It has never been shown on American TV, and yet the clever, laidback and extremely cool Britcom Spaced has a growing fanboy cult on these shores that includes Quentin Tarantino, Matt Stone, Kevin Smith and Diablo Cody. They and other American celebrity fans are so into the series that they agreed to do audio commentaries for the first U.S. release of the show (streeting July 22 from BBC), which ran from 1999-2001 in the U.K.
The series was directed by Edgar Wright, who went on from Spaced to collaborate with its star, Simon Pegg, on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Wright speaks quite fondly of the show, noting that he, Pegg, and Jessica Hynes (who co-scripted and starred with Pegg) put much of themselves into the motley cast of characters, led by an aspiring comic book artist (Pegg) and a writer’s block-plagued magazine scribe (Hynes). The thing that defines the characters, he notes, is that “they can only really communicate, visualize their lives and articulate themselves, through pop-culture.”
The celebrity Spaced fans are all individuals that Wright met thanks to the success of Shaun. He supplied some of them with copies of Spaced, but others — like Matt Stone, Patton Oswalt and SNL’s Bill Hader — were already cultists for the show. Nine of the 14 commentaries provided for the American DVD release of the series’ full run (one for each episode) “were taped in one day!” brags Wright. “Quentin did two commentaries, Kevin did three, Diablo did two, Matt did two — all with myself, Simon and Jessica. The three with Patton and two with Bill Hader were just with me.”
Why all the interest in the series from America’s reigning pop-culture geeks? Wright says that the program’s appeal comes from its low-key origins. “The show has a daydreaming quality to it. Part of the charm is by seeing these geeks in a nondescript North London suburb acting out parts of American pop culture in an aspirational way. For example, they’ll mime a big John Woo/De Palma shootout in a mundane suburb where there are no guns.”
The finest British sitcoms, Wright maintains, “tend to brilliantly focus on grotesques like Basil Fawlty, Alan Partridge or [The Office’s] David Brent. Spaced is actually a show about nice people. Not that it’s twee, or Friends, but that’s why it has a following among slackers and geeks. Because it’s like them looking in a mirror.”
As he promotes the DVD of Spaced, Wright is busy on two scripts, one of which is for Marvel’s Ant Man. It’s not going to be a Shaun-like spoof, says Wright. His take on the character? “With Hot Fuzz, our idea was, ‘who is the uncoolest cop in the world?’ The British cop, so let’s make the British cop cool. In the same way, ‘who’s the least cool Marvel character?’ Let’s make Ant Man really fucking cool! It will be funny, but differently funny from Hot Fuzz and Shaun.” —Ed Grant