TV Review - Cucumber

Vincent Franklin (left) and Cyril Nri in 'Cucumber'
Russell T. Davies is best known for creating the British series Queer As Folk. He's back with a triple-whammy. He's created three new programs. One is a hour-long serial. One is a half-hour anthology, and one is a documentary. This program is the hour-long serial and feels like the more interesting show focusing on the lives of two older gay men living in Manchester. The half-hour anthology called Banana focuses on various LGBT youth but is derivative of the hour-long drama or tangential. The documentary called Tofu is derivative in a different way. Davies is a great writer whose work across the board is fantastic, but the bulk of his brilliance seemed to have been poured here into this hour-long serial that certainly has its funny moments. However, out of the eight episodes for this program, it builds to a climax in episode six, which spoils the entire ride thus far.

Each episode begins with a scene of Henry Best in the supermarket or grocery store, roaming the aisles with his shopping cart. Besides getting food, he's mostly cruising, although his goal isn't to pick up anybody and take them home for sex. He's ogling the handsome, young men to put it bluntly, eyeing their rear-ends and their crotches, while picturing them naked and in various sexual positions.

Vincent Franklin stars as Henry Best. His opening narration cites a study from an institute in Sweden that analyzes male erection. The study said there are four stages, referencing how the human penis feels to the touch. The first stage feels like tofu, which presumably is a flaccid or non-erect state. The second stage is a peeled banana. The third is an non-peeled banana, and the fourth stage is the last and the hardest. It's the name of this program.

Ironically, Henry himself is seemingly the last person in this story to have sex. He's also the hardest, meaning the most difficult, specifically when it comes to intercourse. It seems not to affect his desire. Oral sex or mutual masturbation is something he'll do, but intercourse is squeamish for Henry. Unfortunately, after nine years, Henry's boyfriend has had enough.

Cyril Nri co-stars as Lance Sullivan, the boyfriend who has had enough. His break-up from Henry is hilarious and heartbreaking. It happens in the first episode and it paves the way for a great run of episodes. Unfortunately, where Davies takes this character is lame, pathetic and ultimately horrifying. It's acceptable because Davies has done lame, pathetic and ultimately horrifying things to gay characters before. It certainly was the case in the American version of Queer As Folk.

Henry goes to live with two younger guys in a loft after breaking up with Lance. Henry is a balding, middle-aged man, and it's lame and pathetic because of course he's jealous of the amount of sex the younger guys are having, particularly Dean, played by Fisayo Akinade. He also lusts after one of the younger guys for his sheer, twink-like beauty, that of Freddie, played by Freddie Fox (Pride). The way things develop lessens the lameness and Henry's pathetic nature, but it always seems so stupid and desperate of him to be there.

On the other hand, Lance starts to crush heavily on his co-worker Daniel, played by James Murray. Daniel is straight but at best has some curiosities. Lance befriends Daniel and continually tries to ingratiate himself, secretly hoping to have sex with Daniel. This comes to a tragic conclusion in Episode 6 but not before the program gives us the entire life story of Lance and his nearly 50 years on Earth.

Episode 6 starts with Lance Sullivan in the supermarket or grocery store, roaming the aisles with his shopping cart. The program then flashes back to Lance's birth and proceeds to take us through 40 years of his life, including the last nine years with Henry. There are a lot of typical scenes but done in such a brilliant or innovative way. It provides a great portrait of Lance, which makes his actions in the past five episodes and the ending in the sixth even that more odd.

The idea that Lance would lust after Daniel, a straight guy, is bad enough. Given all that we see of Lance's history, the idea is even worse and makes no sense. Lance's history in Episode 6 shows that Lance has not had trouble finding boyfriends and having sex. Even in the first episode, nine years of monogamy to Henry still didn't prevent Lance from picking up a guy for a possible threesome, so I don't understand why his obsession with Daniel or his inability to walk away from Daniel who was never particularly seductive or flattering.

Lance could have had sex with so many other guys than Daniel, guys just as good-looking. Why Lance wanted Daniel never was explained beyond the superficial. Sometimes, an explanation isn't necessary, but, in this case, it is because of all the barriers and resistance like Daniel being straight and him being awful and insulting.

It's difficult to discount all of the interesting characters and stories that happen tangentially. Freddie's relationship with his professor Gregory, played by Edward MacLiam (EastEnders and Holby City), was exciting and scary. A naked Q-and-A with Henry's date Rupert, played by Rufus Hound, was pretty funny. Henry's conversation about porn with the politically conservative Leigh, played by Phaldut Sharma (EastEnders), was also pretty funny and insightful. The lip-sync, YouTube videos from Henry's nephew Adam, played by Ceallach Spellman, was strange and great commentary on culture.

For the series to crash so hard in Episode 6 is very disappointing. I don't want to dismiss the whole program because of it, but I feel so strongly against Episode 6 that I can't help it.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Available on Logo TV.

Comments

  1. Interesting comments. Here is my own take on it, from a while back:
    http://osullivan60.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/tv-cucumber-banana-mormons.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see you had the opposite opinion about Episode 6. I just don't get why Lance would chase after Daniel and not let him go. Lance has proven he can do better. It just made no sense.

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