Thursday, August 8, 2013



Long before the "Big Bang Theory" and "Chuck" became the go to shows for pop culture references, there was a little show called "SPACED" that aired on Chanel 4 in England way back in 1999-2001. Even though it only ran 14 episodes, those episodes were so dense full of humor, that the series run feels twice a long.  Spaced started the meteoric rise of the careers of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright. (and Jessica Hynes) This "Holy Trinity" of geek-dom has gone onto star/write/produce "Dr. Who," "Star, Trek, "Shaun of the Dead," "Hyperdrive," "Scott Pilgrim," "Hot Fuzz," "Star Wars: Clone Wars," "Paul," and the soon to be released "The World's End."

It is incredibly ironic that all three started off their careers writing/starring/directing a t.v. show about geek/nerd pop culture, and all three ended up becoming major players in the very genres they were immense fans of.  This is not unheard of though.  Kevin Smith made an entire career off of pop culture references, but Pegg,  Frost and Wright all three found their own niche and have been very successful at the same time.

But it must be said that Spaced does have an Achilles heel.  Although very well written, performed and directed, one must really at least have a cursory knowledge of pop culture.  A good example of this is an exchange between Mike and Tim.

Mike: Wanna go back into your party?
Tim: But they were playing 'The Time Warp'! I hate 'The Time Warp'!
Mike: Daisy likes it.
Tim: I don't care! I hate it! It's boil-in-the-bag perversion for sexually repressed accountants and first-year drama students with too many posters of Betty Blue, The Blues Brothers, Big Blue and Blue Velvet on their blue bloody walls!

Now, if you're twenty years old, you've probably never seen, or heard of "The Blues Brothers," "Blue Velvet," "The Time Warp," or even know that the time warp is from "Rocky Horror Picture Show," unless you saw it on an episode of "Glee."  So, all the references would be lost on you, but they were painfully funny and true for the time period the series took place in.  The Rocky Horror bit about the Time Warp STILL holds true today, though.  

The previous paragraph wasn't a slight against anyone who's twenty, it's just that most of the aforementioned references were from almost forty years ago.  In a way, we've hit Peak Pop Culture. Just about EVERTHING has now been referenced and lampooned through various shows like "Family Guy," "The Simpsons," "Futurama," "South Park," and "Robot Chicken."  But it's not just that, the references themselves are necessarily dated, it's just that there's now a pop culture gap where Gen X, Y, and Z no longer converge.

Pop culture has changed since Spaced aired.  There have been four Spiderman movies, two Star Wars movies, The entire LOTR trilogy, a Hobbit movie, three X-men movies, two Wolverine movies,  two Superman reboots, Avengers, Thor, and Captain America movies, two new Star Trek universe movies, and even Dr. Who has come back on the air!  Almost ALL of which are referenced in Spaced.

But beyond pop culture, Spaced does have some excellent writing, and performances, and characters. Characters like "Tyres," the bike messenger friend of the group.  Tyres had an ADD-like memory and concentration that wandered, but could be snapped into rythmic action by the most mundane things, such as a phone ringing, and a kettle boiling.  From that, Tyres would create his own music soundtrack in his head with hilarious results.

 In a scene reminiscent of "Clerks," Pegg's character of Tim Bisley goes "full retard" ** on a young patron of the comic book shop because the kid wanted to buy a "Jar Jar" figure.  This in itself shows the "war" in the differences between the original trilogy's fans and (at the time newly released) "The Phantom Menace."  Kids apparently DID like Jar Jar, at the time, but anyone of Gen X and above absolutely LOATHED Jar Jar and his "hilarious" antics.

You can see here in the video below that the seeds were planted for "Hot Fuzz" in the "male telepathy" scene.  

Of course, a US version of "Spaced" was planned, with Chuck creator "McG" at the helm, but the point of the humor was guys and girls from north London referencing and having fun with AMERICAN pop culture. 

The American version could not have worked and it be the same show, as part of the show's charm at the time was the characters in another part of the world beholden to America's nerd culture.  However, McG did ego on to produce a "third cousin" to the failed Spaced US version; the successful NBC series "Chuck." So fans of "Chuck" can in part thank "Spaced" for "Chuck" coming about.

During an interview with the Guardian in July 2013 promoting The World's End with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, Pegg confirmed: "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."

You can watch "Spaced" on Netflix.

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