TV Preview: Cucumber, Banana & Tofu

You've seen the pictures and met the cast in Attitude, and now, as Russell T Davies prepares to unveil his new triptych of shows, Cucumber, Banana and Tofu, Attitude’s Ben Kelly takes a sneak peek at their opening episodes... Cucumber Cucumber Photographed by John Wright Effectively the ‘main dish’ of this trio, Cucumber is based around the lives of Henry (Vincent Franklin) and Lance (Cyril Niri), a middle-aged couple in Manchester who have spent nine years in a relationship built on rocky foundations. When shit hits the fan – and it does in episode one – they are both forced to try and find their way in a very different gay landscape. Henry is the star of the piece and a character you’ll laugh with one minute and want to throw your dinner at the next. Witty, flawed and delicate, he’s a product of a time that pre-dates even Queer As Folk, but ends up indulging his more youthful side as his life collides with the hot young things who end up playing the leads when the tables are turned in the flashier Banana. CUCUMBER What makes Cucumber more striking than its little sister shows is that the characters and subject matter are fairly unprecedented on British TV. Camp comics and sexy studs we’ve seen before, but a grey-haired gay man working in insurance on the verge of a mid-life crisis is new – and it’s as insightful as it is entertaining. Series creator Russell T Davies’ shrewd writing provides true-to-life moments which are both hilarious and heart-wrenching – often both at once – and in its normality, Cucumber could be just the kind of ‘gay drama’ that once again captures the imagination of the general viewing public. Banana Banana Russell T Davies says these shows are much more about sex in all its forms than Queer As Folk was, and nowhere is that clearer than in the romp that is E4’s Banana. Characters like Dean (Fisayo Akinade) and Freddie (Freddie Fox) appear as central but supporting cast in Cucumber, but their own stories come to fruition in Banana, where their Manchester warehouse flat becomes a symbol for their carefree sexuality and youthful hedonism. Its style isn’t far off other button-pushing Channel 4 shows like Skins and Hollyoaks – but with a plethora of gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender characters and enough sex and love dilemmas to make Denise Robertson light-headed. Banana The way in which episodes 1 of Cucumber and Banana cleverly interweave the opening narrative from two different perspectives provides high hopes for this inter-connected duo. The attention to detail Davies has paid in terms of modern gay life is striking in both shows, but if Cucumber is closer to his own generation, then his portrayal of the post-equality, ‘anything goes’ Grindr generation in Banana is possibly more impressive. Maybe not for mums and dads this one, but the colourful spread of sexual adventures will appeal to younger viewers who haven’t yet seen their own lives translated to the small screen in such an unabashed way. Tofu CUCUMBER This is a curious little series of 15 minute shorts which will air weekly on 4oD. It features members of the public talking with often-unnerving honesty about their own sexual experiences – including a 60 something nurse who has ‘helped out’ a few patients, and a Russian man who uses prostitutes. A far cry from the ‘online sex ed’ series it might first sound like, the characters’ sometimes shocking and hilarious sexual anecdotes make it a thoroughly entertaining short. The star of Cucumber and Banana also appear with their own takes on modern sex and relationships, adding a further element of fun to proceedings (that Julie Hesmondhalgh is a dark horse!) In episode 1, a brief sketch ties in with the public’s tales, in which a young man finds his sexual prowess being rated in a futuristic, social media-style version of Tinder. The satirical shift wasn’t a far cry from Channel 4’s excellent Black Mirror, and as instant and easily shareable entertainment, this style of content is perfect for the addition to the conversations about sex the show is sure to provoke. CUCUMBER All in all, at a time when the nature of television is shifting more dramatically than it has done since the medium’s inception, credit must be given to Russell T Davies – and to Channel 4 – for creating such a clever, of-the-moment, multi-platform project in Cucumber, Banana, Tofu. Forget whether it’s a ‘gay’ drama or not, the scale and energy of these show’s makes it one of 2015’s most exciting prospects. Cucumber starts Thursday 22nd January on Channel 4 at 9pm, followed by Banana on E4 at 10pm and Tofu on 4oD.


You find out everything you need to know about the cast and characters of Cucumber and Banana in the new issue of Attitude, where hot young thing Freddie Fox he teases that his bisexual character – confusingly also called Freddie – has been “hard-wired to f**k” – click here to find out more. You can also watch our exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the cast's shoot here. The new issue is out in shops now and available to download to your mobile, iPad or tablet device now at Pocketmags.com/Attitude. You can also have it delivered directly to your door at newsstand.co.uk. att253_COVER1 More stories: British army’s highest-ranked trans soldier speak out: ‘I was living an act’ HSBC chief exec: ‘If I wasn’t gay I probably wouldn’t be CEO