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Friday, June 18, 2021

“Spaced” Paved the Way for Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost’s ‘Shaun of the Dead’ [TV Terrors]

Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank into obscurity.

In this installment we head back to where it all began for a beloved trio: “Spaced.”

  • Aired from 1999-2001
  • Aired on Channel 4

Before Edgar Wright‘s “Cornetto Trilogy,” which kicked off with Shaun of the Dead, Wright directed a cult series very much in the spirit of the horror genre known as “Spaced.” Once upon a time, “Spaced” was mainly known as an underground cult show from the UK that very gradually rose to popularity and notability thanks to the overseas success of Shaun in 2004. 

The episodic single camera comedy is an absolute love fest of pop culture celebrating everything from comic books, video games, classic cartoons, science fiction, and yes, primarily Star Wars and horror movies. Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg play aspiring writer Daisy Steiner and aspiring comic book artist Tim Bisley, two London based twenty-somethings who meet by chance in a café. While looking for a flat they form a friendship and a bond. 

When they finally find a flat they can share, they’re told the owner Marsha Klein will only sell to a professional couple. Desperate for a living space, they pose as a young couple in order to meet the requisites. When they move in they befriend eccentric artist/neighbor Brian Topp, and get into random misadventures with their friends Twist, and military buff Mike Watt (Nick Frost). Tim and Daisy consistently find themselves running into hurdles as they try to accomplish goals in their own lives while also keeping up with their charade.

Every single hilarious episode (produced by Gareth Edwards and Nira Park) feels like a product of love from the creative team of the series, as writers Stevenson and Pegg inject everything from broad sight gags to absolutely bizarre cutaway gags, allowing literally anyone to just lose themselves in this weird universe. The series acts as a means for the team to also provide catharses for themselves and their inner children as Pegg and Stevenson are able to stage genuinely genius sequences that celebrate and lampoon their passionate love for Star Wars and horror movies. 

One episode finds Tim being fired from his job at a comic book shop after he viciously berates a young child for loving Jar Jar Binks. There’s also a great cutaway of Tim sadly burning his Star Wars merchandise, Return of the Jedi style, subsequent his viewing of “Episode I.” In an excellent moment that never ceases to make me laugh, Tim explains to Brian that every man has an “unspoken telepathy” that compels them to get into air gun fights no matter where they are. Every episode squeezes in as many pop culture and movie references as it can, always within what are genuinely engaging (and often quite hilarious) storylines. 

Stevenson and Pegg are brilliant playing off of one another and the overall ensemble of the series is top notch. There isn’t a single weak link in the cast, and Wright is able to do so much with the simplistic settings. When pushed into a corner I would definitely consider “Spaced” within the horror realm, not just because it unabashedly celebrates the genre, but it lays down the template for the now classic Shaun of the Dead. There are so many moments that unabashedly celebrate and lampoon horror movies. Everything from Scooby Doo, The Shining, and The Sixth Sense, to the consistent references to the Evil Dead II and George Romero; Pegg and Stevenson inject so many subtle (and not so subtle) nods and winks that you might miss a few on first viewing. 

There’s an excellent prologue in episode 3 where Tim is forced to do battle with a slew of the walking dead in his flat one night after falling asleep playing Resident Evil II. Wright knows how to beautifully shift tones, and dives headfirst into horror movie territory with the prologue, segueing into a genuinely hilarious episode that mostly focuses on Brian and his past. With “Spaced,” Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Jessica Stevenson concoct such a loving tribute to eighties and nineties pop culture, while also unfolding a hilarious and often touching saga about realizing your dreams, and ignoring that nagging sense of impostor syndrome that we can often have as artists. 

Despite only going for two seasons, “Spaced” amassed an intensely loyal following in the UK, and the passionate base grew once the series seeped into the states with eagerly awaited Region 1 DVD releases. By the time of the DVD releases, the cast and creative team had found varied success in film and various other television projects. This includes Shaun of the Dead, which is ironically a tribute to “Spaced” as much as it is to the Romero zombie movies. That still doesn’t stop the fans from asking for a third season to this day. Unfortunately, however, Wright and Pegg don’t seem keen on re-visiting the series anytime soon.

In 2007, NBC did attempt a controversial, unofficial American remake of the series with McG on board as show runner (in hopes of mimicking the success of “The Office”). Along with being painfully watered down from its source material, Wright, Pegg, Stevenson, and Frost (as well as the fans) criticized and trashed the adaptation. The former foursome were infuriated for being locked out of the development by the network, while the men were angry at Stevenson being largely excluded from publicity as one of the creators of the hit series. It thankfully never made it beyond the pilot.

Despite the fact that a true third season will never come to fruition, “Spaced” has remained a cult favorite, and continues to grow in popularity as the creative team has amassed seasoned careers in high profile films and passion projects in the States and the UK. 

It’s a deserving outcome for such a creative and talented group.

Is It On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming? You can catch the full series streaming on TubiTV, and on Amazon Prime Video, through IMDBTV. And the Region 1 “Complete Series” DVD set is still widely available with a slew of extras. The original import DVDs are also readily available for purchase.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3670088/spaced-paved-way-edgar-wright-simon-pegg-nick-frosts-shaun-dead-tv-terrors/

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