It's hard to believe it's been over a year since Joe Thomas took off his Inbetweeners cap and starred in the series debut of Channel 4's Fresh Meat, a refreshingly real take on the highs and lows of student life in the 21st century.
Thirteen months later and we're into the second series, which debuted on Tuesday evening. In fictional time, term two is just beginning and a lot's changed for Vod, JP, Howard, Kingsley, Oregon and Josie – Kingsley's grown a goatee, Howard now works in an abattoir and Oregon is very much not having an affair with her English tutor. However, the crux of the episode, and indeed the very meticulously entwined link between of all the characters' new problems, is their need to find a new housemate. The elusive seventh housemate 'Paul Lamb the Invisible Man' has finally disappeared, and the cash-strapped students are faced with the prospect of a £100 rent increase should they not find a new housemate by the end of the week.
While this series' offerings might be trying a little too hard to be cool, (think social drug use and Kingsley's questionable wardrobe) the debut scores a first for reeling the audience in with a whole host of new storylines. While some, such as Vod's pilfering money off everybody around her, seem a redundant effort to fill up screen time, others are genuinely engaging, such as the revelation of JP's 'bifurious' past.
Oregon, or Melissa as she's now more affectionately known, reeks of trying-too-hard-to-be-cool while she sports a new look, no doubt intended to show Professor Shales she's moved on, if working as an intern for his wife doesn't work, of course. On the other hand, the sexual tension between Josie and Kingsley is every bit as gripping and frustrating as the last series and the introduction of Josie's new 'bestie', and indeed Kingsley's latest conquest, only adds to the predicament. It's questionable as to whether this new character will stick around, but Heather, just like JP's posh-o friend Giles, is a welcome addition to the bunch.
While the majority of the characters have benefited from new aches and pains, this episode does seem fairly weighted towards JP's confused sexuality, which, despite the obvious awkward hilarity, does indeed prove to be thought-provoking. With everyone but Howard and Vod getting a fair look-in at a potential plotline, the mates' problems all point toward the housemate issue – Kingsley wants Heather to move in, (as she'll be 'on tap') Josie wants Giles to move in (to keep Heather away) and JP very much doesn't want Giles to move in (until he discovers of course, that gay men don't actually fancy everyone.)
In an awkward but giggle-provoking climax, the episode ends in an awkward face off between the housemates and Sabine, the cruel Dutch woman who lets herself in after Vod unwittingly gives her a key. The cowardly bunch awkwardly plan to kick her out in favour of Giles moving in, but unfortunately, the tenancy agreement prevails, and episode one is neatly rounded off with one cold Dutch woman moving in.
The second series of Fresh Meat may not have quite hit the mark as much as the first series, and there are some frankly unnecessary moments (such as JP's translation of 'Northern speak') but I'm confident that it has potential to develop into another award-winning series. With social conflict and sexual tension sure to hit an all-time high, this series looks to be just as good as the last.