I wanted to start this review of Russel T Davies’ (not to be confused with Russel Tovey, proud french bulldog owner and actor) new comedy with “I wanted to love Cucumber but…“ I’d heard about the new drama, tipped for big things, at Manchester Pride; I’d enjoyed a member of the crowd riding the huge cucumber float after what seemed like one too many glasses of wine. It was to be the new ‘Queer As Folk”, groundbreaking 1990s drama that I caught up on in 2013, being but a dot in the 90s.
Cucumber / Tofu / Banana
Now, as someone who is presently part-way through the third series of Suits I know full well what a dissappointment a series can be. But I wasn’t expecting anything short of excellence. You know what they say about high expectations.
I love the concept of Cucumber.
There are three shows, all linked but each with a different focus. Cucumber (Channel 4 at 9:00 on Thursdays), Banana on E4 straight after, and online series Tofu. I liked that they interlinked like a televisual venn diagram. Awesome. What I actually found is that, like the channel itself, the corresponding programme seemed aimed at an age-group. Channel 4/Cucumber all about the 40 somethings, E4/Banana for the younger late teens and early twenties viewers and the online platform -bitesized Tofu – for those with questions and curiosities about sex. Not necessarily younger, but an audience that fits into neither of the above category.
And where does cucmber/Banana/Tofu come from? It’s all very phallic and explained in episode one. I”ll let you watch it so that, unlike myselft after a scan through a guardian interview with the writer himself, you don’t feel like you’re having a terrible case of de ja vu.
I wasn’t blownaway after the first episodes. It seemed like the programme was ticking off the diversity boxes in a not-so-subtle way and the storylines were underdeveloped and exaggerated. The threesome/police incident was just silliness. Cue week 2; more cliches and banana was just silliness. The teenage stalker lesbian storyline. Great. And while Tofu seemed like a good idea, having residents of Manchester talking about their sex-lives like the characters from Creature Comforts was unintentionally uncomfortable.
Tofu is, as I’ve indicated, painful.
There’s a middleaged woman reclined, legs akimbo talking frankly about shagging in a hospital, episode 2 sees one chap asking his mother if shes’s “ever stuck her thumb up [his] Dad’s arse?” and various locals just being too candid. The second episode starts with someone commenting that Brits are too guarded about the subject of sex (perhaps to avoid comments like mine), but I think there’s a massive difference between being guarded and crossing a line.
If you do want to squirm in your seat for ten minutes, look out for my personal favourites; 25 year old adult film star Jake who admits to hating sex in episode2 (very telling) and Michael, 26 year old kitchen fitter from somewhere in Yorkshire/Lancashire who tells us of a short lasting romance in Magaluf where the girl asked for him to “put it up her bum” before pooing on his shirt. He left without saying anything anyway, so he obviously valued her as a person. In episode one we’d seen him talking about one night stands,boasting that he gives the lucky lady the options of “ten minutes in the back of the car then on to aclub. You can come with if you want, but I’m taking somebody else home“. Lovely.
I’m hoping that the series gets better. I feel like Tofu is a lost cause; perhaps I’m too much of a prude to talk so openly, or listen to someone be so blunt about their sex life. I’m exactly the person that Tofu inadvertently slags off. But I think that’s me being a bit classy, so I’m okay with it.
What I really want from the series is for it to look at the compexities of being ‘Other’ (Gay, bisexual, trans etc.) in a society where boy/girl relationships are the norm.
I want it to explore coming out- not just the grand gesture but every time you meet someone new, every time you change jobs, when I sit at the hairdressers and they ask me which of the men I like best in I’m a celebrity. I’d like the episodes to look at gay couples on a quest to parenthood and other completely normal, everyday things. Because, for me, being gay isn’t all nights out, Grinder and casual shagging. In fact it’s about as far away from that as you could get.
Sorry, Russel. I wanted to love Cucumber but… 3/10.