Thursday, 27 October 2011


Thursday, 27 October 2011
Rather strangely, Fresh Meat seems to be getting less funny as the weeks pass. This isn't disastrous, because it's clearer than ever it's more youth drama than all-out comedy, but I do think back to the brilliant start and wish it had retained more of that early promise. Remember when Fresh Meat seemed to share some of Spaced's energy when it started? That's not really the case now. And it's not because the pace is flagging or they're running out of ideas, it's because most of the writers handed the reigns by creators Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain have a different take on the show. Still, the characters are great fun to watch, even if they haven't been especially funny in recent weeks...

The theme here was largely about health and mortality: Vod (Zawe Ashton) was hospitalized after OD'ing on drugs; JP (Jack Whitehall) was told his father recently had a heart attack; and Oregon's (Charlotte Ritchie) horse Roulette was taken ill and is due to be euthanized. So it was about realizing you're not invincible, confronting death, and the severing of childhood ties. All weighty themes, mostly handled well by writer Rose Heiney, although I felt that the death of JP's father was too rushed and didn't elicit any response. Still, it was a strangely touching idea to have an emotional JP, while high on drugs, console Oregon's dying horse as it lay down in a barn, using the animal as a substitute for the father he can't reach in time.

The remaining two subplots weren't so downbeat, with Kingsley (Joe Thomas) and Josie (Kimberley Nixon) joining a journalism class and becoming rivals, while Josie tried to computer her Welsh boyfriend Dave proposing to her by text. A marriage proposal Vod and Oregon think is just a way to prevent Josie straying while she's away at university. And Howard's (Greg McHugh) new friendship with bubble-haired Brian deepened, although it eventually got in the way of Howard's attempt to woo a nerdy student called Lauren (culminating in a date to a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey). Both stories were overshadowed by the rest of the episode's darker events with Vod, JP and Oregon, but that's become a common issue for this show. However, the use of the characters was above-average, because at least Josie, Kingsley and Howard were involved in stories that had meat to them. I actually rather liked the situation with lovable Josie, who's decided to accept the world's least romantic proposal, as that raises the stakes for Kingsley to somehow win her heart before it's too late.

It also surprised me that the joke with Oregon's seemingly run its course, as the fact she admitted to owning a horse alerted JP to the fact she's posh, before all doubt was removed when Oregon was forced to take Vod and JP to her family's lavish rural home. I rather enjoyed seeing Oregon squirm to present herself as a working class radical, as she's embarrassed about her silver spoon upbringing, but I suppose it had to end some time. I just hope Oregon (real name "Melissa") hasn't lost too much of what made her an appealing and amusing character in the first place, now she doesn't have to lie about herself.

All said, I enjoyed this sixth episode and still find lots to enjoy from the performances, but I can't ignore the simply fact that Fresh Meat should be much funnier. I'm surprised that Peep Show's Baines and Armstrong haven't written more episodes of a show they created, but have instead farmed the scripts out to other people. And while the other writers have a good grip on characters and can construct decent stories, there's been a notably lack of big laughs along the way. One assumes Tony Roche's credits for providing "additional material" means he's been trying to punch-up the number of jokes in every hour, but this is still an issue. The first few episodes were hilarious at times, but everything since has been a little undercooked. There's a wonderful cast here, please give them opportunities to make me laugh more!


  • Fresh Meat isn't on next Wednesday, because Channel 4's new drama Top Dog is being stripped across the week. The show will instead return in a fortnight's time on 9 November. However, as a consolation to fans, Channel 4 have made Episode 7 available early via their 4OD catch-up service. In view of this, I'll review the next episode whenever I get the chance to (which may, or may not, be before next Wednesday).
  • And if you haven't already heard the news, Fresh Meat's been renewed for a second eight-part series, scheduled for the same time next year.
written by Rose Heiney (additional material by Tony Roche) / directed by Nick Wood / 26 October 2011 / Channel 4