Spaced: A cultural touchstone you might have missed
By Bert Ehrmann
August 1, 2008
I had heard of the UK TV series Spaced years before I ever saw an episode. It was a series so popular with those who had already seen it that they used it as a reference point for critiquing other shows. Before I saw Spaced, I figured the series was a sci fi drama based on the title alone, but in reality Spaced is a modern day comedy that deals with a group of twenty-somethings living and (sometimes) working in London.
In Spaced, Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) plays Tim, a struggling comic book artist who divides his time between videogames, his best friend Mike (Nick Frost, also of Shaun) and a gig working the counter at a comic book shop. Jessica Hynes (Son of Rambow) plays Daisy, a writer that dreams of a life of fame via the printed page but doesn’t have the work ethic to spend more than a minute or two in front of her typewriter.
Daisy and Tim meet by chance in the first episode and find themselves playing girlfriend and boyfriend and living together when the only apartment they can afford will only rents to couples. There’s also Brian, an artist that lives in the same building as Tim and Daisy that an artist of “anger, pain, fear and aggression” and Daisy’s friend Twist that’s obsessed with Brian and beauty products.
Spaced was, at least in a minor way, a part of the resurgence of Brit comedies that began an invasion on US shores some half a decade ago. While the original versions of The Office and Coupling were finding an audience and winning accolades on BBC America, Spaced was picked up and aired Trio TV. Unfortunately, Trio was only available to a small number of satellite TV subscribers and only aired a few times during the lead-up to the release of the film Shaun of the Dead back in 2004.
So, if you ever saw Spaced here in the US before this summer it was because a) you saw it on Trio, b) you saw it overseas or c) you saw it via bootleg. Which is a shame, since IMHO Spaced touches an interesting nerve that somehow perfectly captures what it was like to have grown up in the 1980s, come of age in the 1990s and were expected to mature, find a career and life at the dawn of the 21st century. It’s almost a last gasp of the slacker generation trying to hold onto their carefree days before the chains of mortgages, kids and car payments set into adulthood.
In fact, with the constant pop culture references, self-deprecating humor and snappy dialog, the series Spaced can almost be seen as a Brit version of Kevin Smith style humor. Especially since Pegg and Smith seemingly share an unhealthy obsession with the Star Wars movies.
A great primer to Spaced are the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz since these two films were written by Pegg and Edgar Write who also directed and co-wrote (along with Hynes) much of Spaced. All of the subtle pop-culture references in these two films from Jurassic Park to He-Man are all present in Spaced as well.
Luckily for me, I was able to catch and record Spaced when it originally ran on Trio back in 2004. It was a bit of a revelation when I first saw the series. How could something with the humor and heart of series like Freaks and Geeks or Arrested Development be so overlooked by American audiences? Was it that the series was difficult to obtain or the funny accents of the actors in the series?
Regardless of how many times Spaced ran or how many people saw it, I think that Spaced is one of the best sitcoms, Brit or otherwise, to have aired in the last twenty years. Spaced just began airing on BBC America and the entire series, some 14 episodes, is finally available on DVD here in the US. DVD extras include commentaries, documentaries and interviews with American fans of the show including Kevin Smith.