March 17, 2011

Geek Weekly: Television review - “Spaced.”

If you've never heard of “Spaced,” I can't say I'm really surprised. Painfully disappointed, but not surprised. A little background for the uninitiated:

“Spaced” was created by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes), and stars Pegg, Hynes, and Nick Frost (along with some other wonderful character actors). Most of the team went on to create the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, so chances are pretty good that if you're a geek, you're familiar with their brand of humor. The series aired in 1999 and 2000 on Channel 4 in the UK.

The show centers on Tim (Pegg) and Daisy (Hynes), strangers who meet over the classifieds in a London coffee shop. Tim has just been kicked out by his long-term girlfriend, while Daisy is attempting to get out of the squat she shares with several friends. They pretend to be a couple in order to get the perfect flat, thus becoming the nucleus of an odd and wonderful little family that includes Tim's “A-Team”-obsessed childhood friend Mike (Frost), Daisy's blonde fashion plate bestie Twist (Katy Carmichael), Marsha the landlady and her ever-present glass of wine (Julia Deakin), and the tortured and socially awkward artist Brian (Mark Heap).

The show is a celebration of geekdom, filled with loving references to everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to X-Men comics to Scooby-Doo to the ever-present Star Wars movies. One memorable episode uses a theme centered on the “Resident Evil” video games, and gives a sneak peek into the inspiration for Shaun of the Dead before it's even been made.

What this show does so well is balance the goofy humor with genuine heart and just a touch of romance that's compelling without being too heavy-handed. It's the same formula that made Shaun of the Dead so successful and so much fun to watch. The world is familiar yet surreal, filled with human caricatures that should be completely ridiculous but never fail to remind you of someone you know. My personal favorite being Tyres, the raving bike courier.

The series ran for two seven-episode seasons and is available on a DVD boxed set, which includes the 2004 documentary Skip to the End. It's the perfect length for an all-day marathon, with the more hard-core marathoners among us able to tack on the movies to watch the progression of the Wright-Pegg-Frost triumvirate.

Bottom line, if you're a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, you have to see this show. If you're not, what the hell is wrong with you?

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