Over the last couple of weeks you may have been slightly hypnotised by the vibrant and tongue-in-cheek adverts on Channel 4 and E4, unashamedly replete with phallic imagery, namely in the form of cucumbers, bananas and tofu. Which is exactly what they are advertising, not some vegan disaster of a smoothie recipe but Russell T. Davies’ new triptych series exploring the world of sex and relationships, with a focus on homosexuality.
The parent show, Cucumber, follows the lives of Henry and Lance, a middle aged gay couple and the troubles they face in their relationship. This show acts as an unofficial follow on from Davies’ seminal Queer as Folk, and like its predecessor it shouldn’t be taken as a representation of modern day gay life but rather a humorous shorthand look at relationships through the homosexual rainbow prism. Davies treads a careful line between overt gay stereotyping and representing the LGBT community as more than their sexual orientation, something that has been sorely missed from television in recent years.
E4’s Banana is undoubtedly aimed at a younger audience and it follows in the style of Skins, structuring itself around a different character each week. Banana is refreshing in that it illustrates more to being young and gay than the coming out process. Banana purposefully presents characters that are ‘out’ and comfortable with their sexuality. On a side note, if Russel T. Davies and Skins creators Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain don’t team up to create Banana Skins then they’ve missed a trick.
The show is linked to Cucumber, where stories overlap but their subtle difference in tone doesn’t give the impression of watching a repeat and retains its mark as a stand-alone programme. The two series are polished off with a slick soundtrack that will have you reaching for your Shazam app.
The online series, Tofu, created by YouTube star Benjamin Cook, proves to be a bizarre mix of interviews and a sci-fi short about virtually rating sexual encounters in a style reminiscent of something from Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. The interviews take the form of short and exceedingly candid vox-pops from a whole range of people including cast members and adult film stars. It’s worth the watch just for some of the undiluted, brutally honest accounts of sex from some unassuming people.
If the opening episodes are anything to go by, the three series show promise and if Cucumber and Banana count towards our five a day, we’ll have extra helpings please.
Episode 2 of Cucumber, Banana and Tofu air tonight from 9pm on Channel 4, E4 and 4oD.