Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have become household names in the United States. Wright received universal acclaim for his blockbuster, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Pegg of course starred in anumber of Wright-directed films, including Sean of the Dead and Run, Fatboy, Run. Personally, I loved Shaun of the Dead, and I don't even like zombie films, I liked Scott Pilgrim, and Hot Fuzz wasn't without its charms. So, with that in mind, I decided to hit up Netflix instant streaming to watch the entirety of the TV show they worked on together in the United Kingdom before they hit it big in America: Spaced.
Fortunately, since it is a British TV show, watching all of Spaced was far from a chore. There were only two seasons, one in 1999 and one in 2001, and both only lasted seven episodes. Wright directed all the episodes, giving the show his distinct visual style, while Pegg was a co-writer and co-creator alongside Jessica Stevenson, who isn't really known in America. Still, she was a big part of creating this show, and should not be forgotten because she doesn't have the cache of a Pegg or a Wright.
Pegg and Stevenson co-star as Tim Bisley and Daisy Steiner, respectively. The two are slackers in their mid-20s, Tim a struggling comic book artist and Daisy an aspiring writer. Tim's girlfriend breaks up with him, and Daisy is in need of a place to live as well, but they can't find anywhere to rent. After striking up a friendship amidst their troubles, they find a place in a house that is great and reasonably priced. The only problem? The ad says it is for professional couples only. As such, they must pretend to be said professional couple to Marsha, the homeowner and their landlady, in order to keep the place.
Joining that trio as main characters in the show are Brian, the weird, eccentric artist who lives downstairs, Twist, Daisy's fashionista best friend, and Mike, Tim's best friend who loves the military, and who once stole a tank. Mike is played by Nick Frost, who is likely the only other person in the case that you would recognize in the States. This was, apparently, his first acting role of any significance, but he is quite good in it. His lack of experience may be why he isn't a major character in the first season, but he takes on a bigger role as the show goes on.
The show has a major "friends hanging out and looking for love" vibe, although there is also a lot of focus on Tim and Daisy trying to find themselves and get work they enjoy. Both are fairly lazy, as Tim spends most of his time playing video games while Daisy is almost always putting off work. Instead, the gang mostly gets involved in wacky hijinx, often of a heightened variety.
It should come as no surprise, if you have seen any of Wright's movies, that the show is very heavy in the pop culture reference and homages. It isn't like Family Guy, however (and mercifully). The references are worked into the show and its plot, making it more a matter of stylization than anything else. There is also plenty of talk of pop culture, which makes sense, as this is a world where pop culture exists, and Tim is a guy who loves comic books and such. What he does not love is Star Wars Episode I, that's for sure.
Spaced takes a few episodes to get going, which isn't surprising, but since there are only 14 episodes that is a bit more of an issue. However, I thought all of the episodes were at least good. Maybe only one or two are great, but I overall enjoyed the entire show's run. They found the main characters quickly, and the supporting cast ended up getting fleshed out well also. By the series finale, I was really liking Mike, Brian, and Marsha just as much as Tim or Daisy. Twist is the only one that never really clicked for me. The performances are all fine, although none really sticks out, although Julie Deakin's work as Marsha may be the funniest character work, owing to the voice she used for the role.
I also was happy where the show ended in the series finale. More than that, the couple of episodes leading up to it laid the groundwork well. The second season is definitely better than the first, it is funnier and the storytelling is improve as well, but both seasons are good. If you liked any of Edgar Wright's movies, particularly the ones he did with Pegg and Frost, then you will likely enjoy Spaced. However, if you haven't, but you enjoy stuff that is pop culture savvy and dishes out its cultural references well, you could still find it worth your time. Besides, it's not like the show is asking much of you given its short run time. Thanks, British television model!