TV Review: Spaced (1999-2001)

Original Run: September 24th, 1999 – April 13th, 2001
Created by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Music by: various
Cast: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Nick Frost, Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Katy Carmichael, Lucy Akhurst, Anna Wilson-Jones, Bill Bailey, James Lance, Peter Serafinowicz, Michael Smiley

Big Talk, London Weekend Television, Channel 4, 14 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Marsha, they say that the family of the twenty-first century is made up of friends, and not relatives, and if that’s true, then you’re the best aunty I’ve ever had!” – Tim

I’m not from the UK so I didn’t know about this show until about a year after it aired. I discovered it when a friend from the UK sent me the first season to check out because he thought I’d like it. I did and it actually became one of my favorite shows of all-time and still is. But since I haven’t watched it in nearly a decade, I wanted to dust it off and revisit it. Especially, after I just revisited and reviewed the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.

The show is directed by Edgar Wright and stars two of his long-time collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It also stars Jessica Stevenson, who co-wrote the show with Pegg. The two of them had previously worked together in a short-lived show called Asylum, which Wright also created and directed.

Seeing this now, it’s very ’90s but at the same time, it’s absolutely timeless. This isn’t something I would’ve picked up on in the past but the struggles of these twentysomethings is pretty damn real and I think it’s still relatable. In fact, I guess I didn’t realize how much I related to it in my mid-to-late 20s.

While I’m younger than the cast and the age they represented when I first watched this, it was only a few years later before my experiences lined up with theirs. Also, being someone in a creative field that is both an artist and a writer, I think I relate to both of them even more, looking back at where I started and where my career and hobbies led me over the last two decades.

All that being said, I almost love this show even more now, as I realize how much heart and soul went into it and how genuine and authentic it truly is. And I think it comes from the fact that these people are also creatives and were probably going through similar struggles as the characters they wrote and played.

Beyond that, this was a unique show in how Wright didn’t shoot it like a standard sitcom but he used techniques typical to horror and sci-fi films. He went for extreme angles and quick motion, as opposed to fixed, static cameras focused on a set. Quite a bit of the show was also shot outside and Wright employed the same techniques outdoors, giving the Spaced world more energy than that of a typical show. 

Also, everyone in this is perfect. It’s just really well cast and that’s not just the six core characters but also the reoccurring ones that pop in and out.

The show also goes for pretty surreal situations and humor but it works well, fits the style and isn’t overdone to where this becomes a bizarre “brainy” show that dolts pretend they like because they don’t want to appear as if they don’t “get it”.

Unfortunately, the show ended at least a season too early, as you kind of pick up on the fact that the two leads are going to fall in love, as the story rolls on. By season two, it’s regularly hinted at and even though the ending to that season was satisfying to that season’s arc, I feel like the show and its fans deserved at least one more seven episode helping before everyone moved on to things like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Man, I knew I loved this show but I guess I forgot how much. And now, that love has grown even more, as I appreciate Spaced on new and deeper levels thanks to how well it has held up and how technically savvy it is. Plus, the experiences and issues these characters face are timeless and they’re presented in a way that’s kind of pure, which transcends generations and cultural changes.

Spaced, to me, is a near perfect show. I can’t call every episode a classic but they all have something really worthwhile and they all do a superb job of building up these characters, their lives together and the audience’s love for each of them.

In the end, even after two decades and a dozen watch throughs, it’s hard to say goodbye to them in that final episode.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, as well as Pegg’s other comedy series before he became a film star.

Film Review: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Also known as: Tea-Time of the Dead (working title), Zombies Party – Uma Noite… de Morte (Portugal), Zombies Party – Una Noche… de Muerte (Spain)
Release Date: March 29th, 2004 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: Pete Woodhead, Daniel Mudford
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz, Rafe Spall, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Matt Lucas, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Rogue Pictures, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie. And there’s an “I” in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team… I don’t know what he’s talking about.” – Shaun

The first time that I watched Shaun of the Dead, I knew that it would not only be a cult classic, right out of the gate, but I knew it would go down as a comedy classic and one of the best of its era. I wasn’t wrong and it helped Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carve out really nice careers for themselves.

It also kicked off the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, which included 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End.

Out of those three films, this one sits in the middle for me, as I like Hot Fuzz more and thought that The World’s End was fairly underwhelming.

This movie is pretty simple and straightforward, though. It also came out before zombie movies and television shows really blew up and became oversaturated in entertainment. So when I saw this for the first time in 2004, it was pretty unique and immediately became one of my favorite horror comedies.

There have been a lot of horror comedies since, especially in the zombie subgenre. But this and the original Return of the Living Dead are the only two I’d consider true classics.

The cast in this had great chemistry but most of them are good friends and had worked together previously in the TV shows Spaced and Black Books.

Shaun of the Dead also feels like a natural extension of Spaced, even though it features familiar actors in different roles. The style of the comedy, the two main characters’ camaraderie and the film’s general tone match up with Spaced, though. That also probably has to do with Edgar Wright helming both.

The story sees a lovable and well-meaning loser have to step up to the plate when the zombie apocalypse kicks off in London. He needs to win back his girlfriend, save his mum and his friends and try to survive the undead outbreak with a pint in his hand.

This doesn’t need a complicated story and it’s better that it’s simple and allows the characters the time to develop and win you over. It’s funny though, as this was the first time I saw Dylan Moran and by the end, I thought he was the biggest prick in the world. And he was, in this film, but he’d actually become one of my favorite comedians and comedic actors after seeing a lot of his standup, as well as his roles in Black Books and a slew of other appearances over the years.

Shaun of the Dead was my introduction to a lot of actors I’ve grown to love over the years. Kate Ashfield, the female lead, is actually the only person in this who I haven’t seen in anything else. Still, she’s really enjoyable in this and added a lot to this group’s dynamic.

I’m glad that I revisited this again, as it’s been so long since I’ve watched any of the movies in this trilogy or Spaced. But after seeing this, I’m going to work through them all again for future reviews.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

TV Review: Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Era (2006-2010)

Original Run: April 15th, 2006 – January 1st, 2010
Created by: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Catherine Tate, Bernard Cribbins, Elisabeth Sladen, John Simm, Kylie Minogue, David Morrissey, Michelle Ryan, Lindsay Duncan, Noel Clarke, Alex Kingston, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson

BBC, 44 Episodes, 45-72 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

David Tennant is considered by most to be the best Doctor of all-time. He’s my second favorite after Tom Baker but his accolades and admiration are definitely deserved, as he took what Christopher Eccleston walked away from and turned it into something that was very much his and better than anything the franchise had done since the high point of the Tom Baker era, which ended in 1981.

The Tennant era of Who is the best era of the modern incarnation of the franchise. Sure, I love all the Doctors in different ways but this was the real peak for me since the show relaunched in 2005. Russell T. Davies just had a certain magic that Stephen Moffat, who took over with the Matt Smith era, could emulate and build from but had a much harder time at maintaining it and being consistent.

I just love this era of the show. It isn’t perfect, by any means and has a few hiccups, but overall, this was a great thing to experience. For other lovers of this franchise, this span in the show’s history is almost like a love letter to you. It taps into the spirit of the original shows much better than the Eccleston stuff and it brings back some key elements that were missing in the first season, most notably the Master and some of the more famous alien villains.

Furthermore, Tennant has great chemistry with every single person that they paired him with. His relationship with Rose got heavier and more intimate than it did when Eccleston was in the role. His time with Martha was great and you hurt for her and for him, as he continued to mourn the great loss he felt with Rose. The Tennant team up with Catherine Tate as Donna Noble was the best part of the show but once that relationship extends into the Doctor also having a bond with her grandfather, Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott, it got even better. You also got to see Tennant work well with David Morrissey (the future Governor from The Walking Dead), Kylie Minogue, the former Tom Baker companion Sarah Jane (played by Elisabeth Sladen, once again), Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and a slew of others. But it’s his chemistry with the John Simm version of the Master that really showcased how good both men are.

I adore the Tennant years on Doctor Who. It is the best run of the modern era… period. Although, Matt Smith’s run after this was pretty darn good too and even if I didn’t like a lot of the Peter Capaldi stuff, I did love Capaldi’s Doctor. But David Tennant’s run will be a near impossible feat to try and top.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The Ninth and Eleventh Doctors’ runs.