Apr 12, 2015

[TV] Banana: Series 1

Alongside Cucumber and the web documentary series Tofu, there's Banana as the other TV show created by Russell T. Davies for Channel 4. While Cucumber is a more traditional serial series with a clear character focus, Banana is something completely different. It's actually an anthology series whose mood and tone seems drastically different from episode to episode. And this is what makes it rather different.

Sure, the show remains connected to Cucumber by virtue of how many of the characters in Banana also appear in Cucumber. And we're not always talking about the primary cast. Beyond the first episode, the stories seem to be more about background characters including the guy they passed on the street or the girl you see in the background. The connection between the two shows is a cute one, but is not essential to the plots of the two shows.

Of the three shows in this block of programming, I have to admit that this surprised me the most, confused me the most but in the end it's the one that I love the most. It's such a brave, bold series and in the end it really had something powerful that it wanted to say.

Synopsis: Banana is an LGBT TV anthology series created by Russell T. Davies. The series airs on E4, Channel 4's pay-TV media property and ran for 8 episodes in its first season.

The show is primarily focused on LGBT youth in Manchester, where Cucumber also takes place. The two shows are initially tied together through the character of Dean (Fisayo Akinade), given the first episode presents the story of what his day was like while all the other stuff was going on. It was a fun moment that actually tied to a revelation of sorts later in the season for Cucumber. Initial episodes focus on his immediate circle of friends such as how Episode 2 is about his friend Skotty () developing a crush on someone she sees at the grocery.

Episode 4 is particularly powerful since it features transgender comedian Bethany Black as Helen who becomes the victim of a revenge plot by an ex-boyfriend. The lengths he is willing to go to make Helen suffer is pretty scary and the episode almost felt like something you'd see as a part of Black Mirror or something. But it was a serious story and it really managed to convey the depths of that particular message.

My favorite episode of the show thus far is Episode 6, which is a rather complex tale of Amy (Charlie Covell) and her rather vivid imagination. She's not exactly crazy - she's just rather imaginative or perhaps borderline paranoid and/or obsessive about certain things. And how this plays in with her efforts to date and gamble on a future relationship or something in the future.

The stories shift back and forth from character to character and story to story. And each episode also shifts in tone from the gravely serious to the almost silly. But each episode on its own is a powerful example of great storytelling with measured build-up, surprise reveals and various moments of brilliance. The stories are rarely all sunshine and roses since the lives of LGBT are not happy ones in the current political climate. But the show isn't depressing either and we still have reason to hope for the best.

And it was nice to see so many of them come back at the tail end of Cucumber.

Banana: Series 1 is a great anthology series and a wonderful channel for communicating more of the stories of the LGBT community. It's not something you can get into lightly since a lot goes on in each episode, but the experience as a whole can be quite rewarding. Thus the series gets a great 4.5 moments of young love out of a possible 5.

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