5 out of 5
Directed by: Edgar Wright
So simple, so concise, so, so forever watchable.
The Brits have mostly been too smart to try to ape director Edgar Wright’s masterful mash-up of styles – equally adept at back-and-forth banter, sudden action / horror / sci-fi set-pieces, and outright craziness – though Spaced’s combination of dry UK humor with Benny Hill zaniness has certainly seen repeated attempts in the show’s wake. And certainly everyone’s mileage varies, but the strength of Wright’s visuals with the unbelievable timing and smart/smart-stupid scripting of stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson also, for me, sets Spaced at the top of its particular genre. Over in the US, especially post Shaun of the Dead, we clearly weren’t as aware of how difficult producing this exact meetup of talent and talents was, and so you got (and still get…) a fair amount of imitators, most of them so far off the mark that it’s just embarrassing.
And maybe you watch a recent Wright or Pegg effort and think that Spaced would probably be dated nowadays, but you put on the thing, and it turns out it’s still frikkin’ amazing. Sure, some of the media references are dated, as our lead duo love to talk comics and music galore, but that’s also sort of baked in as part of the gag: as comic artist and perpetual kid Tim and writer-to-be and wanna-be-cool-kid Daisy both find themselves in need of a flat, then fake a relationship in order to move into a ‘for couples only’ apartment – much of the humor is derived from how these two are both the coolest people in the world and incredible dorks, 100% out of step with the world around them.
But it’s cool, because so is the landlord; so is their neighbor; so is best friend Mike. And that’s the lovable nature, and one of the keys, to this Pegg / Stevenson / Wright combo: that we all get to be in on the joke. You shake your head at shenanigans; you grin with recognition. The speed and layered-ness of the jokes makes the show eminently rewatchable, but even as a start-to-back experience, the reward comes in seeing how the characters are edged along in their relation to one another while also staying in the exact same place, while also embracing, like, casual sex and drug use ’cause why not. Life can be complicated, and Spaced doesn’t ignore that, but it paints it with just enough quirk to make it seem not all that bad. Oh, and hilarious.