Friday, February 20, 2009

Spaced - DVD review

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover this Brit-com, but shame on me! Written by and starring Jessica (Stevenson) Hynes and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), Spaced ran on the BBC for two seven-episode seasons (1999-2001). The premise is simple: Stevenson and Pegg are two slackers, Daisy and Tim, who fortuitiously meet each other in a coffee shop as they are both in need of a place to live – Tim has been chucked by his girlfriend; and Daisy has been squatting in an abominable flat. They find an ad for a 2BR flat which sounds perfect, except for the “professional couple” requirement … so they decide to pretend to be in a long-term relationship and get the flat.

And that’s pretty much it. The show follows all the adventures that comic book artist Tim and unemployed Daisy get into with learning about each other, dealing with jobs (or lack thereof), going to pubs, adopting a dog, smoking spliffs; going clubbing, engaging in robot wars and interacting with their friends. Their friends are a hoot too: Marsha, their lonely landlady with a golden heart and a sodden liver; downstairs neighbor Brian, an avant-garde painter; Tim’s BFF Mike, lunatic soldier wannabe played by Nick Frost (SotD, HF); and Daisy’s BFF, Twist, who says she works “in fashion” but who really works for a drycleaner.

Pegg and Stevenson are a well-matched comedy team, both in their writing and their acting. The show is overflowing with pop culture references, from movies (Platoon, Fight Club, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Star Wars) to television (BtVS, the X-Files) to comics (Stan Lee, Dark Horse) to music. Fortunately the DVD contains a special subtitle feature called “Homage-o-meter” that, when activated, subtitles each and every reference in the show – very awesome. In addition, it was fun to recognize in a couple of the episodes actors/scenes/shots that Pegg and Wright would later use to good effect in SotD and HF. Spaced also was a proving ground for Wright’s cinematic style, being shot with only one camera (very un-sitcommy) and interspersed with fantasy scenes (the idea for which the creative team credits Northern Exposure).

I thought Spaced was laugh-out-loud hilarious, although I do have a soft spot for British comedies; Mr. Mouse stayed awake for the first two episodes and then went to take a nap. Bloody colonial.

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