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For quite awhile my best friend, Ed, and I have collected television series often referred to either as ‘Brilliant but Cancelled’ or ‘Cancelled before their time. The criteria for inclusion in either of these lists is for a television series to face the cruel fate of cancellation before it had proper opportunity to establish itself and approach its potential. Many shows that fit this regrettable circumstance came from cable networks such as HBO’s ‘Deadwood or Showtime’s ‘Dead Like Me’. Recently it occurred to us that this phenomenon is more global than we previously appreciated. One series definitely belongs in the simultaneously laudable and regrettable ‘Brilliant but Cancelled’ list came from Britain in the form of a little show simply called ‘Spaced’. Prefacing this consideration is the admonition that in order to fully appreciate this series you have to be disposed to the unique form of humor particular to ‘Brit-Coms’. Don’t expect the same approach to comedy that is typically employed in our domestically created situational comedies. Their humor has the tendency to being drier, more character driven than similar series on this side of the Atlantic. One thing that can be a source of entertainment is to contrast our brand of humor with the British variation. This series caught my eye because of the cast but what held me creating a fan was the offbeat, free wheeling comedy that just made me laugh. Since this has become a sensation that is exceedingly rare with current comedies I was pretty much instantly hooked. The series only lasted two shortened seasons, or series as they are called over there. With only seven episodes per season it was simple to place the entire series on a three disc set that will bring a lot of entertainment to your home. I would recommend letting the younger members of the family in on the experience due to sexual references and drug use but for the adults it is hysterical.

The series comes from the wonderfully off-kilter minds of Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes. Here in the States Pegg is well known for his dark comedy spoof of horror flicks; ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and globally known as the new chief engineer of the rebooted ‘Star Trek’ Montgomery Scott. His writing partner Ms Hynes may not have an immediately recognizable name but a sharp eye would be certain to have caught in the Bridget Jones’ sequel, ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ plus many film and British television appearances, together the created a series that is magical in its simplicity and based on something common to most people. That common thread of human experience is the need to find someplace to reside. It is normal for children to grow up and move away from the safety of the parental home. Living by themselves and finding a suitable place to live at a rent that is within reach of a meager budget can be a daunting experience. Going through extraordinary means to the point of outright deception has been used in sit-coms for ages. ‘Threes Company’ and ‘Bosom Buddies’ immediately come to mind. In ‘Spaced’ a similar situation be a necessity when Tim Bisley (Pegg) breaks up with his girlfriend Sarah (Anna Wilson-Jones) requiring him to move out of their shared flat. Daisy Steiner (Hynes) could no longer put up with the squalid conditions at the ‘squat’ she was staying and has to move as soon as possible. They wind up sharing a table at a busy café and in short order become friendly. In the want ads is a listing for a two bedroom in a nice area for the incredibly low rent of £90 per week. They quickly decide to pretend to be a couple in order to obtain this ideal flat. Daisy is a bit obsessive and has them prepare for meeting the landlady with incredibly detailed back stories supplemented by fake vacation photos taken outside a travel agency. Of course when they meet the owner, Marsha Klein (Julia Deakin) the interview is brief and cursory. Marsha is typically found with a drink in one hand and an ever present cigarette dangling from her perpetually pursed lips. I told a close friend who lived in London about this character and she assured me Marcia was from Leeds and was pretending to be high up in the social ladder than she was. She also informed me the flat was far too good for that rent so there had to be something wrong with it. Part of that something was the bizarre artist living on the ground floor, Brian Topp (Mark Heap). Eccentric does not begin to cover his personality. His art frequently results in him bursting into screams or shouting at the world in general. Naturally any situational comedy needs strange best friends. Those positions are occupied by Tim’s best friend the self styled weapons expert Mike Watt (Nick Frost) who eventually moves into the building and Daisy’s best friend Twist Morgan (Katy Carmichael). Daisy informs Marsha that Twist works in the fashion industry. What is actually meant is she is a clerk in a dry cleaner.

Tim is an aspiring artist who winds up moving on from working in a comic story to being s graphic novel artist. Although grumpy and frequently short tempered he can be a diligent worker when he sets his mind to it. On the other hand Daisy is a world class slacker. She ostensibly is working on being a writer but the only thing she is proactive about is finding creative ways to avoid getting down to writing a word. The show works so well because of the chemistry not only between Pegg and Hynes but they way their create situations to highlight the considerable talent on the rest of the cast. It could have gone on and become even better but the thing about talented people like this; they need to move to different projects honing their skills and expanding their scope. I just hope the American studios don’t decide to bring this series overseas. Sometimes that works out but this series has such a distinctive British flair to it transplanting it would most likely not replicate the results.

Posted 06/18/2010

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