Spaced (1999)


The Fuck-est Up-est

I purchased today’s review on DVD based entirely on the people involved with it, even though I knew very little about it beyond that.  I don’t have much experience with British television shows.  I don’t have a problem with them, I just haven’t seen very many of them.  But I decided to purchase the entire series (2 seasons, as we call it over in America) on DVD because I had heard it was enjoyable, and was the genesis of a couple of movies that I loved.  When I got the DVD’s, it took me quite some time to get around to watching them.  But when I saw they were on Netflix streaming, that sealed the deal.  So let’s hear my verdict on the TV show Spaced, created and written by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson), directed by Edgar Wright, and starring Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Julia Deakin, Mark Heap, Nick Frost, Katy Carmichael, Ada the Dog, Anna Wilson-Jones, James Lance, Peter Serafinowicz, Michael Smiley, Bill Bailey, Clive Russell, Lucy Akhurst, Reece Shearsmith, with notable cameos by Olivia Williams and Ricky Gervais.

SERIES 1

The basic premise of the show is that two people, aspiring writer Daisy Steiner (Jessica Stevenson) and aspiring comic book artist Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg), have recently become homeless.  They become friends looking through the newspaper for somewhere to live until they eventually find a house that seems perfect, but is only accepting couples.  They develop a plan to pose as a couple in order to get the flat.  They meet with the landlady, Marsha Klein (Julia Deakin), and move in soon after.  They also meet the person living below them, brooding artist Brian Topp (Mark Heap).  When they finally get unpacked, Daisy decides to throw a party, but few people come.  Just Marsha, Brian, Daisy’s friend and fashionista Twist Morgan (Katy Carmichael), and Tim’s friend with aspirations of being in the Territorial Army Mike Watt (Nick Frost).  Also the paperboy.  Later, Daisy fails an interview with a women’s magazine by saying “Girl Power” and Brian gets nervous about going to to meet his former partner Vulva (David Williams).  Vulva acts like a dick to Brain, but Tim gets crazed on a combination of Resident Evil 2, Twiglets, and free boose, punches Vulva, and “rescues” everyone.  Daisy gets dumped by her boyfriend and cheers herself up by getting a dog named Colin (Ada the Dog), but Tim is horribly afraid of dogs.  Tim and Mike go paintballing, only to run into Duane Benzie (Peter Serafinowicz), the man that stole Tim’s girlfriend.  He gets his revenge by shooting Duane in the balls.  Later, Tim is forced to walk Colin and he’s abducted.  Daisy believes he did it on purpose, but he redeems himself by getting the group together for a rescue.  In later episodes, the group goes clubbing with Tim’s friend Tyres (Michael Smiley), then some trouble is stirred up when Tim’s ex wants him back, Daisy fears for him, Brian asks Twist out, Mike rejoins the Territorial Army, and Daisy finally starts writing again.

SERIES 2

Daisy uses the money she made from selling a couple of articles to go on a trip through Asia.  When she returns, Tim is still struggling to get over the pain caused by the release of The Phantom Menace.  Mike has been staying in Daisy’s room in her absence.  Later, Tim is fired from his job at the comics store for yelling at a kid that wants to buy Jar Jar merchandise.  He joins Daisy at the unemployment office to get some money.  Brian finds out that his relationship with Twist has made him happy and, thus, unable to paint.  Marsha’s daughter, Amber, runs away from home, and Mike fills her empty room.  Later, Tim and Mike have their chances of winning Robot Wars damaged by saboteurs, but they’re able to get their robot back on it’s wheels.  Tim is called by Damien Knox of Darkstar Comics, wanting to see his portfolio, but Daisy mistakenly puts a picture Tim drew of Knox saying that he’s “a massive wanker” in the portfolio.  With the help of Tyres, Mike and Tim break into Knox’s office, but the picture was already removed by his secretary, Sophie (Lucy Akhurst), who asks Tim on a date.  Later, Tim and Daisy have a night on the town, but run afoul of a group of ruffians, defeating them with a slow motion shootout with imaginary guns.  When Daisy’s birthday arrives, Sophie is unwittingly driving wedges into the group’s relationships.  Mike is jealous of how much time Tim is spending with someone else, Daisy is a little jealous of Sophie, Marsha thinks Tim is cheating on Daisy because he sees Tim and Sophie together, Brian and Twist break up, and even Colin is upset that Daisy is ignoring him so he goes to spend time with the old lady next door.  Over dinner, the truth comes out that Daisy and Tim were lying all along, and Marsha leaves feeling betrayed.  To tie it all up, Tim and Daisy must find Marsha and try to convince her to come back before she sells the house and leaves them all homeless.

What a surprise, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright did something that I thought was awesome.  Not to leave Jessica Hynes out of it, but this was my introduction to her.  I already had love for Simon, Edgar, and Nick Frost.  Now I guess I have to like all of the rest of these people as well.  This show is really the kind of show for me.  It’s funny, charming, and filled to the brim with references to things I love, from movies to video games and all other things popular culture, if you know to look for them.  The show isn’t what I would call uproariously funny.  It’s just not the type of comedy they were going for.  But it was charming all the way through, and certainly had it’s share of good laughs.  I was thinking about the idea they put out in the show that men can walk up to each other and start a slow motion shootout, and any man would start to play along.  I thought that was ridiculous for a second, but then I realized I would totally play along if it happened to me.  If there’s something negative I could say about the show, it would be that I may have missed some things because I’m not British, and that’s just downright racist of them.  I thought it was interesting that they had a lot of things they could get away with on English television that we definitely couldn’t over here.  They say “fuck” and “asshole” a couple of times, as well “cunt” and “twat”.  Hell, at one point Daisy is trying to get inspiration from magazines and one of them is one called “Huge Fat Cocks”.  They don’t let us get away with stuff like that in this fuckin’ twat of a cuntry.  There’s also a good amount of drug use in the show that wouldn’t fly over here, even though they never really made a big deal out of it on the show.  They smoked weed every now and then, and had an entire episode that was basically devoted to clubbing and ecstasy.  I feel like some of the jokes in that may have gone over my head since I know next to nothing of clubbing or drugs, but I feel I got the spirit of it.  Most of my enjoyment came from recognizing the nerdy things they referenced in the show.  They reference all sorts of things, like The Shining, Scooby Doo, Resident Evil, Star Wars, Robocop, the Matrix, and Star Trek.  They made a joke about Star Trek in the show that was made much funnier after the fact when Simon Pegg said that “Every odd numbered Star Trek film is shit”, not yet knowing that he would be in Star Trek number 11.  I also really liked their Fight Club joke when they were in the Robot Club, ’cause the first rule of Robot Club is you don’t talk about Robot Club.  The second rule of Robot Club is you don’t talk about … wait, I’ve got that wrong.  The second rule is “No Smoking”.

Edgar Wright also filmed the show in the cinematic style that he would later come to perfect, with fast cuts and interesting wipes from scene to scene.  The show’s zombie episode shows signs of Shaun of the Dead being in their minds, and they also use the joke between Pegg and Frost that was used in Shaun, the one where someone says that Frost is on the phone by saying “Your boyfriend’s on the phone” and he responds with “He’s not my boyfriend”, then picks up the phone and says “Hey babe.”

The performances in this show are easily the best part.  Everybody in the cast – both main and supporting – were enjoyable and funny.  Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes were not only the main characters, but the writers of the show, so their the ones that get the most credit for the show’s clever dialogue.  Nick Frost, not surprisingly, was the character I enjoyed the most.  He was all crazy gun nut all the time, especially when he was dual-wielding in the paintball match.  I tended to think Mark Heap’s character was pretty funny too, usually seemingly like he was barely restraining some form of psychosis.  He also introduced the show to Vulva, which lead to a lot of things I though were funny as they kind of lampooned the artsy fartsy stuff I hate by showing the crazy interpretive art of a man dressed like a woman yelling random things on a stage as a guy with a vacuum attached to him jumped around on stage.  That’s basically how I view all of that kind of art.  Julia Deakin made me laugh too.  The big joke about her was that she would drink and smoke semi-constantly, but they got a lot of mileage out of it.  Katy Carmichael’s character Twist was mainly a little stupid and a little bitchy, but she was funny when she was around.  She also had a moment I found really cute when she was trying to talk Tim into letting her take her makeup bag with them on their covert mission to rescue Colin.  My favorite character that wasn’t in the main cast was Michael Smiley as Tyres.  He had a super short attention span as a result of his overuse of ecstasy, and he would talk really fast and start raving whenever things around him made noise to a beat.  One of the things I found funniest in the series was over the credits where it showed him dancing in front of a crosswalk light that was beeping.  I was amused to see Peter Serafinowicz in the show, having already known him from Shaun of the Dead.  That guy’s pretty good at playing a douche nozzle.  I liked a couple of their cameos as well, mostly Olivia Williams playing the part of a cyclist Tim and Mike had hit with their car, an obvious reference to the Sixth Sense that Olivia Williams was actually in.  Ricky Gervais had a small bit part, but it was cool to see him too.

The DVD of the show was an excellent purchase, as I found out after I had fallen in love with the show and started checking out the extras.  There’s a lot of good stuff on these DVD’s.  Unfortunately for me, my disc two DVD would not work, but each disk had some good outtakes, and I love watching them.  If you’re a fan of commentaries (like I am) you can enjoy not only the original commentary track, but ones with other fans of the show like Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, Matt Stone, Patton Oswalt, Bill Hader, and Quentin Tarantino.  On top of that, there’s a Q&A with the cast, and a feature-length documentary about Spaced that ties up a couple of loose ends left by the show not having a third series.

I seem to have gotten a little long-winded about the show, but I couldn’t help it.  This was a pretty great show.  It’s just the type of show for a nerdy guy like me.  Very funny, very charming, and with tons of references to other nerdy things I love.  Top that off with some great directing and fantastic performances, and this is a show I can fully recommend.  If you’d like to try it out, it’s available on Netflix streaming at the moment.  If you like it, buy it.  The only thing I regretted about my purchase is that my second disc isn’t functioning.  Either way, Spaced gets “It’s a subtle blend of lateral thinking and extreme violence” out of “You’re the best auntie I’ve ever had.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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