Looking back at Spaced or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the geek life”
My friends, if you really want to know how to do a geeky sitcom right, forget all about The Big Bang Theory, and turn your attention towards Spaced; one of the greatest modern sitcoms Britain has to offer. Written by the wonderful Jessica Hynes (née Stevenson) and Simon Pegg, and directed by Edgar Wright, Spaced is a marvellously entertaining and bizarre tale of two twenty-somethings, and their small group of oddball friends that includes a military-nut; a chain-smoking, alcoholic landlady; a fashionista; and a basement dwelling artist. Oh, and a dog named Colin. Can’t forget the dog.
From Star Wars to Tomb Raider II, from Hawk the Slayer to Tekken; Spaced is full to the brim with loving homages to so many franchises from the world of both pop and geek culture, which includes references to TV shows, movies, comic-books, video games, music, and various lifestyles. Viewers really get a sense of the genuine labour of love that went into making this show, and the creators admiration of all things geeky; it’s so endearing. Horror, sci-fi, romance, this show references almost every genre, something which enables the show to provide enjoyment for so many different types of people. From the very first moment of the show we are given a reference to one of the greatest sci-fi franchises of all time – The Terminator (specifically Terminator 2: Judgement Day), and it only grows from there. Naturally, as the show is co-written by Simon Pegg, you would be crazy if you didn’t expect a good number of references to Star Wars. A recurring theme in season two is Tim’s impassioned hatred of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace; a hatred that burns so intensely he just cannot stop himself from berating a terrified child who only wanted to buy a Jar Jar Binks doll, which actually leads to Tim losing his job.
Offering up two amazingly well-written seasons, Spaced has managed to gain cult-classic status with fans all around the world. It is a show that can make you laugh, make you genuinely care about its group of characters; so it’s little wonder why Spaced has remained so popular with fans throughout the many years since its final episode. Yes, the characters could easily be considered odd people, but let’s be honest, how many of us can really say we’re not odd in some way? We all have our quirks, and that’s precisely why the characters in Spaced are so relatable; they get into many extraordinary situations, sure, but they’re written so damn well that they seem like people you could actually know in real life. These people are especially fleshed out, and not one of them could be considered a one-note character.
Our central set of characters include Tim, an aspiring comic-book artist (he’s extremely talented) that dreams to one day work for Dark Star Comics. At the moment he works at a comic shop called The Fantasy Bazaar, ran by his friend Bilbo Bagshot (played by the hilarious Bill Bailey). Betrayed by his girlfriend and a close friend, Tim finds himself unable to completely get over what happened, though he does manage to get a nice bit of revenge against the traitorous friend during a round of paintball. We also get to know Daisy; a budding writer that constantly finds herself lacking any motivation to actually sit down and work, instead finding anything to use as a distraction; be that cleaning the flat, getting a dog, or having a house party. These two characters meet for the very first time during the show’s opening episode while house hunting (unsuccessfully), which brings us nicely onto our next character – Marsha. Now, Marsha may just be the most tragic character on the show. Once an acclaimed athlete and hopeful contender for the Olympics, Marsha was one day struck down by a drunk driver, an incident that left her with a fractured leg and a taste for alcohol. Eventually falling behind on her training, Marsha soon lost interest in athleticism; long story short, she is now one of the loveliest landladies you could hope for. Never seen without a cig in one hand and a glass of wine in the other; Marsha’s life is the very definition of “what if?”. So, if Marsha lives upstairs, is there anybody living in the basement flat? Yes, yes there is, and that would be a man named Brian. Like Tim, Brian is an artist yet to be recognised for his work; though unlike Tim, Brian does not work on comic-book ideas, oh no. Brian does anger, pain, fear, aggression. It’s a bit more complex than watercolours. At one point in the series, Brian begins to date Daisy’s fashionista best friend Twist (her parents were hippies) which happens to have a profound effect on his ability to create, something which leads him to make a very difficult decision. Speaking of best friends, our final central character is Mike – Tim’s best friend. Oh boy, Mike is obsessed, utterly obsessed with all things military. Unable to join the army due to a childhood accident that resulted in detached retinas, Mike instead joins the Territorial Army, something he is forced to leave after suffering some kind of breakdown that lead him to do something rather extraordinary. So, that’s the gist of our main group, but of course there is so much more to all of them than I have put across here.
The show also happens to include an amazing set of side-characters that occasionally pop up throughout the show; characters that are played by actors and comedians you will no doubt be familiar with. The first character that springs immediately to mind is Tyres. Tyres is a friend of Tim and is perpetually off his tits on a range of drugs, something which causes him to experience an uncontrollable series of mood-swings, but also grants him the ability to find a beat in the most mundane of situations, such as the phone ringing or the kettle boiling. In fact, Tyres is actually involved in one of my favourite episodes of the show – he manages to convince the gang to join him at a rave, which lead to an immensely memorable scene for the series. Seriously, it was great. As mentioned previously, Bilbo Bagshot is the proprietor of The Fantasy Bazaar, a comic-book shop where Tim works part-time. If there’s one thing you do not do in front of Bilbo, it’s insult Hawk the Slayer. Other characters involved in the show include Duane Benzie, Tim’s backstabbing ex-friend; Damien Knox, who, if you watch Game of Thrones, I am totally sure you’ll recognise; Dexter and Cromwell, and a rather uniquely bizarre conceptual artist called Vulva. These side-characters, combined with the central cast and a myriad of special guest stars, help cement Spaced as one of the funniest shows you will ever have the pleasure of watching. I dare you to watch the show and not remember at least one moment from each of these characters. Everybody throughout the entire cast manages to offer us a truly spectacular experience.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the exemplary work of Edgar Wright. I’m sure you’re familiar with the man and what he can do by now thanks to his involvement with the box-office hits of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Edgar’s outstanding directorial talents have lead to some truly beautiful shots in, not only Spaced, but each of those movies he has worked on. The man has genuine talent which deserves recognition. From the rave scene to the imaginary gun shootout, Tyres’ spaced-out dancing to the brief moment seen in the image below, Spaced is so incredibly visually pleasing.
Oh, and speaking of Shaun of the Dead, I’m fairly certain the idea may have stemmed from one particular episode from this series.
So what actually became of the show? Well, as mentioned, Spaced only lasted for two seasons, something which left fans all around the world crying out for more. The show ended in April 2001, and at the time of writing this article we are now in 2016, and fans are still asking when a third season is due. Unfortunately, dear reader, if you are one of those fans holding out for a third season, I must be the bearer of bad news – It has been stated many times that a third season just is not on the books anymore due to the actors’ ages, and currently lifestyles. Edgar Wright recently said “Whenever we get asked about… another series of Spaced… one of the reasons we’re not going to do it is because we couldn’t possibly write it with any degree of truth now, because that’s not where we are or who we are any more. I always find it’s better to write from a perspective of truth.” So that’s it, these people have gone on to be hugely successful in their own rights, and just aren’t the same folk they were back in 1999 – 2001. Sure, it is a little sad, but what you must remember is that this show as it is right now is perfect. The epitome of a perfect sitcom in my opinion. To create a third season, especially after all this time, is to risk tarnishing that legacy. I won’t spoil how the second season ended here, but I will say that it gave each of the characters such a beautiful send off. If this is the end we see of Tim, Daisy, Marsha, Brian, Twist, and Mike, well, that’s just fine by me. End on a high.
So, dear readers, we discussed the end of Spaced, and now we must come to the end of this article. I hope you enjoyed reading about my love of Spaced, and I hope that I have instilled the desire to check out the show, or give it a rewatch if you’re already a fan. If you have seen Spaced already, let me know in the comment section below what you think of the show, what your favourite moments are; and… Oh my god! I’ve just remembered – I’ve got some fuckin’ Jaffa Cakes in my coat pocket!