When Peep Show creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong first cooked up Fresh Meat, I’d just graduated university and was longing for the self-indulgent, lazy life I’d left behind. Entering a world of high unemployment and a hard-up publishing industry spitting out the occasional job, Fresh Meat felt like the cozy hug I craved at the end of a long day of interning (ie. endless photocopying).
We first met Kingsley, Vod, JP, Josie, Oregon and Howard as freshers back in 2011, negotiating the rocky road to social acceptance and more often than not making a total hash of it. They were hilariously clueless and entertained us weekly with their excruciating romantic exploits, drunken meltdowns and academic ineptitude.
Joe Thomas and Jack Whitehall had already earned their comedy stripes but the series made stars of the rest of its cast – Zawe Ashton, Kimberley Nixon, Greg McHugh and Charlotte Ritchie. And much like Sherlock, the Fresh Meat family found time in their increasingly busy schedules to reconvene for a further three series, this latest one billed as its last.
Their graduation to second and then third year – via an ill-advised affair with a married professor, the death of a prominent American poet and an unfortunate dental incident – has been a joy to watch, but as the students of Manchester Medlock approached their finals, I felt Fresh Meat go off the boil.
Why? It’s quite simple, really. The characters lost their likeability. As union president, Oregon morphed into a smug dictator, while Vod quit partying and droned on about books and bills, and Josie became increasingly shrill in her desperate search for new friends.
And let’s not even mention her alter ego Jobbo. The less said about her, the better.
These past few weeks, I’ve watched the residents of 28 Hartnell Avenue become caricatures of themselves, with the exception of Howard who I’ve always loved for that very quality. But as a viewer, you felt no sympathy for his housemates – they became too hard around the edges to elicit our affection as they waded through mounting debt, ill-advised hook-ups, political suicide and demanding Italian girlfriends.
That is, until tonight. This evening’s episode finally saw Fresh Meat get its groove back as Oregon faced impeachment, JP experienced life on the bread line and Kingsley finally woke up and smelt the Swiss espresso.
The jokes landed, the dialogue fizzed, and why? Because the gang were just that – a gang. They might mock, jibe, and swipe at each other – heck, they may even fill burning effigies of one another with Haribo – but when push comes to shove, they have each other’s backs. It was a delight to see this sum of odd parts rediscover its brilliance – and as their graduation from our screens fast approaches, I hope they bow out in first class fashion.
Fresh Meat continues next week at 10pm on Channel 4