While the high school experience has been culturally immortalized on television through countless shows, the experimental college years have rarely been captured accurately on screen. The UK series Fresh Meat perfectly illustrates this magical time period of false confidence, sexual missteps, perpetual poverty, and substance abuse… or, as we know it, higher education. With its third season premiering on Hulu, this UK import is slowly gaining an audience stateside for its college hijinks with a dysfunctional twist.
The familial cultural markers of beer pong, fraternities, and dorms may be missing, but the spirit of awkward inhibition remains the same. The brilliance of the show lies within the diversity of the cast. Five freshman: Vod, Oregon, Josie, Kingsley, JP and one upperclassman live in shared housing off-campus where they’re forced to interact mostly with each other with some occasional interlopers.
No longer the clueless freshmen they once were, the crew returns to their decrepit lodgings in Manchester to deal with the fallout over break and a new semester. As anyone who’s dealt with random roommates, their chemistry arises out of their contradicting personalities and the way they ground one another while also forcing each other out of his or her comfort zone. Theirs is not a glamorized experience. They work part-time jobs, sleep with their professors, discover bodily fluids in odd places, pull coke-fueled all nighters to write poetry and make mistakes … just like the rest of us.
The collegiate experience calls for a tenuous balance of drama and comedy, but that is what Fresh Meat does best. In the end, these forged friendships happen organically and make for some of the most quotable television moments to date. As Fresh Meat enters the annals of timeless college TV series alongside Undeclared and Felicity, let’s take a look back at the dismal track record of some of our American collegiate series.
The problem with many of our beloved teen sitcoms when they transitioned to the college years lies in two parts: one – many of these shows continued past their prime and their character arcs, and two – the whole appeal of college is the excitement of new characters and not dealing with the same drama from high school. Ditching the lockers for dorm rooms does not a successful series make.
The series faintest grip on reality was even more apparent when it came to the college years. Watching rich kids backstab each other at private school we will always watch, but watching them shrug their way through the Ivy League leaves us cold. We already had Rory Gilmore for our blue-blooded college experience fix.
Saved by the Bell – The College Years
We’re still reeling from the false fantasy of college that the Baysiders sold to us. Our RA was a prudish senior who studied pharmaceuticals, and not an ex-NFL player. Our high school friends didn’t get to live with us and attend our lectures, and our school cafeteria barely passed health inspection rather than resembling an Au Bon Pain.
These kids were spouting SAT vocabulary before ninth grade, so it felt like their college development would be redundant. While this season was laughably bad, it did get a few things right. One of the biggest realizations that come with the college experience is the big fish/small pond effect. Dawson’s delusion of thinking he was the second coming of Steven Spielberg was quickly dispelled when he got to USC. When Pacey decided to skip the whole college thing altogether, it was refreshing to see him represent a path many students take – until he became a chef, a security guard, and a stockbroker all within one year.
But Fresh Meat keeps things grounded and funny. Check out the series on Hulu.