Have You Been Watching…Fresh Meat?

Ah, to be a Fresher again. The unwashed dishes, crushing sense of self-doubt, unwise clothing choices and silent weeping in your cell-like room.

Best time of your life, etc.

Why it’s taken until now to make a sitcom about freshers is a bit of a mystery. They’re ripe for mockery: from their faux-confident ‘gap yaah’ chatter to their misguided sexual fumbles and everything that goes with them (namely, chlamydia).

Fresh Meat, written by Peep Show’s creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, revolves around the lives of six undergrad students/flatmates studying at the fictional Medlock University in Manchester.

Of course, freshers are usually young: and series about young people getting drunk and snogging have boomed in recent years, Skins and the Inbetweeners being the obvious examples.

But unlike Skins, Fresh Meat shows late-teens as they really are: inept, self-conscious screw-up merchants who spend their evenings pretending to be something they’re not while downing Aftershock shooters in a dingy city centre pub surrounded by people they’d never have chosen to spend time with in a million years if they hadn’t been randomly dumped in a shared house together by a soulless University administrator. 

Fresh Meat has much more in common with the Inbetweeners, in fact it even shares a cast member: the perpetually confused and awkward Kingsley (Simon/Joe Thomas). However, unlike the Inbetweeners, which became stodgy and reliant on gross-out humour and silly situations in its third series, Fresh Meat feels…well….Fresh.

Even Jack Whitehall- a man more obnoxious than a herd of Young Conservatives at a champagne convention- shines (yes, shines) as posho ‘JP’: a lanky, pretentious toff who bribes other students and is generally about as likeable as an upturned thumb tack on a chair seat.

Although you could argue that he’s just playing himself.

Oregon (if that’s even her real name) is another entertaining addition to the grimy student house: the person everyone remembers from University who’s determined to ‘reinvent’ herself, fitting in with everyone else’s opinions, frantically fibbing about their background, desperately pretending to be ‘cool’.

Oh, and embarking on an entirely misguided affair with her sleazy English Lit tutor into the bargain. Urgh.

Greg ‘Gary Tank Commander’ McHugh is almost unrecognisable as anorak-wearing older student Howard: a sort of Warcraft-playing Mike from Spaced. He’s got a crush on Vod, a moderately thick ‘wild child’ who relentlessly copies other people’s work and prides herself on having never read a book.

Until she does read a book, which she then proclaims in an essay as being ‘fucking brilliant’.

The only fly in the ointment is Josie, a pretty, twee, doll-like girl who’s Kingsley’s main love interest.  She’s clearly meant to be the ‘nice’ one, the girl next door type with a boyfriend back home: but unfortunately she’s also duller than a documentary about lead piping narrated by a three toed sloth.

And ok, yes, fashion is constantly changing (if it didn’t we wouldn’t need shops or Gok Wan) but why on Earth does she dress in a black frock with a giant white lace collar? Is she Amish? It’s hard to fathom what Kingsley- or indeed the boyfriend at home she keeps putting off breaking up with- sees in her.

On the whole though, the characters- even gawky rich boy J.P., who does anything his more popular ex-schoolmates ask him to in an attempt to join their club- are human (i.e. stupid) enough to be likeable.

Highlights so far have included the terrible party where only men, and cringingly matey Geology lecturer Dan (Robert Webb), showed up: not to mention the disastrous blind dating scheme which ends up with one participant dead and J.P. attempting to drug another.

It’s not perfect: it’s a bit too light and lacks Peep Show’s bleak undercurrent of flawed humanity, however it’s certainly the best new sitcom to appear on our screens for a while.

It reminds us that youth isn’t necessarily a good thing: you end up eating things called ‘munge’ voluntarily because you can’t cook, listening to someone you fancy having sex in the room next door…

Oh, and you have to live with Jack Whitehall.

———————————————————–

Fresh Meat is on Channel 4 tonight at 10pm. 

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

2 Responses to Have You Been Watching…Fresh Meat?

  1. biondino says:

    Finally saw it last night. It wasn’t at all bad – less crude than Inbetweeners, less nihilistic than Peppe Show. I agree this maybe leaves it feeling a little bland but I reckon it might grow into something pretty good.

    Tomorrow in “Faint Praise Reviews” I’ll be looking at Autumnwatch and its competent badger-surveillance.

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