7 Reasons Why Cucumber Is The Best Gay Drama Since Queer As Folk
Russell T Davies is back, and better than ever...
For many of you young'uns, Russell T Davies is the saviour behind Doctor Who's hugely successful pop cultural regeneration back in 2005.
Warp even further back in time - back to a dark, ethically archaic era known as 1999 - and he all but single-handedly revolutionised the depiction of gay characters and lifestyles on TV with the groundbreaking Queer As Folk.
While Queer As Folk is still a seriously entertaining touchstone in TV history (the BBC has a brilliant rundown of the best outraged reviews - sample vitriol: "Call me old fashioned but I think sex is best carried out in private between two consulting adults of the opposite sex"), things have changed a lot in the years since it aired.
Civil partnerships, same-sex marriages, and a host of, shall we say 'liberating' dating apps mean the modern gay landscape is a drastically different place. And while subsequent series - such as the US reinterpretation of QoF and HBO's admirable Looking - have filled the gap (fnar), nothing's quite touched Folk's culturally dated but thematically pitch-perfect blend of LOLs, raunchiness and affecting drama.
So HURRAH for Cucumber, Tofu and Banana, three interconnecting series crafted by Davies, which start on Channel 4 tonight. In case you weren't excited already, here are a few reasons for why you should be getting your giddy on.
It shows what happens AFTER you settle down
It's rare you ever see a straight couple on TV in that odd, displaced period of their relationship before OAP-ery, after settling down and sans kids. It's even rarer you ever see a three dimensional, middle-aged gay couple struggling to exist in a suburbian purgatory of their own design.
Which is where Henry and Lance come in, our enjoyably flawed, sexually frustrated couple of nine years. Sure, they're 'fine', but are they happy? Let's just say things are in a very different place at the end of Episode 1.
You’ll never look at Ryan Reynolds in the same way again
We really, really hope Ryan Reynolds watches British gay dramas. Because if he tunes into the first episode of Cucumber, he's going to see Henry orate one of the most imaginatively described masturbation fantasies ever seen on TV (or likely spoken about by your friends) starring (in description only) the Canadian hunk. To say any more would give away the amazingly entrancing, psychologically transparent speech, but trust us when we say you'll never be able to look at him in the same way again.
It’s genuinely hilarious
While Cucumber's never less than permanently chuckle-inducing, there are more than enough spit-your-drink-out guffaw eruptions guaranteed. If there's a greater middle-class passive-aggresive apology for accidentally seeing your neighbour masturbate every night, we've yet to see/hear it.
There’s actual drama
Sure, there are quotable lines and LOLs aplenty, but its in the subtle interweaving of the drama with the tragi-comedy that Russell T Davies reminds us why he's one of the UK's brightest creative talents. In one marvellous narrative super-edit including a deportation drama, a cancer reveal (involving orange spunk), and the stunning breakdown of a relationship, we see multiple lives crumble down around themselves - yet the ridiculousness of the chaotic contrast ensures it's always as amusing as it is moving.
The interconnectedness is rather brilliant
Interconnected TV shows don't have the best track record (excuse us while we PTSD all over that whole EastEnders and E20 'yoof' spin-off). But Cucumber (on Channel 4) and Banana (on teen-focused sister channel E4) compliment each other in the most obvious and brilliant of ways (with online spin-off Tofu rounding off the whole thing to offer a documentary-style look at the themes and characters behind the dramatic debauchery).
Both shows are as witty, heartfelt and fleshed out, offering dual looks at gay culture that compliment and highlight the joy, heartache and ridiculousness of your love life at every age.
The Rise of the Planet of the Apps
Yep, Grindr, Scruff, Tindr et all are all more than acknowledged. It's a very, very different world to the Canal Street cruising of Queer as Folk.
Welcome to the joy and heartbreak of getting older
No matter your orientation or age, Cucumber has something very pertinent to say about the realities of romance and how the initial thrill of young love evolves into something just as complex, and equally as confusing. Talking about their past loves and the 'ones who got away', it's a fascinating look into whether the 'spark' truly dies or whether it's just laying dormant, ready to be reignited.
Cucumber starts on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm, with Banana starting straight after on E4 at 10pm.