a snowed-in bill bodkin looks at one of his all-time favorite television shows …
“There’s pleasure in discovery.”
This quote was from an interview I did back in college with a member of a group that promoted concerts on campus. I can barely remember the story this quote came from, but it has always stuck with me. It also became extremely relevant the day I first saw the amazing U.K. sitcom Spaced.
Spaced came into my life, as it did to countless Americans, while watching the behind-the-scenes documentaries for the cult classic Shaun Of The Dead. Entranced by Shaun‘s brilliant combination of witty one-liners, sight gags, pop-culture references and a sincere human touch, fans — like the zombies in Shaun — became ravenous for Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. Obviously. we didn’t want to consume their flesh, but it was their comedy, so unique yet so relatable that we yearned for.
YouTube proved a fertile ground for Spaced clips. However, if you were lucky like me, you were able to procure a copy that would play in your American format DVD player. I watched the DVDs daily, bringing my roommate and then girlfriend (now fiancee) into the world of Spaced. I recommended it to everyone, lent my copies out — the word needed to be spread.
And word indeed spread, to the point where, in 2008, a box set was officially released in America (and on hulu) — all the bells and whistles from the original U.K. release we included, as well as new commentary and testimonials from die-hard Spaced fans — Patton Oswalt, Diablo Cody, Bill Hader, Judd Apatow, Kevin Smith, Peter Jackson and … Quentin Tarantino. So if you don’t take my word for it from this blog, take theirs.
The concept of Spaced is quite simple. Struggling comic-book artist Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg), dumped by his longtime girlfriend, meets aspiring writer Daisy Steiner (Jessica Hynes). Both are looking for an apartment and see an ad in the local paper for a cheap place in a nice area for a professional couple. The two, desperate to find a place, pretend to be a couple and get the apartment. The plot of the show is the tried and true “will they/won’t they” sitcom formula with the “whacky neighbors and friends” concept. Think Northern Exposure meets The Simpsons meets Friends.
Simple enough, right? Well, this is just the framework, because once you digest the initial concept, it’s off to the races at lightspeed. Spaced is more than your average sitcom — it’s a celebration of pop and geek culture produced in a unique, hilarious and completely relatable way.
Geek and pop culture is celebrated in the show through its film references — both verbal and visual. Pulp Fiction, Saving Private Ryan, The Shining, The Matrix and of course, Star Wars — which is both celebrated (the original series) and absolutely torn to shreds (the new series) both with passionate fervor). There’s so many references that the Season 2 disc has an “homage-o-meter” which actually tells you what films as well as music, TV shows, comic books and pop culture references are being made.
Visually, the show is absolutely stunning — camera work inspired by the Evil Dead films, the incorporation of comic-book panels, video-game graphics and high-energy editing. As a director and cinematographer, Edgar Wright, even in his early career, shows he’s an absolute genius. As for the brilliant editing — that can be attributed to Chris Dickens, who recently won the Academy Award for his editing work on Slumdog Millionaire.
Yet, with all this rich comic material at their disposal, what makes this show so near and dear to fans, is the heart of Spaced. Beneath the surface of all the funny is genuine emotion. You can relate to all of these characters. Seriously, who can’t relate to the unbridled frustration Tim has with relationships … and the new Star Wars movies? And despite the very familiar “will they/won’t they” concept of the series — you really do get behind the notion that Tim and Daisy could eventually become a couple. You root for it, you want it.
And it’s not just on an emotional level with which you can relate to these characters, you know these characters. Hell, you might be one of these characters. This show is you and your crazy friends hanging out, playing Playstation 1 games until 4 a.m., going to raves, going to the pub, etc. Okay, raves and PS1 aside, you can definitely relate. I alluded to Friends earlier, and Spaced in many ways is like Friends, but with regular looking, mid-to-late 20-somethings looking to make their way in the world — at their own pace.
Honestly, my words cannot do this show justice. Simply put, if you’re a fan of 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Arrested Development or are looking for a unique, original show that will not only tickle your funny bone but touch your heart, then you absolutely, unequivocally need to rent, nay, buy, Spaced on DVD — because you will truly find pleasure in discovery.