Film & TV

Films and TV Shows that get the university experience just right

Fresh Meat by Isabel Cosford

University can be a dauntingly awkward experience, whether you’re a hot-shot singleton, a career-ridden bookworm, or troublemaker with a serious attitude – which is why the U.K. hit series Fresh Meat is a must-watch for all students either continuing their studies or for those who are about to indulge in the shameless and shabby world of higher education.

Fresh Meat reveals a terrifying truth of uncertainty and chaos throughout student life, experienced by six inexperienced young housemates as they make their own individual journeys from first year right through to graduation. Unlike the classic ‘everything-is-just-a-party’ university movies, like American Pie or 22 Jump Street (which I’m sure you’ve seen), Fresh Meat exposes the stresses, the embarrassments, and the setbacks in all their outrageous glory. It is about dirty student houses and hearing your roommate’s sexual antics through paper-thin walls. Not to mention wearing your dressing gown all-day everyday just because you might be feeling sorry for yourself as your best friend is your new ex’s girlfriend. Fresh Meat is about the highs and the lows of student life – often with emphasis on the lows – as it mixes the tragedies of young adult lives with a hint of hilariousness and dark humour, which is a true reflection of the emotional changes you undergo when living independently for the first time.

Yes, you might not have started an affair with your emotionally unstable English lecturer or drilled through a fellow student’s mouth whilst still intoxicated but it still sheds light on the little and not-so-little things which subconsciously create a memorable experience – from lecture theatre to the grimy toilet cubicle down your local pub. As Oregon states with a hint of matter-of-fact-ness: ‘yes it smells and there are slug trails under the carpet but that’s where my friends are’.

The clash of personalities of the six characters; posh but crude JP, Josie the peacekeeper, socially-awkward Howard, overbearing Oregon, uptight Kingsley, and brutally-honest Vod reveals that not every single student has the same happy-go-lucky personality we see in the American Pie films. University isn’t just about having an amazing time twenty-four seven (even if Josie is desperate to ‘go out and get totally fucked’) but more importantly about finding your way through the dark depths of the unknown with university’s inevitable unpredictability.


The Young Ones by Poppy Jennings

The Young Ones is completely nonsensical, but it is definitely a classic staple of uni television. It may not be 1984 anymore but with the personalities crammed into a dank and dirty student house, the show definitely captures the comical and slightly disgusting aspects of what it means to be a student.

There’s Rick, the anarchist-wannabe social warrior sociology student, Vyvyan, the completely mad punk medical student who smashes everything, Mike, the straight-talking and neutral newspaper reader, and Neil, the frequently bullied hippie-type who plays the household cook and cleaner who is super obsessed with lentils. Throw in a useless landlord who plays a multitude of characters to trick the lads for no reason other than charging them more money, and you’ve got a British comedy show about a group of students in eighties London.

The show is frequently disrupted by skits that often seem completely unrelated, musical numbers with some of the best British bands from the eighties, and the fourth wall is completely shattered. The carrots talk, the mice play cards, the teddy bears shag, and the posters come alive – and if that’s not enough, Dawn French seems to be in every other episode. It sounds like utter nonsense, and I assure you that it is, but there are awkward student parties, trips to the pub, serious boredom that only really plagues the student population, disapproving parents, and a reluctance to do the washing and cleaning that you might be able to relate to.

If nothing else, it makes me seriously wonder about my mum’s experience at uni. Her stories of her twenties line up oddly well with sketches in episodes of The Young Ones, especially tying everything that goes wrong with the recurring judgement of Thatcher’s Britain and the repercussions for student life. So maybe it was an accurate representation of uni living in the eighties (if you take out the talking household appliances and demons and ghosts, of course). Dodgy landlords, a lack of studying, argumentative housemates with obviously incompatible personalities, all make up the amazing laughs this show has to offer with a multitude of nonsense skits.

Starter For 10 by Jack Vavasour

A film produced by Tom Hanks, starring James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alice Eve – you could be tricked into thinking that this was a new, up and coming blockbuster about to be nominated for numerous Academy Awards, you would be wrong. Instead, Starter For 10 was a university comedy made in 2006. With stellar casting and a hilarious script, this film is a must see.

As a university student, everyone can relate to the story of Brian Jackson, played by the wonderful James McAvoy. Jackson moves to Bristol to study English Literature, on his first night he meets all sorts – from a very active political and social activist Rebecca, played by Rebecca Hall, to a fellow student who has taken a gap year and no longer believes in the use of loo roll. These hysterical encounters truly represent the mix of people one will meet at uni and, then, try to avoid for the following three years. Brian also falls in love with Alice, played by Alice Eve, when he meets her during the test they must take for the very unpopular University Challenge team. Brian has been a fan of the show for his whole life yet sacrifices his place in order to impress who he thinks is the girl of his dreams (we’ve all been there). The film floats from a horrendously awkward first date at a thoroughly disappointing restaurant, to Brian walking in on his best friend sleeping with Alice. Written by David Nicholls, the film, previously a Nicholls book as well, captures the reality of university education so well – from Brian reading all his course material at the beginning as he hopes to make an impact to being left behind amidst numerous parties and quiz practice sessions. The range of person represented is also cleverly imposed on such a wonderful film as so many groups are represented as Brian navigates his first year at Bristol. The cast, although practically unrecognisable, were all young British actors who were at the beginnings of their careers, adding increasing realism to the plot as they don’t look absurdly old as in so many films that portray young adults.

This is a truly enjoyable film which is a must see for anyone who wants a good laugh and a character who can be related to. It is not overly dramatized and loses no realism in its production, resulting in a pleasing, at times brutally honest, piece.