06 February 2015

TV: Banana i

The way Banana and Cucumber have been designed to marry up is very clever, surely that's something that's only to be expected from the raft of talent invested in them. Banana - a simultaneous spin-off - focuses for now around Dean, who works for HC Clements with Henry Best, the star of parent show Cucumber.

Whilst I can't say that I enjoyed this episode as much as the first of Russell T Davies' other new series, I still loved it. The theme of chaos overriding everything is present once again, only this time, it's the chaos personality flaws cause rather can create that's under the microscope. Within the first minute, we're already an emotional wreck following Davies' typically bold introductory style, as we see Dean's newly-acquired lover pass away. The writer has a love of comic strips, perhaps explaining why he is so good at saying so much with so little. The introduction is told entirely through images, not a word spoken, but as Dean's boyfriend breathes his last we're already tearing up. What a writer.

Banana is the best kind of spin-off; it complements and expands upon the main article very well, but one really isn't essential for enjoyment of the other. The cavalcade of catastrophes than consume an average day of Dean's life are cleanly presented here, and Davies takes the interesting tact of making them all his own fault too. It's another stunning opening episode launched with an extraordinary team behind it. Fisayo Akinade is a natural leading man, and when he's onscreen it's nigh-on impossible for your eyes to leave him, making some scenes a little awkward. The continual lack of self-confidence and unintentional shame seep through in the writing and Akinade's acting through what's not said, showcasing talent of the highest degree. Dean's out, but where his family's concerned he's far from proud, and would much rather run away than confront it.

The direction of this, courtesy of Lewis Arnold, is punchy and thoughtful when appropriate. His blend of framing and actor fluidity really helps create a polished finished product, and I fully expect Arnold's career to explode as a result of the exposure he's gaining here. Ben Foster is another name carried over from BBC Wales to Red Productions, and I'm glad. Whilst his score isn't quite as distinctive as Murray Gold's for Cucumber, it's still excellent, with some really nice pieces in there. I hope the soundtrack gets a commercial release - there's at least one guaranteed sale.

All in all, this is another excellent accomplishment and pits Banana as a strong forerunner for my second favourite series of the year so far (guess what's first!). Russell T Davies (supported of course by the undercelebrated Julie Gardner and Nicola Shindler) has burst back onto the scene with two astoundingly good new shows, and re-affirmed my faith in him as one of the best screenwriters of all time (and my favourite of anything, since you didn't ask). Others may accuse me of being biased and believing Davies can't put a foot wrong, but going off the back of this and Cucumber's first episodes, surely there's no room for dispute? 


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