Brit Fix: Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes Serve Up A Geeky Answer to Friends
I have always loved Simon Pegg. Shaun of the Dead will always be one of my favorite films. I have always loved Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson). She is not only a natural comedian but quietly acts her heart out as a semi-villain in one of my favorite films, Bob and Rose (which I promise, I’ll get around to one of these days.) On their own, they are clever innovators and I’m always pleased when they pop up on my screen. But when you put the two together – as co-writers and co-actors – you’ve got a special alchemical blend that practically oozes t.v. magic. There’s no better example of this than their seminal series, Spaced.
It’s conceptually simple, practical and straight forward. Two down on their luck slackers in their mid-twenties, Daisy and Tim, meet while hunting for a new flat. When neither can find one that is anything better than an infested rat-hole, they agree to pretend to be a ‘professional couple’ in order to acquire a double flat that perfectly suits their needs. It’s like Three’s Company, but with two people, it’s like When Harry Met Sally, but with less treacle. Yet, the show is by and large a cult phenomenon. So much so, I remember a friend telling me about going to see a Simon Pegg Q&A and when Spaced was mentioned, a trench-coat wearing mouth breather with a lustrous ponytail actually whipped out the DVDs from his bag in order to brandish them knowingly, along with a superior expression.
What distinguishes this show from your average sitcom, are the practically non-stop stream of pop-cultural references to movies, comics, and television. Do you have to fly your geek flag with pride in order to understand the show? Absolutely not. But does it help? Totally. That’s what makes the show so captivating – just like the reinvention of BSG, it appeals to two very different audiences – audiences so different in fact, that one might have beat up the other in high school.
If the ‘how many can you catch’ references and the hilarious interactions of the Daisy and Tim weren’t enough to hook you, the show features one of the best ensembles ever to grace television. Nick Frost may do all manner of things in his career, but for better or worse, to me he will always be Mike – Tim’s best friend from childhood, who is obsessed with the army and once tried to conquer Euro Disney with a tank he had commandeered. Daisy’s best friend is the perpetually condescending Twist, a professional laundress who professes to be “in fashion”. Then there’s Marsha, their omnipresent landlord who frequently finds her way into Tim and Daisy’s kitchen where after a bottle of seven of wine she’ll expound on the evils of her teenage daughter (an unseen character voiced by Hynes.) The whole mess is capped off with tortured abstract expressionist Brian who is perpetually dodging his own demons, and Marsha’s lascivious gaze.
Of the show’s we’ve been through thus far in Brit Fix, Spaced is the smartest, most ingenious, oddest, and memorable show of the lot. It’s the sort of show where you sit down to watch one episode and suddenly you’re afternoon is gone, and then your entire evening – especially now that the whole series is up on Hulu. If you need one more reason to check it out, the whole shebang was directed by Edgar Wright. Yeah, I know! Why are you still reading this! Go watch!