When Fresh Meat first aired in 2011, I had just gone through the ordeal most commonly known as Fresher’s week. Interested to know how Peep Show creators Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain would portray university life, I at first found Fresh Meat surprisingly realistic... except that university students do work some of the time, but that wouldn’t make for very entertaining television.
The first episode is memorable not only because its opening scene is of Howard (Greg McHugh) hanging some sort of meat up in the living room and wearing ‘trousers of the mind’, but also because of an uncannily realistic scene where the newly introduced housemates talk about what kind of hot beverage they prefer, for want of a more interesting subject. The awkward tension is so palpable you could snap it with as much as the blunt side of a spoon - and it iss almost exactly what my fresher’s was like.
By the end of the second season, then, I’ve learnt a couple of useful tips and suggestions by watching the peaks and pitfalls of the Fresh Meat characters.
Make friends with everyone
In the Fresh Meat house, no one is quite alike. There’s JP (Jack Whitehall) the posh public school boy with a tendency to either ruthlessly shorten or add ‘ers’ to every other word (for example, James Blunt will become ‘Blunters’, banter will become ‘bants’).
Among others, there is Kingsley (Joe Thomas), the awkward musician flaunting a soul-patch, Josie (Kimberley Nixon) the girl-next-door, Heather (Sophie Wu) the hipster ‘sarcastronaut’, and Vod (Zawe Ashton) the anarchist.
University is a place of diversity: racially, financially, physically, sexually and intellectually. Any given square mile of any campus is like a petri dish of individuals. It would be a shame not to get to know someone from the Capoeira or Adventure Gaming societies – but if those areas are too wild and out of your comfort zone, at least meet someone on a different course.
Quickly, before you get older and realise that you’re powerless to change anything. Throw blood at an innocent sandwich bar that sells coffee, spill oil all over the buffet at a BP recruitment dinner. One of the benefits of being a student is the freedom to be idealistic, before the cold harsh reality of the real world hits home.
Start a band
Where else could you start one? Kingsley wonders whether, if he starts working for BP, they might have an in-house band. At which point Heather argues, sarcastically, that “it’s not exactly how The Prodigy met”.
Don’t start a band
The chances of making a living in the music industry are dismal. Although Kingsley’s nonsense song The Implodium Implodes (actually written by Blur’s Graham Coxon) is kind of fun, his erratic neck movements make the live show unbearable to watch. And even if you do make it, NME will box your music into a suitably drab genre. “Guess that’s for the NME to decide. Ooh, everything in its little pigeon hole!” as Kingsley would say.
Don’t take your parents for granted
JP goes through a poignant journey when his father dies of a ‘hearters’ (heart-attack), and his original family home is sold. It is easy to take home for granted when living the life of a student, but Fresh Meat shows us that things can change while we’re away.
Some of us may go weeks between contacting parents, but just remember, each week may be their last. I don’t want to sound like a sentimentalist, but it’s worth given the folks a call every now and again, if only to check that they’re still alive.
Encourage drama in your life
As though life isn’t difficult enough. Still, try having an affair with your lecturer, break up with them, and then fall in love with someone of the same age who actually turns out to be their offspring. That’s more like it.
While the infinitely varied life of a university student is something that must be difficult to capture on screen, I applaud the Fresh Meat team for a damn good attempt.