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Spaced: The Complete Series (1999-2001)

BBC Video
DVD Released: 7/22/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/31/2008

If you're like many filmgoers who keep up with current, hip comedies, then you've no doubt seen Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. In my opinion, Shaun of the Dead is one of the most clever and well-planned films ever made. And while Hot Fuzz isn't quite as good, it is still an entertaining movie. But, did you ever wonder where stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and Director Edgar Wright got their start? Did they just suddenly start making movies one day? No, the three worked together on the British television show Spaced, which has grown a cult following in the U.S. (And I'm sure that plenty of British DVDs of the show have been imported.) Now, Warner Home Video and BBC Video have brought Spaced: The Completed Series to DVD in America.

The title Spaced may lead one to think that this is a science-fiction show (after all, the Brits always have sci-fi shows), but it isn't. As the show opens, Tim (Simon Pegg) and Daisy (Jessica Stevenson) meet in a coffee shop. Daisy is an out-of-work journalist and Tim is an aspiring comic book artist. They are both looking for a place to live, but can't find anything suitable. They come across an ad for an apartment which sounds perfect, but it requires a professional couple. So, they meet with the landlady, Marsha (Julia Deakin), and convince her that they are young lovers. They soon meet the building's other tenant, Brian (Mark Heap), a paranoid artist. As they congratulate themselves on pulling off the ruse, Daisy attempts to write articles, while Tim spends time with his friend, Mike (Nick Frost), a gun enthusiast. But, as Tim and Daisy lie about the flat together, they quickly form a bond.

When I first saw Spaced (like many people, via DVDs purchased through Amazon UK), I was sort of surprised by it. This may sound like a stupid statement, but based on what I'd seen in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the show was what I'd expected, but nothing all like what I'd expected. I'll try to expound on that.

I don't think that I'll surprise or offend anyone by saying that Spaced is a very silly and strange show. The premise (which let's face it, isn't very original, more on that in a moment) is a simple jumping-off point for the show to go in many directions. The show is packed with references to movies, music, and comic books -- some very broad and others quite obscure. And these references don't come just in the dialogue. There are entire scenes which are based on movies, and many, many shots which are taken from films, whether they make sense or not. (Such as two girls in the closet who echo the twins from The Shining.) Again, many of these references will fly over the heads of the average viewer, but those in the know will find themselves nodding in approval at them. There are also a lot of references to drugs in the show, and Spaced doesn't shy away from implying, or showing, the characters using drugs. This is the kind of thing which wouldn't be readily accepted in an American show. And, of course, Spaced contains a lot of clever dialogue.

However, I must say that I was surprised by the semi-serious side of the show. (I say "semi" serious, because, after all, this is Spaced.) From the outset, it's very predictable that the "just friends" relationship between Tim and Daisy isn't going to last and it's going to be a source of conflict. (Which goes back to the unoriginal nature of the show's premise. The main story and their relationship is like Bosom Buddies and Moonlighting rolled into one.) But, the show gets fairly serious about this at times. Also, the unemployment system is apparently very different in Britain, and I honestly couldn't tell if the show was making fun of that system, making a statement about the employment climate in England, or commenting on a slacker culture. Either way, the fact that Tim and Daisy don't work comes up a lot.

So, my point is, the fact that you loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, doesn't guarantee that you'll love Spaced. One thing to definitely keep in mind is that Nick Frost has only a supporting role here, so we don't often get a Pegg-Frost team-up as in the movies. On the other hand, the show is laugh-out-loud funny and it will remind viewers of American shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock which go for broke with each joke.

Spaced: The Completed Series conquers America courtesy of BBC Video. This three disc set contains all of the episodes from the show's two seasons (or series, as they are called in the UK). The shows are letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very soft here, and any bright light source blooms all over the screen. Is this a result of the fact that the show was shot using European standard equipment? Is a PAL transfer issue happening here? I don't know, but the image looks bad at times. There is also some slight grain present. On a positive note, despite the fact that the image is overly bright at times, the colors look fine. The DVD features a Dolby stereo audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. (Although the subtitles are helpful with the British accents.) The audio is sharp and clear, and the in-show music sounds especially good.

The Spaced: The Complete Series set sports many extras. Disc 1 contains several AUDIO COMMENTARIES. We get the original commentaries from the UK DVDs, which feature Pegg, Stevenson, Wright, Julia Deakin, Mark Heap, and Producer Nira Park. (Various members appear on various episodes.) There are also new celebrity commentaries with Kevin Smith (Episodes 1-3), Diablo Cody (Episodes 4-5), Matt Stone (Episode 6), and Patton Oswalt (Episode 7) -- Wright, Pegg, and Stevenson also appear on these talks. (When Matt Stone says, "Can you do that on TV?", you've either done something very right or very wrong.) These commentaries are certainly entertaining, but the speakers often go off on a tangent, so don't expect many scene specific notes. We get text biographies of the cast, characters, and crew. There are seven "Trailers" (we would call them promos) for the series and individual episodes. There is also a 9-minute OUTTAKES reel which contains some funny stuff.

Disc 2, which contains Series 2, continues with the Original OK Commentaries, containing the speakers listed above. We also get another round of Celebrity Commentaries from Quentin Tarantino (Episodes 1 & 3), Patton Oswalt (Episodes 2 & 4), Matt Stone (Episode 5), and Bill Hader (Episodes 6 & 7), and again Wright, Stevenson, and Pegg appear with them. As with the first disc, we get 7 TRAILERS, 13 minutes of OUTTAKES, and text biographies. New entries are a Photo Library and a one-minute scene of Stevenson singing "Teddy Bear" in "Daisy Does Elvis".

Disc 3 offers additional extras from the two series. For Series 1, we get "Raw Footage" (7 minutes) which is simply uncut scenes where we can hear Wright directing, thirteen DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with optional commentary, and More Out-takes (5 minutes). From Series 2, we get sixteen DELETED SCENES with optional commentary and six minutes of "Raw Footage". "Skip to the End" (80 minutes) is highly detailed documentary which contains comments from those involved in the show. We get behind-the-scenes footage and a tour of locations with Pegg, Stevenson, and Wright. The piece also contains clips from an older show with Pegg and Stevenson. There is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Spaced Jam" by Osymyso which is made up of clips from the show. More text biograhpies. And finally, a Q&A from the National Film Theatre (November 10, 2007) (60 minutes), which can be viewed with or without an intro by Jessica Stevenson. The panel contains Pegg, Wright, Heap, Deakin, and Carmichael. The group speaks about the show, and do a great job ribbing one another.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long