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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > British TV > Spaced – The Complete Series (1999/BBC DVD)

Spaced – The Complete Series (1999/BBC DVD)


Picture: C-     Sound: C     Extras: A-     Episodes: B+



Every once in a very long while, something special comes along.  Something that many have talked about, but few believed could actually exist.  But finally, at long last, it has arrived on the shores of our dear country, an original sitcom that is actually worth watching, and more than that, worth owning.  Spaced, for good reason, has gained a cult following in Europe and increasingly in the US, and it was due entirely to the massive amount of requests that Spaced got a US release at all.


The show, which ran for two seasons on the BBC starting in 1999, is the first collaboration between writer/actor Simon Pegg, actor Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright. More than likely you will only recognize the first name, but this is the trio that brought you the feature films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both reviewed elsewhere on this site.  That in and of itself ought to be enough recommendation for you to at least watch the series.


Spaced follows the frantic, sometimes surreal, day-to-day adventures of a group of twenty-somethings living in a three-apartment house in the suburbs of London.  But what makes this series different from Friends or Seinfeld or any other sitcom is that the humor doesn't come from the characters insulting each other or being put in uncomfortable situations.  The humor comes from the acting, quips in the dialogue, and the innumerable references to movies, television, music, etc. because the characters experience the world, just like everyone does, through the filter of pop culture which colors and informs our perception of everything around us.


The picture is in enhanced 16:9 widescreen and takes a step away from the BBC's usual lackluster color and picture sharpness.  Granted, it isn't the most vivid viewing experience, but there is color and it doesn't look like it was shot on 16mm film which puts it solidly above most everything else we get from across the pond.  The sound is a little bit better, in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and it should be because it factors heavily into much of the humor.


This three-disc set sports some of the best and most prolific extras that I have ever seen collected on one release.  The first two discs have the first and second seasons respectively and each has its own outtake real, trailers, cast and crew biographies and commentary tracks.  Each disc has both the original commentary from the UK release with the two stars, Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson (now Jessica Hynes), and the director Edgar Wright, along with a second new commentary track that between the two discs features such distinguished personalities as Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, Matt Stone, Patton Oswalt, Quentin Tarantino, and Bill Hader; each of them rabid fans of the show.  Plus, each of the first two discs sports a sweet feature called the “Homage-o-Meter” which pops up with a subtitle every time there is a pop culture reference and tells you what precisely is being referenced.


Then the third disc is all special features including a feature length documentary that covers everything from concept and character development to revisiting the spots where some of the more memorable moments were shot.  There's also a surprisingly good music video splicing together footage from the show, deleted scenes, raw footage from the set, more cast and crew biographies, more outtakes, and footage from a Q&A session that followed a marathon screening of the entire series in 2007.  This last feature is the only down point in the entire release, as it stretches on for over an hour and, in comparison to everything else in the release, really isn't as interesting as you might hope.


It would not be an exaggeration to say that Spaced is without doubt one of the best TV shows out there, and the demand from the fans for this US release has been surpassed only by the demand for a third season.  Usually I don't bother watching entire commentary tracks even for just a movie, but this show is so good that I can hardly wait to rewatch the whole series several times for each commentary track and the Homage-o-Meter.  The only recommendation I can make is to buy this series and share it with your friends.  You will be a better person for it.



-   Matthew Carrick


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