Best leads a pretty normal (if not boring) life that shatters around him, forcing him to do things he doesn’t normally do, such as live with two 20-something gay men, one of which he is clearly attracted to but the realisation is that he’s a lot older than 24-year-old Freddie!
My first reaction to the series was a good one. It’s fantastic to see a great gay drama back on TV by a well-respected writer, and one who knows how to draw you in from the very first scene (shopping, male erections, sex….). As I’ve carried on watching it, I can’t help but notice the clichés, however – men are promiscuous, gay men can’t be faithful, etc. Now I know TV dramas don’t need to depict the real-life scenarios of gay men (and women), and instead have to keep the audience enthralled with situations that would never happen in real-life (or it might, you never know!), because otherwise it would be boring and you could just look at Facebook instead to get the exact same stories on your newsfeed. Though, personally (and this could be said about E4’s Banana) I feel that young gay men watching a gay-based drama for the first time might think ‘Wow, am I ever going to be able to hold a relationship down? Because it just looks like men spend far too much time cruising on Grindr!’
Another thing that I want to add, is the similarity of Henry having a crush on blonde boy, Freddie. As much as I hate relating the two programmes just because they’re by the same writer, I can’t help but think ‘Stuart and Nathan’. Other than that, there is no similarity! I’m just wondering how that’s going to turn out… I suppose it’s normal to have crushes that will never be!
That being said, it’s humorous, witty, well written and after the episode has finished, I definitely look forward to the next episode.
Banana on the other hand is an 8 episode series showcasing a broad spectrum of LGBT life for younger viewers on E4 which ties in with Cucumber (which I love!). The idea that both series have to be watched to get an idea of what certain characters are like and what they get up to is great, and another reason why both programmes are appealing. You can see bits that are crossed over, but it’s never boring! Still as much sex and vulgar language as ever – brilliant!
If you’re wondering where the names Tofu, Banana and Cucumber come from, then let me explain! There was a scientific study into the male erection which divided the erection into a hardness scale consisting of tofu, peeled banana, banana, and cucumber. When Davies saw this study he said “Right there and then, I knew I had my drama”.
I can’t forget Tofu, which is an exclusive online series on 4od which discusses all aspects of sex in the 21st century. Those featured are celebs, actors, porn stars and more… Worth a watch!