Spaced (Review)

February 4, 2007

Spaced - Definitive Collectors Edition DVDI’m a fan of a lot of British comedies, but this one has to be in the thick of a tough competition for a spot in my five or so all-time favorites.

Spaced, written by and starring Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) as Tim Bisley, struggling comic artist and Jessica Stevenson as Daisy Steiner, a terminally-blocked aspiring writer who meet by chance and end up pretending to be a couple in order to rent a surprisingly cheap flat together after Tim’s girlfriend shows him the door and Daisy can no longer stand squatting with a group of assorted low-lifes.

The story lines center around the two of them, and an eclectic collection of characters including Brian, the bizarre and frustrated conceptual artist downstairs, Marsha, their drunken and man-hungry landlady upstairs, Tim’s gun-toting, soldier want-to-be best friend Mike, and Daisy’s best friend Twist, a pretentious fashionista.

As entertaining as the stories is the look of the show, shot in a distinctive cinematic, single-camera style, and the relentless homages to movies, other TV shows and popular culture — particularly science fiction and horror movies.

The timing and chemistry is dead-on, the plots are far off the beaten path, and the fantasy sequences and shouts-out to movies ranging from Night of the Living Dead to (the much vilified in the show) Phantom Menace are fanboy heaven.

(In fact, Pegg has credited the fantasy zombie sequences in Spaced as the inspiration for the hysterical Shaun of the Dead, which shares most of Spaced’s style, and much of its cast)

Now for the bad news…

Typical of British television, Spaced consists of just two short series (what we’d call seasons) of seven episodes each, first aired in 1999 and 2000. There have been rumors for years of a third series, but it’s beginning to look doubtful.

Worse, the only DVD set available, the excellent Spaced – Definitive Collectors’ Edition is only available currently as a Region 2 import (not a massive problem, if you’re used to getting around such things, but still). One thing that makes this set worth the effort is the inclusion of a “homage-o-meter” feature that can be turned on to reveal every movie and culture reference, in place of captions (which are also available, for the UK accent impaired).

If you’re not up to dealing with a Region 2 DVD, the series turns up occasionally on BBC America (edited, of course, in order to spare our frail colonial sensibilities).

Naturally, the unadulterated version is also available in the usual places (or so I hear), for those who can run a bittorrent client and persuade their consciences that it’s okay, not that we’d ever suggest doing such a thing.

Spaced – Definitive Collectors’ Edition DVD

Shaun of the Dead

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