Banana: Violet and Sian — review

Screenplay by Sue Perkins.

The reason I started watching Banana (and its parent Cucumber) is because it’s written by Russell T. Davies, without whom I might not even be running this blog. This week’s episode of Banana isn’t written by Davies, but Sue Perkins. And believe me, it shows.

Banana, as a show, mostly works because of its format as an anthology show with continuity links to Cucumber. Generally, I prefer Cucumber for the same reason I disliked this episode, which is standalone. And being a standalone makes it easier to view as its own presentation, and on that basis – what the hell?

Generally, I like Banana. I find it entertaining and at times deep. But the strength of the show means each episode has the unfortunate requirement to work twice as effectively as a continuing show, because each week, there are new characters to establish and develop, and there’s often a sexual concept at the centre of it. There’s the risk with that kind of story-telling of it wearing-thin after a few episodes, and, whilst I’m not going to be so dramatic as declaring that to be now, this would appear to be the first dip in quality.

This week’s episode, Violet and Sian, has two things going for it: the arguably rare occurrence of both parent and child being gay, as well as a love story between one of those characters developing. Unfortunately, none of those two things really work and the episode’s easily forgettable because of its lack of impact. The idea of a parent and child both being gay is introduced well, and could have gone somewhere. It has a few moments that explored it, but they happened as angry monologues from the mother, which was a shame, since their backstory had some real potential to be interesting and it’s only touched-upon fleetingly, with the only mention of it being that heterosexuality in their household wasn’t really talked about. But then the romance between Violet and Sian was also very standard. In a nutshell, the plot is “they meet, fall in love, move in, have an argument, fall out, and then it’s open ended”. But that’s just storytelling. That’s not a problem intrinsic to it, but’s it’s so frustratingly, boringly basic. There was none of the charm or cheek that Davies could have provided. The bravery and charisma of his characters was just absent. This episode was about one thing and one thing only – the absence of Russell T. Davies. Instead, we have Sue Perkins. I’m not familiar with Perkins’ work, so I honestly can’t say whether I’d normally like what she writes. But that’s what’s at stake, and I can’t just be that forgiving on the basis of it being her first time writing something I’ve seen. And not to inflate my own ego, but I view her from the point of view of what I’ve been exposed to by her, so if she’s normally very good, that’s just unfortunate, because I didn’t like it.

That said, this episode didn’t work for me for the same reason the show does. It’s a good opportunity for new writers to get their chance at writing LGBT romance on television and could be a formula for success. If future episode aren’t written by Davies, I’m not going to be skeptical. I’m going to go into them with an open mind and hope that this week’s chosen writer can write episodes that reinforce the depth of the show so far and include more social and emotional ideas – something other than just filler.

Banana: Violet and Sian – unmemorable, undeveloped, formulaic, disappointing filler 4/10.


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