Thursday, 29 September 2011


Thursday, 29 September 2011
I'm glad last week's premiere was almost universally praised. I thought the first episode was a fantastic introduction that effortlessly introduced its six characters and delivered some memorable gags. This second episode, written by Tony Roche (The Thick Of It), was generally as good as last week's—if slightly less funny but with a better story to compensate.

For me, it's the cast that have really clicked. They're superb. It should never be underestimated just how important casting is, especially with comedy, because I find myself enjoying Fresh Meat simply because it means spending an hour with these people. If they say or do funny things, that's a bonus.

One unexpected favourite right now is secretive Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie), who's attempts to fit into the group are hilarious. It's clear she's from a respectable middle-class family who are possibly as wealthy as JP's (Jack Whitehall), but she's desperate to hide her background because she fears being treated differently. In one hilarious scene, Oregon's forced to pretend she "forgot" she owns a car, which she later claims her mum won on a scratchcard. I think many of us have been in a position where we try to pretend we're less intelligent or from a lower social bracket, just to get along with people. I think it's a great idea to base a character on this social quirk, and watching brainy Oregon twist herself into knots in an attempt to appear rebellious and blasé about student life is great fun.

This episode revolved around a party, which is a staple idea for every comedy that's ever existed—especially ones with young people as their focus. It delivered the goods. JP trying to impress his two snobby friends by pretending the place is a hotbed of sex; Kingsley (Joe Thomas) meeting the good-looking boyfriend of sweet Josie (Kimberly Nixon) and feeling inadequate; Oregon, Josie and Vod (Zawe Ashton) abandoning the party for a nightclub instead; Howard (Greg McHugh) having to pretend he's Vod's boyfriend to help her escape an admirer from the band Apeshit Dusseldorf; and weird geography teacher Dan (Peep Show's Robert Webb) being accidentally invited to the bash. Dan was perhaps slightly caricatured, but the idea of a teacher in his thirties trying to cling onto his youth by attending a party thrown by his own students was a funny idea. (Speaking as a 32-year-old who's been invited to a few Fresher's Week parties, where you feel like an old man in a sea of acne and Lynx deodorant. And you know you're getting older when Peep Show's Jez is playing a balding teacher. His character really is on Twitter, too.)

It's visually interesting, stylishly filmed, with a brilliant soundtrack of pulsing tunes (mixed with what appears to be the chimes of a fruit machine), but more importantly it's just very enjoyable and funny with likable characters. It could possibly be improved by squeezing everything down into 30-minutes, but I can't say the hour-long episodes have actually dragged for me. When you compare this to some of the new US shows that have started up this month (like the surprise hit New Girl), it's in a league of its own. This is exactly the kind of comedy Britain is a world leader at; a show that manages to look and feel authentic, with actors who aren't cartoons, performing a style of comedy that's polished, nuanced, clever, and slightly crazy. Where else can you find a subplot about a waxwork of Russell Brand's head, or a scene where a toff rows himself into a stupor while smoking a spliff?

A great second episode of what's already my favourite homegrown comedy of this year.

written by Tony Roche / directed by David Kerr / 28 September 2011 / Channel 4