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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews Spaced (The Complete Series)

A little over a year ago, I wrote that I was excited to have begun watching the newly-released (and long-anticipated) DVDs of Spaced: The Complete Series.  Well, I can’t believe how long it took me to finally finish the set (despite there only being two seasons of seven episodes each, Steph and I decided to draw out our viewing to savor the enjoyment — we didn’t want the series to end!), but I’ve finally done so.

I am happy to report that the series is every bit as wonderful and weird as I’d been hearing for all these years!!

Spaced was a short-lived British TV show that had two seasons (or “series,” as they like to call them across the pond) of seven episodes each (with the first batch coming out in 1999 and the second in 2001).  It was written by and starred Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and now Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek) and Jessica Hynes, and was directed by Edgar Wright.

Simon and Jessica played Tim and Daisy, two mismatched North Londoners who pretend to be married in order to qualify for renting an affordable flat that they both had their eye on.  The series follows the misadventures of Tim and Daisy and their small and bizarre group of friends: the military-loving Mike, the delightfully daft Twist, the depressed conceptual artist Brian, and Tim and Daisy’s droll, alcoholic landlady Marsha.

What’s so wonderful about the series is the way that it doesn’t idealize the lives of these sort-of-lost (mostly) young people.  This isn’t Friends, where everyone is perky and lives in extraordinarily large and beautiful apartments.  Tim and Daisy are both unendingly lazy and unambitious, and their flat is endearingly small and believably cluttered.

But the series isn’t depressing — rather, it is a ridiculous amount of fun.  Though each character is filled with quirks, they all quickly become surprisingly lovable, and it is great fun watching them go through their little day-to-day adventures.  Also, the series is practically built around an ever-increasing number of rapid-fire references to (and parodies of) a wide variety of movies, TV shows, and all sorts of other aspects of sci-fi, comic books, and lots more geeky stuff.  The closest thing I could compare all of this silliness to is the fantasy sequences found in Scrubs — though the fantasies here are much more elegantly done and more intricately woven into the narrative.  It is great fun spotting all of the little winks and nods included in each episode.  (There’s even an homage-o-meter included as a special feature on the DVDs.)  Some of the references are a little dated (there are a lot of jokes about The Matrix and Star Wars: Episode I, for instance) but that’s not really bothersome — and for any joke that’s a little old there is another gag just around the corner that is bound to tickle your funny-bone (a brilliant One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest gag from one of the final episodes is springing to my mind).

I should also praise the show for the wonderfully cinematic style of the show as directed by Edgar Wright.  Rather than the familiar sitcom set-up, Spaced was filmed with only one camera and utilized rapid-fire editing and a constant array of different sets, locations, and camera angles.  Those techniques have become much more common in TV today (in shows like Arrested Development, Scrubs, 30 Rock, the American version of The Office, and others) but which were extraordinarily groundbreaking back in 1999.

The DVD is also filled to overflowing with terrific special features.  The most notable is a phenomenal feature-length documentary on the entire series entitled “Skip to the End.”  This is exactly the type of making-of documentary that I wish could be found on EVERY TV-on DVD release.  It is an extraordinarily exhaustive look at all aspects of the making of the show, featuring interviews with all of the show’s key players (and many of its not-so-key players — they got interviews from EVERYONE!).  It is also notable for its inspired closing minutes (hence the doc’s title) that provide a wonderfully sweet epilogue to the series that is not-to-be missed.

The DVD set is also filled with an array of deleted scenes, out-takes, a cast reunion from the 2007 Comic-Con, and many, many episode commentaries from the cast and crew and notable fans of the show such as Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, and Quentin Tarantino.

Spaced is a unique, hysterical show that is not-too-terribly well-known here in the States, and that’s a shame.  It’s fantastic to see the show finally get an American DVD release — and the fact that the DVD package is so spectacular is a terrific bonus.  Any fan of this web-site will love this show, I have no doubt.  Check it out!

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