It’s hard to know what to expect from a show that is lauded with critical acclaim and features talent that is responsible for two of the recent decade’s most enjoyable films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I expected to be blown away within minutes of watching the show, but as with all things anticipated, the outcome was a lot less impressive than I’d expected. After burning through five episodes as soon as the set arrived in my house, I began to wonder exactly what people loved so much about the series, but it soon hit me by the time I finished the first series what fans loved about the series.
Two idle twenty something flat mates, Tim (Simon Pegg) and Daisy (Jessica Hynes), come together in desperation while they each look for a new flat. Finally coming upon a “couples only” ad in the paper, the two pose as boyfriend and girlfriend in an attempt to get the flat—a ruse that ultimately worked. With a new house over their heads, Tim and Daisy get to know each other over the course of their stay together and even become acquainted with each other’s best friends as well as the other tenants in the house they’re staying in. Throughout the two series, fourteen episodes were collected that resulted in some of the best comedy ever put on television.
I’d seen advertisements for the series final release on DVD in the States, but I never really paid much attention to it. The cover didn’t exactly scream out to me as anything other than a Star Wars inspired television show, which at any other time would have been enough. I wasn’t even sure what the series was until I began to actually read reviews of it online and when I saw that it came from the people behind < i>Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I was quickly racing to find a copy. I won’t deny that I was almost immediately put off by the filming style of the series and that, more than anything, took getting used to, but there was an undeniable charm about it all. Although I became bored with the first several episodes of the set, I got into more by the end of the first series. With the advent of the second series, however…that’s where I really got into it.
While I love subtle humor that Pegg and Edgar Wright are known for in the Shaun and Fuzz films, it just wasn’t working for me on the first series. Perhaps it was due to the many pop culture references that flew over my head that seemed more strange than anything (although once I checked out the DVD Homage-O-Meter, the “strange” elements greatly decreased—what was them being “weird” as I originally thought turned into a whole mixture of homage’s for various things I had never laid eyes on), but by the time the second series (which was more modern by that time) came around, I not only picked up on more things but also was able to make sense of it all a lot easier.
That isn’t to say that the first season didn’t have its high points either; I think the initial shock of what the show actually was versus what I expected it to be was the greatest hurdle to get over and once that shock passed, the ability to enjoy it came much more naturally. It’s a great show that really gets better with repeat viewings, as you not only pick up on more things as it goes a long but you also get to pick up on the little nuances that carry over to each episode.
There are plenty of standout episodes on the set, but my absolute favorite was the fifth episode of series two with the fake gun fights. I was absolutely laughing my ass off by the end of the first gun fight and I had to actually rewind it to watch it again. Words cannot describe how much I enjoyed that sequence and by the time the second one happened later on in the show, it shot to the top of my “favorite” list for the series. Absolutely brilliant in every way.
While it was a slow start for me, I warmed up to the series in a remarkable way, which honestly shouldn’t come as any surprise. I had the same reaction to Hot Fuzz when I first saw it and it’s now one of my favorite movies of all-time. The visual style was the most off putting element and while the show can take an admittedly absurd and completely off-kilter agenda at times (such as the Robot Wars episode in the second series…still funny, but…man was that out of touch with the rest of the series). Still, no matter where it goes, the entire cast of the show makes it appealing through and through and for my money, there are few things funnier than the mixture of Frost, Pegg and Wright (and for this round, Hynes as well, since she was one of the creators of the show). Highly Recommended.
Holy moley, this suckers packed to the gills. I’ve seen some stacked sets in the past, but this three-disc set really takes the cake in terms of bonus content. The set itself comes in a nice black slipcase with an embossed Spaced logo on the front. The digi-pak fold out reveals an all-white interior, aside from the discs and their art and the intro by Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, Edgar Wright and Nira Park dated this year (2008). It’s a rather plain looking set truth be told, but it does its job and advertises the show properly and is filled with quotes from Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Matt Stone, all of whom provide commentary on the show.
Video for the first series is a bit hazy and overly soft in nature, but is presented in a fair enough 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen interlaced transfer. The second series picks up in terms of video quality and is actually comparable to the quality of today’s shows in many cases; it’s surprising that for a show produced in 1999, it look fantastic in terms of visuals…really hasn’t dated itself in the least (aside from the pop culture references, at least).Definitely a solid video transfer that’s backed up by a fantastic Dolby Stereo track that provides clean and clear dialogue without any hiss. English subtitles are included, which is a good thing if you’re like me and have a hard time understanding exactly what comes out of some of the characters mouths—the accents can get a bit thick at times. It gets easier to decipher as the series goes on, however
And now…the extras. The set is split into three discs, with each of the two seasons receiving a disc and a final third disc for even more bonus footage and extras to sort through. The first season has a few nice little extras to look through that include Biographies for cast and crew (text only) as well as trailers that were used for the series during its original broadcast (Sex Noises, The Characters, Series 2 and Episodes 3, 4, 5, 6). A reel of Outtakes (9:23) is included as well, but the real star of the set is the dual commentaries for every episode. Pegg, Wright, Stevenson and a rotating stable of guests including Julia Deakin, Mark Heap, Nina Park (producer), and Frost come over from the previous UK releases of the series DVD releases for each of the first series episodes. The tracks are fantastic, packed with a wealth of information about the series and with more behind the scenes facts than you could ever wish to know about the series. The newly recorded commentaries include either Wright, Wright & Pegg, or Wright, Pegg and Stevenson as well as a selection of celebrities who are fans of the series, including Kevin Smith (Episodes 1-3), Diablo Cody (Episodes 4-5), Matt Stone (Episode 6) and Patton Oswalt (Episode 7). The tracks are great, with a less show-focused atmosphere and more of one that encompasses the series in its entirety rather than specific episodes, although obviously those bits are discussed as well.
Moving onto the second disc (and second series) we are again met with dual commentaries on every episode. The original UK commentaries include the same rotating stable of commentators as the first season, while the new commentaries include the same rotation of creative talent as well as celebrities Quentin Tarantino (Episodes 1, 2), Patton Oswalt (Episodes 2-4), Matt Stone (Episode 5), and Bill Hader (Episodes 6, 7). Trailers for the second series is also included (Tim and Daisy, Daisy, Tim, Episodes 1-4), as is another reel of Outtakes (12:55). Text-only biographies are again brought over as is a nice photo library. The set is topped off with an uncut version of Daisy performing an Elvis song (1:02), which is absolutely hilarious, as was to be expected.
For the third disc we again get series specific bonuses which include Raw Footage (7:26), which is just as it sounds as it’s often the complete take of scenes that were rapidly cut or interspersed throughout the series, as well as More Outtakes (4:53) and ten deleted scenes, all of which have optional commentary by Pegg and Wright. The same is included for the second series, with eighteen deleted scenes and another round of Raw Footage (6:31).
As series encompassing extras go, we get a pair of them here on the third disc. First up is the Exclusive Feature Length Documentary: “Skip to the End” (1:20:50), a 2004 production that goes through a thorough history of the series that includes interviews with all major and minor cast and crew. It’s a fantastic extra that even has an extra little bit for fans of the series at the very end. Also included is the NFT Q&A (58:09), which has an optional intro by Jessica Hynes who couldn’t make it to the Spaced reunion (2:23). Although a good extra in its own right, it does repeat a lot of information as heard from the commentaries, so the novelty of watching this extra may wear thin as you begin to hear stories repeated. Finally there is another round of Cast and Crew biographies, once again text-only.
Also included on discs one and two are the “Homage-o-Meter”’s for every episode. These were personally constructed by Wright, so it’s about as definitive of a version of a list of homage’s as one could hope to receive. As stated in my review, the meter’s certainly helped make some of the stranger pieces of the series less…strange.
Overall this is not only a fantastic show but also a rock solid set. The twenty-eight commentaries combined with the outtakes, deleted scenes and eighty minute long “Skip to the End” documentary is more than enough for this series and should tide fans over for quite awhile as they digest everything that is in this set. Highly Recommended.
Spaced: The Complete Series is now available on DVD.