Spaced - Series One Review
Written by and starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, Spaced was first shown on Channel 4 in 1999 and quickly acquired something of a cult status. The show follows the lives of Tim and Daisy (and their respective friends), two twenty something’s who become friends and flatmates under surreal circumstances.
Tim (Simon Pegg) is a skateboarding comic fiend whose ambition in life is to get his own comic published; he currently works as the assistant manager in a comic book store. Daisy (Jessica Stevenson) has lots of ambition and no drive, and is still unsure of what she wants to do in life, apart from write. Tim’s friend Mike (Nick Frost) is an Army wannabe who is a member of every outdoor club going, and Daisy’s friend Twist (Katy Carmichael) works at the local dry cleaners, has illusions of grandeur and is totally tactless. The other main characters are Marsha (Julia Deakin), their landlady, and Brain (Mark Heap) who rents the downstairs flat.
So what we essentially have is a Sitcom that revolves around 6 characters in much the same way as Friends or Cold Feet, but that is where the similarities end. Spaced includes themes and images that the clean living Friends would balk at, drug taking, drinking copious amount of alcohol and obtaining pornography are just a few of the topics that Spaced includes. Mix that with a barrage of throw away one liners, visual gags, and frequent film (and video game) references, and you’ve got a new-age British Sitcom that’s original and pretty damn funny.
That said, the appeal of Spaced is not just about gags and film references; it also deals (quite nicely) with the trauma of growing up and gaining responsibility. Tim and Daisy are the typical Generation X kids having to deal with aspects of adulthood whilst still being reluctant to leave their carefree teenage years behind. This is something many of us go through - how many people do you know who work and still wish that they were back in the Student Bar on a Wednesday afternoon?
Before they wrote and stared in Spaced, Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg were reasonably well known and respected comedy actors. Given the strength of their performances in the series it’s easy to see why, as they both have a great sense of comic timing, and inject believability into their characters. In fact, it’s quite hard to point out a bad performance in Spaced, even Nick Frost (Mike) is superb in his first ever acting role. As for the characters themselves, well they might be a bit stereotypical, but they are all well observed and on the whole likeable.
Tim gets dumped and Daisy wishes to move on with her life. A chance meeting in the local café winds up with them pretending to be a professional couple in order to secure tenancy in a 2 bed roomed flat in London. Here they meet their new landlady, Marsha a wine guzzling, fag smoking fourty something with a teenage daughter from hell, and Brian the unconventional painter who rents the downstairs flat.
The day after the ‘big move’ and Daisy is trying to find any excuse to avoid work. After finally unpacking all her stuff she persuades Tim that they should have a housewarming party. Brian and Marsha are invited as are Tim’s friend Mike (to provide security) and Daisy’s friend Twist. After a bit of redecoration with the help of some Bacofoil, the party’s all set, but will it be able to compete with Amber’s party upstairs?
During a night out, Tim and Mike buy some cheap speed, which results in Tim having Resident Evil hallucinations and Mike ending up somewhere in Yorkshire. Daisy gets an interview with glossy female magazine Flaps, and Brian receives an invitation from his old ‘performing partner’ Vulva, for his new play.
When Daisy gets dumped by her student boyfriend Richard, she persuades Marsha to let her buy a dog in order to cheer herself up. Meanwhile Tim and Mike have an afternoon of nice relaxing paint-balling planned. Little realising that Duane Benzie, Tim’s ex-friend and girlfriend stealer will be there as well.
Colin is safe and happy in his new home, but for how long? A shadowy figure is lurking outside No 23, and manages to dog nap Colin when Tim is out walking him one night. Distraught Daisy and Tim search high and low but with no luck, until a mysterious letter arrives in the post telling them of Colin’s whereabouts. Will they be able to rescue Colin before he becomes a lab dog?
Tyres, the cycle courier for Tim’s comics pops round after a night out. After extolling the virtues of clubbing he invites Tim and Daisy out, and promises to lend them the money. Meanwhile Mike has been thrown out of the Rough Ramblers after a canoeing accident and is persuaded to join the gang on their night out. Brian also decides to come along after realising that a night out with Twist and the others is better than a night in alone with Marsha.
When Tim receives a phone call from his ex-girlfriend, Sarah, he’s convinced she wants to get back together again and agrees to meet her. Brian finally asks Twist out to an exhibition of work by Tunde Arungundade, and Mike has a date with destiny at the TA centre. After an afternoon guzzling wine, Daisy finally finds out what went on between Marsha and Brian, and then gets bitten by the writing bug. Is Tim going to move back in with Sarah, will Mike get back into the TA and will Daisy find anyone to buy her articles? All will be revealed….
Although the DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, the picture does leave something to be desired. For starters, there is a lot of grain showing in the flashback sequences, it’s hard to tell whether this was an intended effect, as the grain is very noticeable on some flashbacks and less so on others. There are also scenes when there tends to be an over saturation of daylight, which is also accompanied by a slight fuzziness in the picture quality. Overall the picture quality is not bad, but it’s by no means brilliant.
As this was a TV series should we really expect more than a DD2.0 soundtrack? Personally I would have loved to see this remixed to a DD5.1 as there are certain aspects of Spaced that do rely heavily on sound effects, but overall the DD2.0 soundtrack suffices. There are no problems distinguishing dialogue, but you may have trouble working out what some of the sound effects are meant to be.
The menus are nicely designed, and the main menu is animated with the pictures of the main characters changing every few seconds. The Special Features and Scene Section menus are static, with a quote from one of the characters when you select an option. Each menu includes artwork by Jason Bramshill and Jim Murray, who were responsible for producing the artwork for the show.
Spaced comes with an impressive selection of extra features. This was relatively unusual at the time as most DVD’s of TV shows were generally ‘bare bones’ disks, for example the BBC BlackAdder releases. So what do you get on the Spaced disk that makes it so worthwhile?
Commentary: Each episode has a commentary with Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevens and Edgar Wright (director). They are also joined by Julia Deakin, Mark Heap, Nick Frost and Nira Park for the commentaries on episodes 2 to 7 (not all together obviously!). The commentaries are very funny and quite informative, covering topics from Jessica’s wardrobe (mostly borrowed), to having to play Resident Evil for 2 days. Different sets and locations are pointed out, just in case you did want to visit the comic book store.
Trailers and TV Spots: The TV Spots and trailers that were shown on Channel 4 to promote the series are included and there are 7 of them overall. The trailers really do give a good indication of just how quirky Spaced is, and serve as a very quick introduction to the main characters. Also included is the trailer for Spaced 2001 (or Spaced Series Two).
Cast, Crew and Character Biographies: Not only do you get a biography of all the main members of cast and crew, but additionally you get a character biography as well. Each character biography is accompanied by childhood photos, and top fives for each character.
Deleted Scenes: A total of 13 deleted scenes can also be found on the disk, and can be watched with or without the accompanying commentary (with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright). Some of the deleted scenes are just an extension of existing scenes, some are not. My favourite being the Klingon battle between Tim and Bilbo in the comic book store. The deleted scenes are presented in the same order as the episodes so you can easily identify which episode the scene was due to appear in originally.
Out-takes: Again presented in series order, these outtakes are generally goofed shots when people could not stop laughing. They are worth a watch though, if only for Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson’s rendition of ‘Pump up the Jam’.
Spaced was originally written to appeal to twenty something’s, but also manages to have a far wider appeal due in part to the inclusion of many pop culture references, film trivia and homage’s. The DVD release is as groundbreaking as the sitcom itself as the impressive list of extra features shows, although it’s a shame about the picture quality. If you like quirky comedy with an ‘edge’ Spaced is a DVD to add to your collection, and one that no self-respecting fan should be without.