Spaced only ran for two seasons. If you're from the U.S., chances are you didn't see it until way after the fact. Maybe you're like me and your first exposure to the show came via a DVD that someone lent you. Maybe you watched it all in one sitting, before "marathoning" TV shows was commonplace. Maybe you got to the end and wished there was a whole lot more. Spaced can do that to a person.
A British sitcom directed by Edgar Wright, Spaced was written by its stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson (now known as Jessica Hynes). It was a short, but genius piece of television that captured the lives of young adults existing in a cinema and television-drenched world around the turn of the 21st century. If you loved Shaun of the Dead or were a champion of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, you need to watch Spaced. And, if you’ve already seen the TV show, you should watch it again.
In Spaced, Tim Bisley is a comic book artist who pays the bills via his job at a local comic book shop. His girlfriend just dumped him and now he’s stuck without a home. Daisy Steiner is a writer who’s looking to leave the squat where she’s staying. Tim and Daisy meet at a coffee shop where they spend a few days looking for apartments. Soon, they find the perfect digs, but they have to pretend to be a couple in order to get the place. The fabricated relationship isn’t that integral to the story. Relatively few of the plots revolve around them keeping up the lie. Instead, the show focuses on the growing relationship between Tim and Daisy, mixed with their interactions with friends. There’s Mike, Tim’s childhood bff whose backstory is explored through a series of bizarre flashbacks. Then there’s Daisy’s shallow, and kind of mean, pal Twist. They mingle with Tim and Daisy’s landlady, Marsha, and their downstairs neighbor, Brian, the tortured artist.
At the time Spaced first aired, between 1999 and 2001, there was no The Big Bang Theory. Family Guy wasn’t the pop culture-flinging mess that it is now. Comedy imbued with a heavy dose of contemporary references weren’t all over the place. But, Spaced wasn’t just spewing homages for the sake of doing so. It was sort of in line with U.S. slacker comedies in that it was peppered with the kind of bizarre rants that feel like real life conversations with friends. However, it was more similar to British television shows like The Young Ones. Spaced was a headtrip filled with bizarre turns of events, dizzying glances into the characters’ points of view and flashbacks that you probably shouldn’t take all too literally.
More than a decade later, Spaced is still tops in the referential comedy arena. Wright’s use of nostalgic visual cues is deft. He’ll play with beloved moments from the big and small screen, be it Return of the Jedi or Murder She Wrote, in a completely obvious fashion. Yet, the focus isn’t on getting the chuckle that says, “I remember that.” It’s about how that piece of pop culture fanaticism reflects the characters’ personalities.
But, for every reference to Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a host of other things that are today considered part of the greater geek culture, Spaced is no nerd menagerie. There’s never once the feeling that you’re just watching a bunch of people with strange interests. Pegg and Stevenson did an excellent job of developing oddball characters that felt true to life. They were far more than their their quirky interests. No character was left as an outsider in the series. There was never the sense that one person was trying to understand another’s world. Their diverse backgrounds gelled perfectly. The protagonists– Tim and Daisy– began the series as equals and remained that way throughout both seasons. Both were flawed. Both screwed up. Both grew. Undoubtedly, Spaced featured some of the best sitcom to ever flash across a television set. It was as absurd as it was heartfelt.
Just the other day, Pegg tweeted that “there will never be a Spaced movie.” There’s a certain sadness to that because the show was so well done. However, maybe it’s good to leave the truly brilliant TV show as it was. We’ll remember Spaced , leaving the futures of Tim, Daisy, and the rest to live only in our own imaginations.