Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Fans of the British cult-comedy series Spaced were relieved to hear recently that Fox's American version of the show—made with no input from Spaced creators Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, and Edgar Wright—bombed out in the pilot stage. Even though the seemingly unadaptable The Office has done well on NBC, the foundations of that show are fairly universal. Spaced is about the common phenomenon of adults living like adolescents, but it's so tied to the comic sensibilities of Pegg, Stevenson, and Wright that with them cut out of the creative process, what's left would likely look like Friends crossed with Scrubs.

Over the course of 14 episodes—spread across two series, one in 1999 and one in 2001—Spaced follows Pegg and Stevenson as they masquerade as a couple to fool their drunken landlady, then deal with dating, their career goals, and the demands of their oddball social circle, which includes a hypersensitive artist, a military enthusiast, and a catty fashion victim. A typical Spaced episode takes place over the course of a single day or night, as the flatmates enjoy a night of clubbing, struggle to throw a successful party, or walk their dog. The mundane is amped up by director Wright, who picks up on his stars' references to other movies and TV shows, and drops in his own homages to the likes of Manhattan, Goodfellas, and Pulp Fiction. (And that's just in the first five minutes of series two.)


Spaced became a cult hit on both sides of the Atlantic in part because of those rapid-fire pop-culture references, and in part because it seemed to be drawn from the lives of its fans. But the show works even now because of Pegg and Stevenson's peculiar balance of geek sensibility and chick-lit madcappery. It's funny when Pegg tells the not-yet-26-year-old Stevenson, "You'd be dead in four years if this was Logan's Run," and it's funny when Stevenson tries to liven up a party with a mix-tape containing every overexposed rock and pop song of the last 30 years. It's funny because—as another popular figure from the Spaced era used to say—we can feel their pain.

Key features: An exhaustive 80-minute retrospective documentary, and multiple commentary tracks on each episode, including congenial input from such famous fans as Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Matt Stone, and Patton Oswalt.

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