This review contains spoilers.
When the first series of Fresh Meat was announced, my expectations were set sky high. A comedy drama dreamt up by Bain and Armstrong, the creators of the superlative Peep Show starring The Inbetweeners’ Joe Thomas, Greg McHugh, better known to Scottish viewers as Gary: Tank Commander, and young stand-up Jack Whitehall. Oh well, can’t have it all I s’pose…
But despite the obvious talent of all involved, something just didn’t work about it. There was a clear intention to have Kingsley and Josie as the hot couple we would all be rooting for. The problem was that Kingsley was a wet blanket and Josie was such a horrible person, I actually let out a little cheer when Kingsley walked away in the end. The stand-out character with the biggest journey was Oregon who learned to value herself a bit more rather than seek the validation of others.
So! We come to the first episode of a new semester for our not-so-freshers and it starts with JP finding out exactly how much he doesn’t know about one of his oldest, and closest, friends. And the gang finding out exactly how irresponsible Vod is with other people’s money. On the evidence of this opener though, it’s not so much fresh meat as old leather.
Eschewing the progress made in the last series, there’s still an intent on making Kingsley and Josie the focus of the series. If only the same amount of effort went into making either character likeable. Kingsley now has a soul patch and talks like a stoner and Josie makes an attempt to sabotage his chances with her new BFF, Heather. Oregon is now interning with the ex-wife of the lecturer she seemed to outgrow last year, a story thread that came to its natural conclusion in series one. The unseen flatmate of last series is now gone to be replaced by Sabine, the foreign mature student. Howard is… whatever he was in the first place.
There’s a rather unpleasant case of having cake and eating it upon JP’s acceptance of his friend’s homosexuality in a punishingly long sequence of having JP repeat “bumming” over and over again as if anal sex is inherently hilarious. It’s also endemic of the problems that lie at the heart of Fresh Meat in that no one’s really sure if this is a sitcom or a drama.
Series 1, for all of its faults, had a few genuinely affecting moments, like JP losing his father and the aforementioned progression of Oregon. But there was also a heavy reliance on juvenile gags and throwaway quips which made it all seem like Peep Show: The Next Generation.
As is the problem with many other comedy-dramas, one comes at the expense of other. And judging by this episode, that remains a problem. JP dealing with his friend’s coming out is a character moment spoiled by its own punchline. The rest of the drama is contrived beyond belief and the comedy is pretty witless. Hopefully, there’ll be improvements made along the way but this opening episode isn’t promising.
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