Apparently, there is a Swiss study that states that male erections can be divided into four different categories depending on their hardness: tofu, peeled banana, banana and cucumber. Well, where some of us see a laugh in this necessary research, screenwriter and producer Russell T Davies (Queer as Folk, Doctor Who) saw
one three series where to explore contemporary sexuality.
Three interconnected series, it’s really all a matter of three dimensions:
Cucumber (Channel 4) is the hard, horizontal, linear main show that follows Henry Best (Vincent Franklin) a gay middle-aged man who will put his 9 year relationship with his boyfriend in jeopardy after a disastrous night date. The first episode felt fresh and really, really funny -with one of the best in crescendo editing sequence we have seen in a long time in the final minutes-, Franklin is a natural in his role, and some of the support characters seem to deserve their own show.
And that’s why we have Banana (E4), the B-series, the vertical line that crosses our A plot. This second series will work as a complement, deepening the audience’s knowledge on some of the characters in Cucumber‘s universe. In order to do so, it will focus in a different storyline in each episode in a sort of anthology series. Banana will obviously appeal to a younger and broader audience since it will deal in each episode with a new story of “love without labels”. This first week we spent our time with Dean, a young black gay man, and Henry’s coworker, a child-man with a joie de vivre -except when he is with his parents-. Once again, beyond the need of this type of series for the LGTB community gain some exposure in television, Banana is fun to watch and perfectly plays with the comedy and drama, not falling in the dramedy cliché of “a comedy without the laughs” as Valerie Cherish would put it.
Finally, there’s Tofu (Channel 4 web), the transversal line, an online documentary series that collects interviews from the actors, anonymous (quirky) people and, even, workers from the sex industry discussing (surprise!) sex. It is the icing on the cake and probably the boldest and braves of them all in the way they speak about the subject. It also features a Black Mirrorish story about a hypersexualized future where people rate each other online after sex(?!). I’m not sure I got the point of this fiction or if Benjamin Cook, Tofu‘s presenter and creator, just watch the latest It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode featuring the exact same plot…
But not everything is good with this threesome, both Cucumber and Banana suffer, what I call, the ‘Looking syndrome’ (in honor of the HBO gay show), meaning they are a gay utopia: every single damn character in both series is a gay men and every single plot revolves around gay trends and gay sex, there is no place for other sexual choices. Moreover, they are rather sexist featuring close to zero female characters (at least in their first episodes, although apparently Banana‘s second show will focus on a lesbian character). “The whole world is a gay bar” declares one character at the beginning of Cucumber, well, mmm, no, it is not. If the gay community wants to normalize their exposure on the media they are not doing themselves any favors creating “gay shows” and, thus, promoting the distinction between “hetero TV” and “gay TV”.
Besides this issue that, we hope, improves as the series move forward, Cucumber, Banana and Tofu are the most direct approach to a still-hard-to-deal-with topic we have seen since the long forgotten Tell Me You Love Me (HBO), with an interesting and novel concept and serial structure that allow some audience interaction and, most importantly, they are FUN: