Monday, July 21, 2008
"Spaced"....The Final Frontier
The day after I saw Shaun of the Dead -- and then saw it again because it's the kind of film you need to see at least twice right away, so chock-full of awesome is it -- I headed to my local video store in Robbinsdale, Minnesota (yeah, we actually had one that wasn't a Blockbuster -- astonishing, I know!) to look for the one other thing the Creative Team Behind The Movie was responsible for at the time -- a TV series called "Spaced." I scanned the shelves in the "import DVD" section. I scanned the shelves in Comedy. In Drama. In Sci-Fi.
"Do you have 'Spaced' on DVD?" I asked the Surly Punk Teen behind the counter.
"Is that the movie with the guy from Saturday Night Live and Dave Chappelle?"
"No -- SPACED. Its from the people who did Shaun of the Dead."
"Oh -- right. Yeah, that's not on DVD yet. I don't think its ever gonna come out on DVD either, man."
And so, downtrodden, I had to let "Spaced" slide, because at the time there was no YouTube, no Torrents (well, there were but of course I'd never download anything illegally, right?) and really no way for me to get my grubby hands on the thing.
After I saw Hot Fuzz -- which I proclaimed loudly outside the theater to be the best film of the year -- I renewed my search for "Spaced." I found out it was available as an import, but of course for some stupid reason there's a formatting difference betwixt the UK and the US and I'm too stupid to figure out how to turn my DVD player into a multi-region geegaw. So, of course, there's a YouTube now, and some of the episodes are available on there, and I've managed to watch some but not all of them.
But tomorrow -- finally -- "Spaced" is coming to DVD in the US.
The reason "Spaced" is so unbelievably amazing is because of the extreme confabulation of talent working on the thing. You have director/co-writer Edgar Wright, a guy so well-versed in the history of geek-film that he manages to reference just about every movie ever made while crafting a frenetic, potently funny, action-packed style of his own. You have Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson), unbelievably hysterical actors and brilliant co-writers who manage to imbue their characters, Tim and Daisy, with a humanity that yr. usual comedy shows can't possibly muster (Doctor Who nerds: Simon was The Editor in "The Long Game" from season 1, and Jessica was Joan in "Family of Blood" in season 3). And there's an unbelievable array of supporting talent, including the always brilliant Nick Frost, Simon's foil in Shaun and Fuzz, Julia Deakin, Katy Carmichael and others.
What's it like? Hard to describe. Imagine a US show like -- oh, say, "Seinfeld," considered a peak of American comedy, as a starting point. Now imagine it on speed, as directed by Sam Raimi during his "Army of Darkness" phase. Now up the intelligence level of the scripts by, like, twenty. Now throw in homages to action films, science fiction, video games, classic films, other television shows. And add in ten times the heart, so you actually care about the characters. And make it consistently funny. You're almost there.
Have you seen Shaun and Hot Fuzz and the trailer for Don't in Grindhouse? Did you like them? Of course you did. It's like that, only in half-hour episodes, and nobody's head is crushed by a minaret.
Head down tomorrow and pick it up. Trust me. Finally, you'll get to see what American television almost stole and raped, and why there was such a universal outcry when it almost happened, and why it didn't translate onto generic US network television worth a great goddamn, thank god.
(Note: if you guys listen to Jonesy's Jukebox on Indie 103.1 -- and yes, you can listen on the interwebs -- you can catch Edgar, Simon and Jessica at noon LA time on Thursday!)