In Praise of Spaced

spaced.jpgOkay, I was going to wait until I finished making my way through the box set before posting something about this but I just hit something that’s thrown me right over the edge …

You may recall some of us getting all giddy about a wee British film called Shaun of the Dead not so long ago. Well, I’ve got a friend who’s been roaming the world for the past couple years and is currently in the UK (Nottingham, actually. Insert bad Robin Hood joke here. God knows I have been.) who I imposed upon to pick me up a copy of a little sitcom the key Shaun of the Dead folk did called Spaced. I’d heard good things and my expectations were high. They’ve all been shattered. Utterly. This is genius. It’s a simple enough premise – a wannabe writer and a wannabe comic book artist pretend to be a married, professional couple so that they can rent a flat – but it’s got a completely different tone to it than pretty much anything else I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly worlds away from anything you’d see on an American network. Though definitely written to be a straight out comedy the humor is rooted incredibly deeply in the character work of the two leads and is so specific that it’ll probably only really appeal to a fairly narrow range of people. But those who get it get it hard and if you’re reading this chances are you’ll get it. This thing is so littered with pop culture references – specifically sci-fi, comic book and b-movie references – that you’ll spend a good portion of the show just giggling over how they’ve managed to work stuff in but they also manage to create such strong characters that it hangs together as a remarkably strong whole.

Anyway … here’s what got me writing this … Season One is a compelling enough start – the episode lifting from the Evil Dead is just fantastic – but four episodes into Season Two it’s clear that they reached an entirely different level the second time round. Not only did the manage to work two members of the League of Gentlemen into the first three episodes but those three episodes include a wicked parody of the Matrix, repeated rantings on how bad The Phantom Menace sucked, an out of the blue shot at Babylon 5, and an episode that somehow manages to create a seamless fusion of Robot Wars, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Fight Club. Episode Four (there are only seven episodes per season, by the way) is what has made me a true believer for life. In a throwaway scene – a complete and total throwaway – they not only create a note perfect reconstruction of the bike accident scene from the Sixth Sense but they somehow got Olivia Williams (that’d be the wife in the Sixth Sense) to play the cyclist. If I hadn’t been lying down I’d have fallen out of my chair.

Just insanely good. Seriously.

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23 thoughts on “In Praise of Spaced

  1. The Best (in some kind of order)
    Alan Partridge (all series)
    Spaced
    Green Wing
    All Day Today/Brasseye
    Nighty Night
    Cruise of the Gods (2 hour one-off comedy)
    Big Train
    Office
    LoG
    Little Britain
    + anything and everything related to Coogan, Pegg, Ianucci, Baynham, Davis, and all their related friends
    Death to:
    Dibley, My Hero, repeats of Fools+Horses etc. I’ll spare My Family because of Nick and occasional wit

    In that order, and I’m not much of a Little Britain fan any more. The second series was repetitive and I expected David Walliams to raise the bar, or at least do some comedy worthy of COTG again.

    Good American shows:

    Scrubs
    Family Guy
    Futurama
    West Wing
    are my standouts

  2. DT – The teddy bear is something else. I admit that I did laugh hard at those bits. I’ll ‘find’ a couple more episodes but I don’t think it’ll make a home on my wall of DVDs.
    I know of Ali G. Perhaps I will ‘find’ some of his stuff on the web.
    I think anyone who isn’t familiar with the longevity of the everyday britcoms would think that brits were mad as a hat. I find the small seasons and 2 to 3 year runs refreshing. I see it as a sign of a culture that is always looking to better itself, find something new and not beat the ever loving crap out of a dead horse.
    Crap! I gotta get to work.
    Cheers!

  3. Andrew, I did warn you it was a bit bizzare! Some of it is funny, but you are right the vulgarity is a bit much at times. Though the do think the “excited” teddy bear is comical! Have read article today in the British press that Ali G is currently getting rave reviews in the States. He is sort of finished in Britain, with his act becoming a bit tired.

  4. David:

    I found some episodes of Bo Selecta. Meh. Too bizarre for me. It might have been the excessive vulgarity too. I’ve got my limits.

    Alan Partridge however is very good. Only seen Knowing Me, Knowing Yule (Ah-Ha) but I am looking at the series now.

    Brass Eye was good. Interesting. Not quite sure what to say about it. So the quest for more britcom continues.

  5. Ah, a convert. Now run along to the League of Gentlemen. Fox put season one out on DVD in North America, so it’s easy to find … and remember, yes, you are local.

  6. I already posted in the Edgar Wright post about Shaun of the Dead….But it almost seems like not enough, he he he….I just finished my first viewing of “Spaced” as well….It was awesome….My wife even got a kick out of them….I truly enjoyed “The Office” but this blows that right out of the water….The character of Tim was downright scary how close he is to myself and people I know….Loved it, loved it, loved it….Will be watching it again with the commentary….Again with the “Homage-O-Meter” (only season 2, unfortunately) and then again just for fun….So many things to catch that you just can’t get in one viewing…..

    “All we ever do is sex, sex, sex…Brian I want you to think of me as a whole”
    “I do!”
    “With a W, Brian!”
    He he he he he….

  7. Alan Partridge is pretty much a comical instition over here. A do find him funny, but must confess that I do not see Steve Coogan as the comedy genius everyone seems to claim he is. For me, The Office is far funnier and far more clever than Alan Partridge. David Brent and Partridge are similar characters, both make you cringe to hell but likeable at the same time. Have you seen the new Jackie Chan / Steve Coogan film that is out at the moment? Its name escapes me!!! By the way, Phoenix nights is another funny show. Mr Mack, I think you might be the only one on here who will find Bo Selecta funny. It very much revolves around British Popular Culture. The TeddyBare with the erection will make you chuckle though im sure

  8. Just keep on recommending them DT and I am sure they will somehow magically appear in my hands. These things have of way of showing up care of that special certain someone who posts like a madman and will also be ordering me a copy of Little Britain as well. Whee!

  9. Come on the England!!!! Who can stop the boy Rooney?! Glad you enjoyed Little Britain KungFu, it makes me chuckle. Typical bizzare British humour! Dont suppose you’ve seen a programme called Bo Selector? Now that is bizarre!!!!

  10. Little Britain’s out in October … I’ll be pre-ordering mine shortly … only two episodes in so far but have been much pleased …

  11. Nix and DavidTerry – First of all – Rooooooooney!!! Ah. Got that out of my system.
    I have managed to get my hands on the first season of Little Britain. Oh my. Great recommendation guys. I have to go back and check but I am sure that David Williams was in an episode of Spaced as well playing Brian’s excentric artist friend, Vulva. Sounds just like him but I am too lazy to grab the disc and look at the credits. Thanks for the heads up though guys. Thoroughly enjoying Little Britain. Heard it comes out on DVD in the next months so that will make it’s way over to this side of the pond.
    Portugal will die this Thursday.

  12. “I must admit to missing pretty much all of Spaced, it was out at a time in my life when pubs/clubs/drink/girlies where the paramount thoughts in my mind” – And who can blame you? It sounds like you had your priorities straight. Go on my son!!!
    And we will indeed keep our eyes and ears open for Little Britain. Of course the joys of all region players is that we don’t have to wait for some punk studio exec to ‘get it’.
    West Ham lost?!!? Bloody hell!!! We will still have Euro http://www.weebls-stuff.com/toons/35/

  13. Little Britain?

    “Yeah.. I know”.

    David will get that, doubt anybody else will!

    Little Britain is classic character comedy.. very very funny, worth it just for the incredibly mad and increasingly derranged narration provided by ex-dr who star Tom Baker.

    GoodBoo!

  14. Sorry for the delay KungFu, been to sunny Wales for the weekend watching West Ham lose in the play offs. I must admit to missing pretty much all of Spaced, it was out at a time in my life when pubs/clubs/drink/girlies where the paramount thoughts in my mind. It did have / still has a big cult following. However, as Bubba said in is introduction, didnt appeal to everyone. Most of the best British comedy exports this days tend to be the off the wall types, like league of gentlemen, Spaced, Alan Partridge, Black Books, Coupling etc and are invariably BBC2 or channel 4 productions. I can’t remember the last time any of the major TV channels over here made a good main stream comedy. Dont know if its been shown, but think you guys will like a show called Little Britain. If you havent heard of / seen it, keep your eyes peeled.

  15. Just finished the 2nd season in another sitting today. Whew. And I don’t have a headache afterwards. That’s a good sign. It’s bloody brilliant. So much to laugh at but I don’t want to give it away either. I’m still trying to pick out all the homages to other shows and movies from both seasons.
    One thing we need to remind the fans about though is that the two season set both Bubba and I got is region coded for the UK. But all-region DVD players are popping up all over the place and you can pick one up for relatively cheap these days. Pick up one of those and you can spend your children’s milk money on overseas DVDs like Bubba and I do.
    Let ’em have it!!!

  16. When I wrote my over-long thing on setting up affiliate accounts and why I chose Amazon UK over an independent Sendit was the one I had in mind when I mentioned the independent charging VAT even if you live outside of the UK. It’s a significant difference in cost – usually about the same as the cost of shipping. Thus I recommend buying it from amazon using this link right here

  17. you can find both season’s dvd available for sale at sendit.com, by your recomendation – it may be worth checking out.

  18. I did season 1 in one sitting last night. Just couldn’t stop. Melted my brain for sure. Bloody brilliant. I’m sure I woke my roommate up a couple times with my howls of laughter.
    I wonder how our fellow geeks on the other side of the pond feel about it, considering it’s been years since it’s been out over there.
    Any thoughts Mr. Terry?

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