Fresh Meat: An accurate portrayal of uni life, or another glamorised drama?

Ten years since its release, does Fresh Meat still speak to the student experience?

Ruby Taylor
23rd March 2022
Image Credit: IMDb

It’s been just over ten years since Fresh Meat, a show about a group of freshers in a shared house, first hit our screens. My question is, how accurate are the characters' experiences to students today?  

The show follows six students in their first year at the fictional Manchester Medlock University, who didn’t get into halls and are put in a student house together off-campus. Not only does the questionably habitable house with a “glory hole” between two of the rooms accurately represent dubious student living conditions, but surely everyone at university has met someone they could closely compare to one the characters on Fresh Meat.  

Perhaps the most outlandish yet surprisingly sympathetic character is JP (Jack Whitehall). He is extremely privileged, constantly shocking his housemates with the extent of his wealth and entitlement - something we have all encountered at university. However, very early on in the show something tragic happens in JP’s life that causes you to reframe his character.

You start to see the cracks in the image he puts up for his peers.  

Not much better than JP is Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie). She’s middle class and owns a horse, but tries to hide it from the rest of the house with her bohemian appearance. One of the ways she attempts to hide her background is by trying to emulate her best friend and fellow housemate, Vod. 

Vod (Zawe Ashton) is definitely the cool but scary housemate, with her anti-establishment outlook and leather jacket. She often looks to Oregon to help her with university work, as they both study English Literature. The power dynamic between the two is really interesting and really accurately written.

Vod’s character is also the only one in the house who has to work to afford university, and her frustration and struggle is something the show brilliantly portrays.  

Image Credit: IMDb

Geology student Kingsley, awkwardly played by Joe Thomas, can be recognised in a lot of university students. His dream is to make music, and he goes through phases of self-reinvention throughout the show to fit into this, such as making (frankly awful but hilarious) music, and growing a soul patch. I honestly find Kingsley one of the most loveable characters in the show, and really liked how the writers explored the pressure to have sex, and to have had it with lots of people, before you start at university.  

However, no one in the show is as awkward and lovely as Howard, played by Greg McHugh. No one in the house can figure out how long he has lived there and how old he is. He is extremely sweet, and very studious, and definitely one of the best characters in the show. University is lacking in Howards! 

Everything from the characters, to the house, to the student’s union bar they all hang out, to the questionable lecturers is completely recognisable even ten years on

Finally, there is Josie, a dentistry student who shows the reality of how stressful and difficult university can be with her bumpy time in her course. She is one of the most sensible characters in the house, very sweet and kind, but can be extremely stubborn. She’s always the one who tries to bring everyone together, and I think it’s a lovely thing to know someone like Josie! 

The show has the perfect balance of critiquing these all too familiar characters, whilst always offering ways you can sympathize with them. It is lovely to see the friendships formed between these characters in the show, and how they make a house full of people off all different backgrounds work (mostly).  

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AUTHOR: Ruby Taylor
Sub-editor for Arts. First year English Literature and Creative Writing student.

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