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The Complete Series

In a commentary on Spaced, writer/director Eli Roth expounds on why 40 is the new 30 in America. We've refused to grow up, preferring to live in apartments with movie posters and state of the art videogame systems, holding on to the dreams that the big break is just around the corner. Okay, if Fanboy Planet ever had a credo, that might be it, except that most of us are married and longing for the day we have one room to hang our posters in again.

Roth has it right. And he's saying it in explanation for why the official sitcom of fandom should be the UK's Channel 4 show Spaced. If you haven't heard of it, you have heard the ripples from it since it ended seven years ago. Series co-creator Simon Pegg teamed with series director Edgar Wright and wrote Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Heck, Pegg has even infiltrated the Star Trek franchise.

They deserve every bit of their success, and with Jessica Stevenson, now Hynes, the trio have finally brought their seminal work to American DVD. The story of two twenty-somethings (Pegg and Hynes) pretending to be a couple so they can rent an apartment from the drunken Marsha Klein (Julia Deakin), Spaced is so much more than a premise. It's a trip through the heart and soul of slacker fandom.

Tim (Pegg) works at a comic book shop for an owner named Bilbo. In between series 1 and 2, he's had his heart broken by The Phantom Menace, but he holds out hope that he'll have a breakthrough as a comic book artist. In the other bedroom, Daisy (Hynes) plays at being a freelance writer, secretly pines for Tim and proves herself one of the boys time and time again.

The series runs by pastiches of Pulp Fiction, Robot Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, among others, but the genius of Hynes and Pegg's writing is that you don't need to know those references to find it funny. They're funny first, clever second. Coupled with Wright's brilliant directing that uses whatever style it needs to make the episode work, this series has no weak episodes.

A particular favorite, though, would be when basement apartment dweller Brian (Mark Heap) faces his past with an omnisexual performance artist (David Walliams from Little Britain). Wright's recreation of their work is stunningly hilarious and creepy before the episode morphs into the inspiration for Shaun of the Dead.

Though much of the content has been available in the U.K. for years, the U.S. release provides a neat trick. For so long, the show has traded around the black market, that it has garnered some impressive fans who sit in for commentaries - okay, love fests, really - with Hynes, Pegg and Wright.

Thus Quentin Tarantino expounds on Wright's homage to Tarantino, itself an homage to others. The trio drags Kevin Smith out of his house to play raconteur, with predictably entertaining results. Later on in the disc, Patton Oswalt and Bill Hader lacquer their already cemented reputations as geeks. In short, every commentary has something to offer, making Spaced terribly time-consuming, as you have to watch every episode both ways.

The first two discs reproduce those UK extras, many of which seem a little out of date. Lifting cast bios whole out of the previous release, you don't need to read up on anyone's career until the third disc, where the U.S. gets its own.

Filmed in 2004, there's also a lengthy documentary on the Spaced phenomenon, where Roth and others speak. It's a great chance for other cast members to speak, including Nick Frost, who broke through into the public consciousness as the quasi-military Mike.

It also really gets at the challenges of the show, and proves how deeply it has seeped into the British consciousness when Pegg and Hynes visit the building they used as their apartment. While they're inside, two fans coincidentally set up across the street to take shots of the place. Imagine their surprise when Tim and Daisy really come out into the garden.

So now the U.S. has a chance to get Spaced -- legally. Of course, the other really devilish part about it is Hynes, Pegg and Wright talking about earlier series they worked on, which a real fan must seek out. And after watching this DVD, you'll be a real fan.

To the Spaced crew, I curse you and I salute you. But now I must go back and watch it again.

Read the interview with Jessica Hynes, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright!

all photos courtesy Channel 4

Spaced: The Complete Series

Derek McCaw


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