Let's cut to the chase: You should definitely be watching Cucumber and Banana, the two new series airing on Logo following RuPaul's Drag Race. The pair of intertwined shows are must-see TV not only because they both bring a glut of diverse LGBT characters to television, but also because they feature some of the richest, most rewarding storytelling you'll find on TV -- gay, straight or otherwise.
Cucumber focuses on a middle-aged gay man in Manchester, while Banana is an anthology that showcases a variety of different stories featuring LGBT youth. Characters cross over from each show into the other and plots overlap, but it's possible to watch just one series without the other and still keep up.
Not that you'd want to miss out on either series, because they are both brilliant. Even as someone who grew to love Looking, it's hard not to compare these two new shows about the lives of gay men with the recently canceled HBO dramedy. Although the series was not created as some sort of response to all the backlash Looking received, it is pretty remarkable how deftly Cucumber and Banana avoid many of the same pitfalls. First off, both new series feature a diverse cast of varying ages, gender identities, races, and sexualities. The two-show structure (and Banana's anthology format) helps, as it allows more narrative space to explore an array of characters while ensuring the relationships all feel meaningful and true.
The other big complaint that plagued Looking's two beautiful, but understated seasons was that they were boring. That's definitely not the case here. Both Cucumber and Banana are wildly entertaining and inventive, subjecting their characters to emotional highs and lows that range from the strikingly relatable to the hilariously absurd. These are gay characters, but their sexual identities are the least interesting things about them. That's not to say they're straight-washed -- these shows are both still wonderfully and wickedly infused with queer culture and sensibilities -- but it's the unexpected extremes to which Cucumber and Banana go that will stay with you after the credits roll. (Episode two of Banana is particularly powerful.)
The most stunning thing is how effortless it all seems. That's likely thanks to the brilliant Russell T Davies (above, right), the veteran TV writer behind Cucumber and Banana, as well as the groundbreaking series Queer As Folk and the popular reboot of Doctor Who.
We had the chance to speak with Davies about his new shows and the state of gay representation on TV. See what he had to say, AFTER THE JUMP ...