On my recent visit to England my sister introduced me to the excellent Channel 4 sitcom Fresh Meat, which started in 2011 and follows the lives of six undergraduate students flatting together while they pursue their university studies in Manchester. It's by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, the creators of the long-running and much-loved sitcom Peep Show, and features a talented collection of young actors, many of whom are experienced performers. The material is genuinely funny, harking back to the heyday of The Young Ones, but the acting ability of the cast is also a huge asset, because it's always challenging to play comedic scenes to full effect. There are six core cast members in the first series:
Kingsley (Joe Thomas, The Inbetweeners): Perhaps the most 'normal' housemate, apart from the lamentable soul patch. Is hopelessly in love with flatmate Josie but appears powerless to break up with his actual girlfriend, Josie's mate Heather.
Josie (Kimberley Nixon, Cranford, Easy Virtue): Welsh dentistry student who appears hopelessly in love with housemate Kingsley but who repeatedly fails to break up with her boyfriend / fiance back in Cardiff. He's a heating engineer, you know. Josie has a bit of a rough time in series 2, what with the whole leaving the keys in the door and getting the house burgled.
J.P. (Jack Whitehall, Bad Education): Somewhat posh comedian Whitehall plays the out-and-out toff J.P., an outrageously self-entitled big-head with major bedroom ambitions that unsurprisingly prove fruitless. Usually. An expert on life in the regions.
Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie): Reinventing herself at university, Oregon fancies herself the worldly-wise campus sophisticate, which works out fine as long as the housemates don't discover the car her mum and dad bought her, that her real name isn't Oregon, or the fact that she's shagging her English professor.
Howard (Greg McHugh, Gary: Tank Commander): Socially maladroit Scottish geology student Howard is a bit older than the others, but absolutely no wiser. Is always irked when people assume he knows Tolkien back to front. Famed for his legendarily poor dress sense.
Vod (Zawe Ashton, Case Histories): The most streetwise and savvy housemate, Vod (a.k.a. Violet) is the type of cool that Oregon has always wanted to be. She takes loads of drugs, drinks and swears like a navvy, and pays little attention in class. The drug intake becomes a bit of a problem when Vod has to take a urine test to preserve her lifeline, the RAF Bursary; she has to borrow some of Josie's supposedly drug-free wee, which leads to the following scene in the testing clinic - one of my favourites from series 2:
Vod's test results
|Vod (Zawe Ashton) at the clinic|
VOD: (Enters) Er, Violet Nordstrom, here for my test results.
NURSE: There you go.
NURSE: There you go.
VOD: (Reads) Hang on, what's this?
NURSE: It's beta blockers.
VOD: Beta blockers? And I'm on them for...?
NURSE: Stress, and anxiety.
VOD: Oh yeah, I forgot I was on those. Obviously work then! Heh. If I was to stop taking them, which I can do very very easily, can I do a quick re-test?
NURSE: The results have already been sent off I'm afraid - to the RAF, is it?
VOD: Oh come on, you can't do that! What about patient confidentiality?
NURSE: Drugs tests can't be completely confidential. Somebody's got to see the results, otherwise there'd be no point doing them.
VOD: Ohh, they're gonna take my money away... (Angry) What am I gonna do without my money - sell my fuckin' kidneys? You'd like that wouldn't you?!
NURSE: I don't think those beta blockers are working for you.
VOD: I'm not taking the beta blockers! It's not my urine; I couldn't give you my urine because I smoke absolutely tons of weed.
NURSE: (Writes on Vod's file)
VOD: Don't write that down, it's confidential! I know I shouted it, but I shouted it in confidence!