Spaced

Spaced

1999 - United Kingdom

Spaced is one of those sitcoms you can return to time and time again

Review by Derek Thompson 

You might not think that the idea of two people pretending to be a couple, so they can bag a flat, sounds like a recipe for sitcom gold. You’re right – it’s isn’t. But in the hands of writers Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg, and through the directorial eye of Edgar Wright, it’s comedy platinum.

Spaced

Take thwarted graphic artist (no, they’re not comics) Tim Bisley and idle writer Daisy Steiner, and then surround them with more misfits: military enthusiast Mike Watt, tortured artist Brian Topp, fashionista (after a fashion) Twist Morgan, and committed oenophile (look it up…I’ll wait) Marsha Klein. Place them in 1990s’ North London, and simmer gently for two series made between 1999 and 2001. Sprinkle in some misadventures, a heavy dose of will they / won’t they, and a walkies-on part for Colin the dog. Then sit back and enjoy.

Spaced

Okay, on one level Spaced is just about a bunch of quirky 20-somethings drifting through an extended adolescence, like a homegrown screw-ups’ antidote to Friends. Look deeper though and you’ll find one of the smartest British sitcoms ever created. With oodles of callbacks, film references (and quoted lines) aplenty*, razor sharp banter, and enough cultural seasoning to deliver a banquet in only 14 episodes. The writers have acknowledged their debt to Moonlighting and there’s also a nod to Citizen Smith (you could say ‘tank’s for the memory…).

Those misadventures are like staging posts on a geeks’ magical mystery tour. Comics and comic shops, paintballing, animal rights, the rave scene, Star Wars and Robot Wars all get comprehensively but lovingly rinsed. There isn’t a single episode where the quality dips below awesome.

Spaced

The cast list reads like a who’s who of British comedy. Alongside Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg you’ll see: Nick Frost, Mark Heap, Peter Serafinowcz, Bill Bailey, Kevin Eldon, David Walliams, Reece Shearsmith, a cameo by a chilled-out entertainer named Ricky Gervais, and Keith Allen (uncredited as Tim’s stepdad).

This is the sitcom that spawned the three Cornetto films: the unsurpassable Shaun of the Dead, the incomparable Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. (Also the brilliant Paul.)

Spaced

In the interests of investigative journalism (and wordcount) I must mention the US remake, which was a TV movie of the same name. Written by Jessica and Simon, along with Adam Barr, it…erm…well, it hasn’t thrived on IMDb. True, there have only been two actual reviews, but its score of 1.2 would have Mike reaching for his gun.

Series two closed with an upbeat ending but left some unanswered questions. What a delight then to find out that a documentary called Spaced: Skip to the End was made, which treats viewers to the end they have been waiting for, as well as interviewing all the cast about their experiences on set. It’s out there if you can find it…

Spaced

Spaced is one of those sitcoms you can return to time and time again, like meeting up with old friends. Its charm is undiminished and I have yet to find a viewer that doesn’t long for series 3. 

* Most of the cinematic references are revealed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTx1ebqQGLk

Published on May 8th, 2023. Written by Derek Thompson for Television Heaven.

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