March 21, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Spaced

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's DVD: Spaced, 1999-2001 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is just one of many classic television series I've missed over the years, because of them either being British or originally airing on cable, and for which I'm now using my Netflix account to finally get caught up, in this case a cultish nerd comedy from the late '90s created by the team (Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright) who would eventually make the massive hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (and on his own, Wright's even more massive hit Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).

The reality: Well, I have to say, it's been a long time since I've come across a sitcom with such a huge laugh-per-minute ratio; and that's because, just like with their more well-known movies, Pegg and Wright (along with third co-creator and series co-star Jessica Stevenson) are experts at mining a situation for every single possible chuckle one can get out of it, and like The Simpsons often deliver jokes not just with single punchlines but then a second punchline that builds off the first. Now combine this with the show's profoundly zeitgeisty premise, a veritable snapshot of the late '90s that was simply born to be a cult hit -- it's the story of two pot-smoking, pop-culture-obsessed, twentysomething slackers, a man and woman who are both utter trainwrecks but in their own charmingly unique ways, and the bizarre adventures they have in a slightly run-down apartment building in north London, which they were only able to procure by pretending to the on-premise landlord that they're a couple, the humor derived as much from spot-on homages to classic genre film scenes as from that dry yet hilarious wit that all the best British sitcoms are known for. A semi-forgotten show in America, because of how long it took for the DVD set to come out (fights over music rights delayed its release for almost a decade), fans of Pegg and Wright's later work will absolutely not want to miss this brilliant precursor that first got them so much attention, not to mention all you fans of classic British comedy in general.

Strangest piece of trivia: Even though it was only two-thirds of Spaced's creative team who would go on to Hollywood fame, don't feel bad for Stevenson, now professionally known as Jessica Hynes; she's since gone on to write and star in a whole series of shows for British television, played best friend Magda in Bridget Jones' Diary 2, provided the voice of Mafalda Hopkirk in the Harry Potter films, and received a Tony nomination in 2009 for her dramatic work on the live stage.

Worth your time? Yes, if you're a fan of British humor or slacker comedies

(By the way, as per usual with Britain's Channel 4, the embedding function has been disabled for all Spaced clips at YouTube, for some unfathomable reason that I still utterly don't understand; however, if you actually click over, you can find the entirety of the show's first episode online there, for those who would like to check it out before committing to the entire DVD set.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:41 PM, March 21, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |