This review contains spoilers.
If series one provided the “freshness” with the launch of Channel 4’s hip new student comedy, while series two supplied the “meatiness” in its sinewy gags and drama, then series three has been Fresh Meat’s baggy cellophane wrapping; a futile attempt to retain some goodness before the whole thing begins to whiff of diminishing returns.
This week’s finale makes for a fitting summary of the entire third series of Meat: the drama is well-done but big laughs are rare. It seems the characters are too busy for comedy set-pieces now they’re all so committed to their various relationships and rivalries. Josie (Kimberly Nixon) and Kingsley’s (Joe Thomas) relationship is now open as well as doomed, the fragile friendship of Vod and Oregon is falling apart over student politics, and Howard the bespectacled geek (Greg McHugh) has improbably hit it off with Candice (Faye Marsay). Even JP (Jack Whitehall) is smitten, albeit mostly with himself.
Aside from scattered giggles almost exclusively derived from Tories and slugs, the episode is an oddly downbeat affair. Where Vod (Zawe Ashton) and Oregon’s (Charlotte Ritchie) spats have been ripe for the comedic picking in the past, their student union election rivalry ends flatly with a homophobic rant, a bland truce and a missing punch-line.
Meanwhile, that “will-they-won’t-they?” question forever hovering over Josie and Kingsley has finally been answered with a blunt “they won’t”.
It’s fun to see Howard, everyone’s favourite recluse, finally get some luck with the ladies, yet even he struggles to lift the mood as he tries to date his new girlfriend like a normal human. Since being the solitary weirdo was really Howard’s “thing”, this may well mark some loss of the underused character’s comic potential.
In the place of series two’s climactic cliff-hanger, most loose ends are hastily knotted with a residual feeling that this is a show that isn’t really going anywhere; Josie and Kingsley have broken up, Vod and Oregon have made up, and JP is as “horny” as he was in series one. Despite all the insight, wit and drama of series three, Fresh Meat appears to have reached its expiration date, forlorn and out of ideas.