A British comedy series that kicked off in 2011, Fresh Meat follows the fumblings of six college students picked to live in off-campus housing together,
and start getting real, where their differences result into much silliness, mischief and mayhem.
While the title and promo images like the one above had me dubious about this randy romp, I found myself ripping through the Netflix-recommended first season. Fresh Meat plays like a funky and frothy mix of such addictive shows as Peep Show, The Inbetweeners, Spaced, and Happy Endings.
Created by Peep Show writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, Fresh Meat shares that celebrated comedy series’ satirical leanings, setting up each housemate as a stand-in for a particular brand of college kid/ideology. There’s posh and privileged bro-dude JP, naive virgin Kinglsey, control-freak goody-two-shoes Josie, class-guilt-stricken poser Oregon, anarchist party girl Vod, and loony loner Howard.
Proudly anti-intellectual, Vod (Zawe Ashton) is reminiscent of Peep Show’s rebel without a clue, Jez. But rather than musical ambitions, this towering tomboy sparks to literary-inspired outbursts over Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (so good she actually read it) and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (which she compared to having an old man’s “big overrated bullocks” choking off her airways). She’s even got a dash of Super Hans level devil-may-care, following up a wild night that ended in a trip to the emergency room with a drug trip turned impromptu road trip. (“Awesome trees!”)
Also true to Peep Show’s sometimes brutal brand of humor is its treatment of sex. These sex-crazed co-eds scramble to make sense of themselves, while attempting to reject gender norms, shame, and taboos, leading to loads of outrageous bits. For instance, Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie) kicks off an affair with her lit professor, but at no point is it the stuff of fantasy, instead involving creepy compliments, embarrassing trysts, and the literal cleaning of his oven while his wife natters on in the background. There’s also risky yet brilliant gags about consent, slut shaming, and fetishization.
Oh, and did I mention Robert Webb recurs as a painfully uncool geology professor in desperate need of student approval and bromance.
As Kingsley, he’s ducked Simon’s sulking, yet still remains totally clueless on how to deal with his crush. His will-they-won’t-they romance with Josie (Kimberley Nixon)—the least zany housemate—makes for much of the season’s overarching drama, as well as some of its most awkwardly funny moments. Like that time he had to listen to her reunion with her hometown boyfriend through their very, very thin shared wall.
As much as Fresh Meat gives us juicy opportunities to laugh at this group of geeks, goofballs and douchebags, it can get a little Degrassi up in its 50-minute eps. We’re urged to empathize in tender moments, whether they be Vod and Oregon’s banter-fueled heart-to-hearts, or that time JP (Jack Whitehall) used a dying horse as a conduit to express his love for his recently departed dad.
Even the house weirdo Howard (Greg McHugh)—who is introduced bottomless and murmuring gibberish—is granted complexity. Though he starts off as a stocky specter of anti-social behavior reminiscent of Nick Frost in Spaced, Howard’s housemates inspire him to open up about his love of geology, his desire for a girlfriend, and his tricks for making the most of an all-you-can-eat buffet.
As the show went on, I became entangled in these kooky kids’ lives, and thrilled at how the storylines gleefully tossed different pairings together. Like Happy Endings, Fresh Meat boasts a charismatic cast with such compelling chemistry that it opens up a whole world of storytelling possibilities as their worldviews and quirks collide.
Basically, check out Fresh Meat season one on Netflix.
Kristy Puchko also was happy to learn synonyms for “sausage party” like “brorade” and “testicle festicle.”