Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 6 March 2015

TV: Cucumber, banana and S.S.A. !

QUEER AS FOLK was a television sensation back in 1999 - Russell T. Davies' groundbreaking series defined gay life and became a must see, a terrific mix of comedy and drama. The American version was also a success and ran for much longer, I never saw any of that, but we loved the British version, all two series of it, with Aiden Gillen, Charlie Hunnan and Craig Kelly). Russell then went on to re-boot vintage BBC series DR WHO which became another enormous success. I am not a DR WHO fanatic as such, but liked what I saw of it. Now, he returns with a new series: CUCUMBER, followed by companon series BANANA featuring minor characters who pop up in CUCUMBER, with an online follow-up TOFU. Confused? You will be  .... (cucumber, banana and tofu being accepted terms describing stages of male erection). 
We had high hopes for CUCUMBER but I bailed out after the second episode, as this this new series did not appeal to me at all. The main character Henry (Vincent Franklin) was unpleasant as indeed were most of them - Henry's partner Lance, and a younger guy Dean who seemed to live for fun and casual hook-ups. Nothing wrong with that, we all did it in our time... There there is petulant beauty Freddie - in what universe is he a sex god (and I speak as having seen him (Freddie Fox) naked on stage in THE JUDAS KISS a few years back (Theatre/gay interest labels).  As QAF defined gay life for guys in their 20s or 30s back in the 1990s, is CUCUMBER meant to be about older gays  in their mid 40s getting to grips with modern gay life now, with all its apps and hook-up sites? Henry and Lance split up after 9 years together - the sex had become non-existant, and Lance is avid for new experiences. In the first episode he brings back that drugged guy for a threesome, which does not quite work out, and ends with the police being called. Henry improbably moves into a large warehouse to share with younger guys Freddie and Dean .... It all got a bit boring for me about then, and I was quite happy to miss a few episodes, after Freddie got revenge on an ex-teacher of his ...
So we move on to episode 6, and suddenly I am watching the most shattering, brilliant 49 minutes of television I have seen in a long time, as Davies boldly re-writes the story by killing off one of his main characters. We are warned from the start as the titles flash up: , ‘Lance Edward Sullivan, 1966 – 2015’. as we follow British black Lance's life from birth to death. He is at first a baby, then a toddler, then hiding gay magazines. A great 80s soundtrack covers his teen years - Eurythmics and then Annie Lennox, as Lance (Cyril Nri) goes clubbing and has early dates. A hilarious montage shows him arriving at the family home each Christmas bearing gifts for his bewildered father, as Lance has a different guy in tow each year, until when he turns up alone - as his partner has died of that new affliction affecting gays - and is finally asked in. Then Henry enters the picture and we see them settling down and eventually breaking up, as Lance starts (foolishly) pursuing that conflicted guy Daniel (James Murray). 
We know something bad is going to happen as the ghost of Hazel (marvellous Denise Black from QAF) appears and warns him to go home, but it is one of those crazy nights and Lance rushes headlong to his doom, going back with Daniel who turns very nasty and ends up whacking Lance's head with a golf club (as he screams "now look what you made me do") as dying Lance sits there and sees moments of his life flash before his eyes. It is a brilliant episode by any standards, and makes one realise how lucky one was not to meet any psychos .....  It amounts to a shattering piece of television drama and is highly recommended. 
I wanted episode 7 (screened last night) to continue with the police calling to tell Henry what has happened and see his smug self-regard crumble, as the group reacted to the fallout of Lance's murder, but Davies instead opens the episode with his funeral, maybe a week later, and Henry seems back to being his usual snarky self, as family and friends gather. He gives in to his grief eventually but its a long time coming, during that crazy long car ride with Freddie and Dean as they try to find a nearby guy from their phone app - Freddie also gets turned down by a waiter at the funeral "who does not do over 21"!. Meanwhile Lance's sister has gained control of their house and is claiming half of it - did Lance not leave a will? Did they not have the right kind of mortgage where the survivor gets the whole property? 
The sister comes up with a killer line: Henry is not the boyfriend, he is just the ex - even though he paid for half the house, and she wants Lance's share. Events move on, as the guys are turfed out of the warehouse and Lance brings them all back to the house, and the sister leaves.  What happens next in the final episode next week? Lots of loose threads to tie up, will Henry ever be happy and liked? and what of Freddie and Dean and all the other guys?
Much more amusing was a documentary, aired in the USA in January: MY HUSBAND IS NOT GAY, about Mormon husbands (and their wives) who do not define themselves as gay, but that they suffer from 'SSA' - same sex attraction. Any man it seems can suffer from this condition - hence talking about it on television - which is ok as long as they do nothing about it. With the aid of their lovely wives the men, who all want families and marriage, do their best to overcome this affliction and be good Mormons. Rather awkward in the restaurant when there an is an attractive waiter and the wives ask if they find him attractive.... This is an engaging, amusing look at how people see themselves. Are they gays who want to live the Mormon lifestyle with wife and children? The husbands do get some time off the leash though to go on occasional camping weekends and one guesses what what goes on there stays there .... the look on a wife's face when the husband announces he is going away for the camping weekend rather says it all! This was on a cable channel here (TLC), and is worth catching, should it be repeated. 

We have not seen any of LOOKING yet, so maybe time to catch up with that, particularly with Russell Tovey on board ....

1 comment:

  1. I had the exact opposite feeling about 'Cucumber' and episode 6. I just didn't get the character of Lance. The juxtaposition of his past life with his current life didn't match for me.