*Warning: This blog contains spoilers from the last night’s Fresh Meat*
Two months after the swansong of Peep Show, writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong begin the last series of their student sitcom Fresh Meat. There was always a natural in-built end-point for the show: graduation. Set six months before their finals, the residents of 28 Hartnell Avenue are staring down the barrel of a gun marked ‘real life’ in the most confident opener yet.
“Mummy wanted Tom, Daddy wanted Timothy”
One of the show’s strengths is its ability to seamlessly introduce new characters (no-nonsense Sabine, and home-schooled Candice in series two and three respectively), and JP’s David Cameron-like older brother Tomothy (Richard Goulding) is another fine addition. Arriving to ensure JP (Jack Whitehall) knuckles down and embraces his destiny as a pencil-pusher at his firm, he acts as both a chilling Ghost Of Corporate Future for JP and a reminder to the audience of how far the character has progressed. JP was introduced as a braying ex-Stowe UniLad twat that people might fear appearing if they accidentally say ‘Banter’ three times in a mirror, but over the years his vulnerabilities have rendered him likeable. He’s been humanised by moving to Manchester. Snobbish, boorish, and regarding having to visit “up North” as his own personal version of The Revenant, Tomothy is JP had he been left to roam in his natural habitat.
“Think of it as your Bible, but it’s better than the Bible because it’s got an index of sexual health clinics and registered media recruitment agencies.”
Overachieving Oregon starts her student presidential reign by comparing herself to Nelson Mandela and penning a helpbook called Cope: A Short Walk To Freedom (featuring her face styled in Barack Obama ‘Hope’ colours). She immediately gains a new nemesis by sacking support officer Rosa (Ayda Field), an Italian with flamethrower eyes and a bitch-face that’s never knowingly resting. Naturally, Rosa ends up in bed with Kingsley (Joe Thomas), who thinks that by dating an older woman he can catch maturity like an STI.
“£150 for one pill? What does it do? Grow a Magic Beanstalk back to the Haçienda 1990?”
Drowning in 70 grand’s worth of debt, Vod (Zawe Ashton) flirts with becoming a drug dealer – with Sabine going full Het Breken Van Slechte (That’s Breaking Bad in Dutch) in a hoodie as a supplier of one solitary pill. Her plan of dealing with her finances? A typically rock’n’roll answer of “Die at 27”
“I will not be accepting any consolation or human sympathy”
With regular cast member Faye Marsay (who played Candice) not returning, it’s left to Josie to explain to the socially-dyslexic Howard (Greg McHugh) that Candice’s texts (“It’s not you, it’s me”) mean she’s breaking up with him, as he secludes himself in the cellar as “the Fritzl of revision.”
“You’ve got six months to live. This is Adolf’s bunker before the Allieds arrive.”
Part of both the fun – and emotional undertow – of this series is going to be seeing how the characters cope with the clusterfuck of emotions that chaperone the final lap of uni. Josie – who is a year behind the others having switched courses mid-series – squirts water pistols of tequila, clinging onto the sinking wreckage of her student days (“Fuck, the fun’s running out!”), while JP feels he needs to cram in everything in Manchester he’s ever wanted to do. Cue a accurately-observed scene in a curryhouse where he goes Goldilocks with three dishes, rejecting one as too hot, the other as too mild, before settling on one that’s “painful, incredibly unpleasant to eat, I’m certainly going to know about it in the morning, but I can just about get it down. Mmmmn…vile”
“Worst. Party. Ever.”
At the farcical house party scene, Vod is concerned she’s sold Tomothy a dodgy pill, bursting in on him and Oregon mid-coitus. But there’s also pathos, as Tomothy stomps over JP’s dreams of lion-taming or cock-drawing (“Real world JP: you’re a fucking good guy, clinical moron”), the flashes of emotion across the housemates’ faces show how much they care. In its final series, there’s a sense of Fresh Meat: Redux, with everybody seemingly where they were at the start – Josie in bed with JP, bruised Howard retreating from the pack, and Oregon shagging another married man (Tomothy). The actors bristle with the confidence of knowing who they’re playing inside and out, and the script deftly swerves from a friendly-fire of one-liners to farce to touching emotion without ever feeling forced. First class. With honours.
“He’s probably up in Aberdeen, sat on a Trident, bathing in the Queen’s oil” – JP assumes Howard has been held up at the border, not allowed in since Scotland went independent (it didn’t).
“Oh, so when you eat it in tiny pieces, it’s the oh-so-fashionable sushi, but a whole raw fish? That’s unacceptable for some reason.” – Howard
“Now you tell me! And all this time I’ve been storing my wine in a rack like some kind of accountant!” – JP’s surprise at discovering the house as a cellar
“I’m going to try and touch a duck in the park. They look so soft.” – drug mule Sabine high on her own product.
“It’s like Disneyland, Christmas morning, your eighteenth and your hardest cum all got remixed by David Guetta.” – Vod describing the effects of a pill
“I haven’t even listened to a Smiths song…Oh in that case I have listened to a Smiths song” ‘Blunters’ and ‘Mumfurs’ fan JP’s face crumples in disappointment when someone plays him ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’.