You often hear the generalism that there's nothing on TV worth watching anymore. Of course, now that there are hundreds of channels available for your consumption, there can be times when programmes take a dip below the perceived level of quality that deserve commissioning. To counteract that there are the likes of Cucumber, Banana and Tofu which come along and give you a reason to be pleased that the gogglebox is nestled in the corner of the room.
It looked like an ambitious undertaking as there were going to be three programmes on different channels and platforms, which would stand alone as stories but interlink together to give the viewer more depth. It has become one of the most innovative projects to come to television but when you hear that Queer as Folk and Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies is behind this, then you know that this is no real surprise after all.
One of the programme's stars, Andrew Hayden-Smith is quick to confirm this, "The concept of the three shows inter-connecting is fresh and exciting and it's great to be a part of something like that. I honestly don't know how Russell's mind works, being able to write stories from different characters perspectives that conjoin in the way they do. He's a genius."
Not only has this been a new way to bring a series to the viewers it is also stands out as a fantastic comedy drama which stands head and shoulders above its peers and should be the first on the nominations list for television awards as it will be a surprise if anything tops this story of love and relationships before the year is out.
So why does Cucumber deserve such high praise? Speaking to Vincent Franklin, who plays the lead role of Henry Best, it seems there is a simple formula, "It is a brilliant entertaining drama." Of course what make this stand out from the crowd is that drama revolves around Henry's relationship with Lance and how a middle aged gay couple find new paths as they approach a new phase in their lives.
The show becomes accessible to all due to Davies' brilliant script and top notch acting that makes essential viewing. Vincent Franklin explains, "it is ridiculous to think that you'd have to be gay to get Henry as he is like me and exactly like a lot of middle aged men all over. It is great to see the gay community portrayed and celebrated like any other. The ice was broken with Queer as Folk and without that programme we probably wouldn't have been able to make this. It used to be that television programmes were made for middle-aged viewers but filled with pretty young things. Now that it is middle-aged people who are in the roles, it is a reflection of the viewers and that's why other shows like Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax have proved to be so popular."
The importance of Cucumber, Banana and Tofu cannot be underestimated as it can open doors to enlightenment just as Queer as Folk did for a generation beforehand. This isn't lost on Hayden-Smith who found that that series in the nineties was just what he needed during a time of discovery.
"I was just a 15 year old boy when Queer As Folk first aired and at the time I was going through the whole dealing with my sexuality thing, so to see this programme on TV that celebrated gay people so brilliantly with characters who were confident about their sexuality and who they were, that helped me enormously. I watched it, quite literally with my finger on the remote control in my bedroom, just in case my parents walked in. Some of those scenes were quite the eye-opener for me!"
Cucumber doesn't hold back on the sex scenes either but this hasn't stopped it reaching the eyes that other programmes haven't been able and this has surprised Vincent Franklin, especially when he is accosted at a railway station. "I was waiting on a platform recently and this austere elderly woman was looking at me as she sat on the bench. I think I know you, you're Henry she eventually said and it was then I realised how far Cucumber had gone."
Fortunately the likes of Cucumber is watched by people who are serious about their television viewing and bright and intelligent enough to separate Franklin from his character but the affection that he is held by viewers has touched Franklin. "I was in a lawyers the other day and bumped in to someone who felt they needed to give Henry relationship advice so that he could win back Lance. I think it is really important about be given the chance to put gay people on screen that aren't there as a comedy sidekick or a [pastiche]."
So will Cucumber leave the door ajar for more programmes now that its content is becoming more socially accepted? Andrew Hayden-Smith hopes so, "[especially If it can] help someone in the same way that Queer as Folk helped me when I needed that little boost. We've come a long way in terms of acceptance since QAF first aired and that's reflected in the new shows. I can think of just three TV shows that focus on the lives of gay people that are on at the moment and two of those are Cucumber and Banana. That's three shows out of all of the hundreds of others in the schedule. I think there needs to be more gay characters on TV in general. It's certainly getting better for that but we could do with having more."
Russell T Davies has proved once again that he can create a world of deeply flawed characters that worm their way in to your affection and Vincent Franklin is delighted to have been given the chance to be part of something "heartbreakingly brilliant that takes me out of my comfort zone".
Will this twisted love story have a happy ending? Will relationships be resolved and leave us contented that all ends well? "There is a desire for a romantic ending", says Franklin, "but life doesn't work out like that sometimes".