The term British Invasion has already been put into use, but over the last few years, the best television that the UK has to offer — Broadchurch, Luther, Orphan Black, and Sherlock to name a few) — has joined Doctor Who to make make their way stateside, turning many unsuspecting Americans into anglophiles. The thing is, while the dramas get all the notice, this flood proceeded a batch of UK comedies that have relevance and staying power in the U.S., thanks to word of mouth and streaming. I’m talking about The IT Crowd, Black’s Books, and my personal favorite, Spaced.
From the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) braintrust of Edgar Wright, Nira Park, and Simon Pegg, as well as writer/star Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes) and featuring Nick Frost, Spaced tells the story of two slacker artist types who — out of sheer desperation — pretend to be a couple so they can rent a flat. The setup is pedestrian to say the least, but Wright and his team use it merely as a jumping off point to tell stories that are relevant to their times and station (struggling slacker artist types in their mid-20s), incredibly relateable, clever, and imaginative.
Is it worth your time for a binge-watch (it’s on Hulu Plus)? Take a look at these 12 reasons why you should watch Spaced and then make a decision.
There are so few episodes.
With only 14 episodes, you can watch Spaced on a rainy Saturday in its entirety. As I have, once or twice. But while the show is comparatively snack-sized as far as binge watches go, and while it’s a tight and satisfying run with a perfectly acceptable ending (that wasn’t necessarily supposed to be the series finale), I found myself wanting more because it’s so good and because I’m so used to lengthier U.S. series runs. You may feel the same.
Tim and Daisy.
The idea of male/female friendship isn’t new in TV or film, but few stabs at that dynamic are as well executed as what we see Edgar Wright, Jessica Stevenson, and Simon Pegg create with Spaced. And I think that’s because the friendship is treated with respect. It isn’t a means to a sexy sexy end, it is — as far as these people know — the total end for their relationship, and that’s refreshing and real. Which is not to say that “love” is a bore in fiction, just that it’s nice when that isn’t the only reason why two people try to carry on a conversation.
So often, television shows ignore the length that the format provides and while utilizing sex as a shortcut to demonstrate intimacy between two characters. Spaced did the opposite despite its short lifespan and it was better for it at the end because the characters lives were connected at multiple points, not just at the heart or at the genitals.
Tim and Mike.
Mike is a little damaged and a little dim, but while it sometimes feels as though Tim is his custodian, the relationship is mutually beneficial and maybe the most profound love story on the show.
Colin the Dog.
The show had a strong ensemble cast.
The cast has mostly gone on to continue working in UK-based projects and assorted Edgar Wright/Nira Park films, but you can’t always judge the worth of a show’s cast by the work that they got after that show went off the air. Pegg, Stevenson, Colin, and Frost were obviously outstanding in the leads, but Mark Heap’s contribution as Brian deserves praise. Not just for his portrayal of a tortured artist, but his “origin story” with his mother and father, his time working with Vulva, and his odd attraction to the intellectually contrary Twist. Marsha (Julia Deakin) is also a unique character who avoids falling into the eye-rolling landlady trope and instead becomes — at least for the most part — one of the gang.
The main character had a nemesis.
Few comedies introduce a sworn enemy and rival, preferring to allow various mundane conflicts to drive the tension of every episode. Seinfeld is a notable exception with the Jerry v. Newman dynamic, but he was more an annoyance for the most part. In Duane (the great Peter Serafinowicz), Tim has a romantic rival and a constant better who embodies everything that he is not (successful, classically handsome, tall, athletic, and possessing a smokey voice). These differences and Pete’s status as the man who stole Tim’s beloved will make you root even harder for Tim when he takes on Duane in the paintball arena in the “Battles” episode.
The endless stream of pop culture references and visual gags.
There are too many to list and some that deserve (and will get) a solo mention down the list, but Wright’s penchant for paying homage to the pop culture moments that bind us (like the above Pulp Fiction love letter) is as skillful as it is charming in this series, even if it sometimes feels tiresome when others do it in the here and now. There’s definitely a thin line to walk between clever and exhausting, and Wright keeps his balance nicely by going all in. These aren’t usually verbal call-outs. Wright’s characters step outside themselves and embody these moments without usually taking you out of the central story. A trick he’s able to pull off with his ample use of quick-cuts and cut scenes, something that Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fans will instantly recognize.
There was rampant and justifiable Jar Jar hate.
Spaced went to the George Lucas well often (so much so that the above video is a supercut of all the Star Wars mentions), but nothing tops Tim’s deep, “yell at children” level hatred of Jar Jar Binks and the destruction of his Star Wars collection. This show knew its audience and they knew them well.
A zombie fascination that pre-dates Shaun of the Dead.
There was a Battle-Bots episode.
There was a rave episode.
And it introduced us all to Tim’s party-time shell-shocked friend, Tyres, and it gave the world the sight of Nick Frost leading a crowd of neon and EDM-obsessed teenagers and young adults in dance.
Unspoken Male Telepathy.
In, quite possibly, the most well-known scene from the show’s run, Tim and Mike explain Unspoken Male Telepathy to Brian; a discussion that devolves into a pantomime shootout that was, itself, homaged on Cougar Town and by me in my home with far less fanfare.
If you made it through this list and watched that scene, and you’re still not interested in binge watching or re-watching Spaced, then I have failed you.
This is an updated version of a post that originally ran on April 21, 2015.