Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TV: Spaced (1999-2001) Review

Spaced DVD poster
Spaced cast
Spaced Mike, Daisy, Tim
Spaced paintball
Spaced Daisy Pulp Fiction reference
Spaced Daisy Tekken
Spaced Tim playing Resident Evil
Spaced Tim Evil Dead 2 poster
Purchase from Amazon: DVD

Films by Edgar Wright: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World's End
Similar shows: The Office (UK), Black Books, The IT Crowd



Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Nick Frost, Mike Heap
Genre: Sitcom

Spaced
is a British sitcom consisting of 14 episodes split into 2 seasons that originally aired in the late 90s and early 2000s. The show follows pseudo-couple Tim (Pegg) and Daisy (Stevenson), who lied about being a couple in order to rent a "Couples Only" apartment, and their neighbors Marsha the alcoholic landlady (Deakin), Brian the slightly crazy painter (Heap), Mike the military nut (Frost), and Twist the self-obsessed bitch (Carmichael).

The heart of Spaced is its characters. The characters are all fairly common stereotypes, but the show brings these stereotypes to life. It shows that stereotypes are not just seen on TV, but in real life also, and it somehow does that through a TV show. They're not the type of characters that make you think they're "just another television archetype" but rather the type that make you think "I know someone just like that, it's so spot on."

Spaced, like its characters, is the sort of show that will grow on you. You may not be that into it after only an episode or so, but well before the first season is over you'll likely feel as much a part of the world as the characters, who'll surely feel like your best friends.

The stars of the show, Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, also write each episode, with Edgar Wright directing. Fans of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, or The World's End will surely be familiar with the Wright-Pegg-Frost trio and much of their signature humor.

The show, to be frank, is hilarious. But not hilarious in a way you're probably used to. No, this is a completely unique brand of humor. Wright's creative, involving, never pretentious directing combined with some wonderfully unconventional editing blend with the actual jokes so well that everything seems, and indeed is, well executed. The jokes themselves are a mix of vocal, visual, and stylistic references to things from Scooby-Doo to The Shining to Pulp Fiction, a sort of absurdist surreal humor, unpredictability, juxtaposition, and of course the characters and situations themselves are more often than not jokes.

The show never at any point becomes dull or formulaic. The punchline to a joke may be in a line of dialogue, or it may be visual--in a camera movement, a character action, or a cut to another scene altogether. For example, in one scene where Tim and Daisy are talking, Daisy tells Tim to not talk so loudly as "you never know who's listening." Tim replies confidently "no one's listening," and then there's a cut away from the scene and we see a brief clip of a man sitting in a room with a tape recorder, listening to the conversation that just happened.

There's plenty of scenes done in this nature, and plenty done in different ways as well. One of my favorite scenes has the video game Tekken mirroring an argument between Tim and Daisy, only to end in the reflection seeping into one with reality. Or another episode where nearly the whole episode revolves around Tim playing Resident Evil 2.

Spaced will transport you to a world of slackers with big dreams, a world of Playstation and The Phantom Menace and absurd occurrences. A world that, as it shows the surreal that hides under the mundane, will likely turn out to be very similar to your own life. With tons of references to films, television, comic books, and video games, it is a world created by its influences and references but also one that uses just that to craft something entirely new. Originally pitched as "a cross between The Simpsons, The X-Files, and Northern Exposure," Spaced certainly lives up to the task and as a result is one of the greatest sitcoms ever made.

With only 14 episodes adding up to less than 6 hours, the show can be watched in a single day and it's good enough that you'll probably want to watch it in a single day, and rewatch it again the next. A must-see for fans of Pegg, Frost, and Wright, and for anyone who may consider themselves a geek, whether it be a fan of sci-fi films, comic books, or video games, or even just for people who can relate to the slacker lifestyle of early twenty year olds.

4/5 stars
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