Apr 19, 2015

[TV] Tofu: Series 1

So apart from Cucumber and Banana, we have Tofu, the last part of the triumvirate of shows created by Russell T. Davies. Whereas the 2 prior shows are pretty much regular TV releases, Tofu is distinct given it's a companion web series for the show. And now, let's not get into the ridiculous argument where I berate the point that the medium of a show does not really define its genre. A show is a show whether online or on TV.

If you want to talk about genres, then we have to look at Tofu as a documentary series where we have various individuals expressing their opinions about various topics, a lot of which have to do with changing views of sex and things of a sexual nature.

As much as the series connects to the other shows, admittedly it's not all that compelling and feels like it sticks out a little oddly. Then again, this is a documentary series while the others are fiction-focused pieces, thus it's bound to be different. But it does have fun with itself as needed.

Synopsis: Tofu is a documentary web series aired primarily on 4oD, Channel 4's video-on-demand service. The series was again created by Russell T. Davies.

The show is hosted by journalist and YouTube personality Benjamin Cook and speaks a wide range of individuals about various topics. The show has some more direct connections with its sister shows given members of the cast are part of the interviews, but we also get a wide variety of different people of various ages and backgrounds including a couple of porn stars.

And the show couldn't have been easy since almost all the topics have something to do with sex. The first episode is "Good Sex, Bad Sex" that pretty much had the folks all talking about some of the best and worst sexual experiences they can remember. And the various episodes all run this way and end up feeling like the sort of conversations you have while drinking with friends or something. And given how folks generally feel about talking about things of a sexual nature, I can imagine many of them needed to have a drink or two before going on camera.

The series had some pretty queer-focused episodes like "Coming Out" and "Queer as F**k" both being rather distinctly LGBT-related topics. But then you have tricky topics that apply to any group - the best example of this being "Not Having Sex" that talks about the various circumstances when folks end up not having sex, even in the context of a relationship. And that can't possible be an easy topic to tackle, and so kudos to the folks in the group who agreed to these interviews and went along with the various topics.

The show could have had a bit more of a focus, maybe, or perhaps a more distinct goal as far as the documentary aspect is concerned. Every episode feels like someone got a list of loosely-connected questions together and then they just went ahead and filmed the people talking in order to see what would come out. This isn't too bad on its own - it certainly all feels very conversational and natural. But at the same time, this could have been a good platform for a particular message of sorts, as is often the case for many documentaries. You still need to tell a story of sorts in these things after all.

But the show definitely felt like a good little thought experiment and the sort of thing I'd like to use to stir up conversations together with friends as well. And I'm not just talking about my gay friends but anyone really. The show nicely touches on the fact that sex is universal, regardless of gender.

Tofu may be the weakest element in the trinity of shows released by Davies over the past year. but it's still a fun little addition. I'd like to see more such efforts in the future, if only to explore what else people have to say about the rapidly changing world we're living in and how attitudes towards sex are evolving in turn. The series as a whole gets a decent 3 weird dramatized interludes within the series out of a possible 5.


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