Thursday, 17 November 2011

FRESH MEAT, 1.8 - series finale

Thursday, 17 November 2011

This probably wasn't the best way to end the first series (as it didn't feel especially climactic), but I'm nevertheless glad Channel 4 have renewed Fresh Meat for another series. The characters are so amusing and its situations so true-to-life (well, allowing for comical embellishment) that I've really enjoyed this eight-part freshman year. But there's definitely room for improvement, as I think the show needs a stronger hand to guide it. I don't know exactly how hands-on creators Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain were with this show (they only wrote the first episode), but there was a feeling that it needed more laughs. In thinking back over the two months, I can't remember many laugh-out-loud moments or "classic" lines of dialogue, which is both puzzling and disappointing.

The finale didn't bring anything to a definite conclusion, but a few things reached critical mass. Josie (Kimberley Nixon) rebounded from dumping her fiancé, by glamming up and hitting the town with Vod (Zawe Ashton); JP (Jack Whitehall) had to choose between a crazy party with his toff friends or his own dad's funeral; things got serious between Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie) and Professor Shales (Tony Gardner) when they started viewing flats, until Oregon started to realize they're from different generations; Vod was kicked out of university; and Kingsley sulked over Josie's outrageous behaviour, where she eventually dragged a random stranger back to the house for loud "fake sex" the other side of his partition.

This episode captured more of the student-y flavours than usual, perhaps because it was written by comedian Tom Basden (a relative upstart at 31). I especially enjoyed Howard's "emergency milk" (dozens of those little UHT milk pots he's stolen), JP's use of the word "rape" as a positive exclamation, and Josie's creation "Boozibix" (Bailey's poured on Weetabix cereal). Plus there were some standout scenes, like the awkward dinner where the likes of Vod and Howard broke bread with Shales' academic pals (embarrassing themselves by mistaking talk about "Jedwood" as "Jedward").

It's just a shame the episode didn't feel climactic enough. Kingsley leaving the house after seeing that Josie's shagged JP (again) was a good way to mirror the premiere and create a fun cliffhanger, but everything else wasn't really grand enough. But I appreciated noticing how this little group have come together over the weeks; best demonstrated when Vod helped JP regain his confidence after being hoodwinked and manipulated by his posh pals into paying for a lavish party. I was just disappointed JP didn't really get any cathartic revenge on his so-called friends, or spurn them in an entertaining way.

Overall, this was still a very entertaining episode that felt more in tune with the first half of the season. I'm not saying Fresh Meat utterly lost its way in the second half, because there was some great stuff, but I thought the first three episodes were noticeably funnier. And as I keep saying, despite not having truly memorable jokes or very many comic situations you'll be giggling about days later, the casting for this show has been its saving grace. The actors are brilliant and ensure that even the least amusing episodes are pleasant to watch. I just hope series 2 takes a good hard look at what worked and what didn't, so it'll come back even stronger next year. It definitely needs to recapture some of the first episode's creativity and grungy spark (maybe a sign that Armstrong and Bain need to dedicate more time to this?), craft bigger and funnier moments, and give characters like Howard and Vod more to do.

Now it's over, what are your thoughts on Fresh Meat? Did it go downhill slowly? Did it live up to your expectations every week? Does it just need a polish in some areas, where it let itself down? Or was this genius from beginning to end?

written by Tom Basden (additional material by Tony Roche) / directed by Annie Griffin / 16 November 2011 / Channel 4