Cucumber on Channel 4

A friend and colleague yesterday asked me if I still write. I haven’t written anything other than marketing copy or emails for a few years but I have been watching a fair amount of TV. Not as much as I used to but this January and February I’ve followed three series: Broadchurch, Wolf Hall and Cucumber.

As I tried to go to sleep last night I couldn’t get the latest episode of Channel 4’s Cucumber out of my head. It was shocking, in the sense that I really didn’t see what happened coming and it was disturbing. It felt like the sort of thing that could happen in real life and I had to remind myself I’d watched actors working with a fabulous script by Russell T Davies of whom I a fan.

Davies of course wrote Queer As Folk back in the late 90s about a group of young gay men in Manchester. That series was shocking at the time in its portrayal of fairly explicit gay sex and Cucumber comes in the same vein, if you will, only this time it’s about a group of middle-aged gay men in Manchester.

I could try to write something serious about why I’m interested in a drama about northern gay men. But instead I’ll say something glib which is who wouldn’t want to watch a drama about a group of people of roughly similar age to you but with relatively few responsibilities and a lifestyle which is subtly different from the one you find yourself living. TV is about escapism after all.

But last night’s episode, which I won’t ruin too much for those watching on catch-up, was a kick to the guts and a reminder that people can face danger in the most mundane circumstances as they go about their lives, socialising and working, simply because other people can be unpredictable even to themselves.

It will be fascinating to see how the next episode deals with the storyline of Lance, the gay black guy who moved to Manchester for work and who fell in love; who had a hard time with his partner and whose story was last night told over an episodic hour of flashbacks and present-day action. Thought-provoking and visceral but never sentimental it was easily one of the best things I’ve seen on TV for some time.


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