In the Venn diagram of television, the comedy-drama is posited in the hinterland between sitcoms and serious drama. In general, they’re not funny enough to be classified as a straight-up comedy show, and lack the requisite tragedy to operate as a melodrama. I found series one of Fresh Meat to be one of the rare examples of a show that worked as both. I was impressed with the way it captured the essence of the university experience: the collision of people from different backgrounds; teenage anxiety; casual promiscuity and experimentation in watchable and amusing way.
The ‘difficult second album/book/series’ cliché is used almost pre-emptively by misanthropic critics. It’s probably The Stone Roses’ fault, after the Madchester pioneers took six years to follow up their eponymous debut album due to contractual wrangles, and when it was released it was really shit. I’ll reserve judgment on Fresh Meat until I’ve seen a few more episodes, but I was a little disappointed with this opening episode, perhaps because my expectations had been so high.
The episode reintroduced the gang for their second semester after a winter of self-discovery (though never-there housemate Paul has finally moved out). They haven’t changed much. JP is still a self-assured posho. Vod’s more skint than ever, taking advantage of her friends to fund her hedonism. Howard’s bagged a job at the local abattoir that allows him to snap up some ‘jazz meat’, paving the way for running meat-based japery: “It’s spare meat… from the loose meat bin… It’s all right. It’s from animals.”
Meanwhile Josie’s still acting horribly as she represses her feelings for series one virgin Kingsley, who is now sporting a curious soul patch and indulging in one-night stands, while Oregan has given her lecturer Tony Shales the shove. Despite JP’s desire to turn the newly-vacant upstairs room into a huge bong, the gang were forced to take on a new housemate, which looks set to alter the dynamic of the house.
Previously a Jack Whitehall-sceptic, I was won round by the comic’s irrepressible performance as JP in the first series and, sure enough, he has the best lines in this opening episode of series two. I didn’t buy JP’s latent homophobia over Giles’ homosexuality though, nor the way he suddenly u-turned and accepted his BFF’s sexual preference on the basis that being gay didn’t equate to Giles wanting to “bum” him.
Although some of the sub-plots are flimsy and the show is not laugh-a-minute the gags are very funny when they do hit, with some delicious turns of phrase, like Josie comparing Kingsley to Russell Brand: “He’ll fuck you, chuck you then gloat about it to your grandad.”
With the acting and writing talent available I fully expect the show to pick up over future weeks so as to avoid a sophomore slump.