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Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:






 

Over the last ten years, the British sitcom has had an amazing resurgence, with greatness coming in the form of three genuine classics of the medium: Ricky Gervais’ THE OFFICE, Steven Moffat’s COUPLING, and Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, and Edgar Wright’s SPACED. Of course, the SPACED crew parlayed their success into other ventures, including two excellent feature films (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) that raised their profiles, but for years, SPACED was a treasure that was mostly lost to North American audiences. The DVD was only available in region 2 release, meaning that those of us who loved it and wanted to see more of it were left solely with *cough* illegal means of watching it (BBC America’s rare attempts at showing it not withstanding). But now the complete SPACED is finally available in region 1 DVD release, and the creative trio have been hitting the press circuit to talk about the show. I caught up with the three during a roundtable session at San Diego where they covered a number of topics relating to the show and its release.

The big question, of course, was “how did this finally happen?” and the answer was quite amusing in the context of the group’s later work. Wright explained, “It was (always) music licensing stuff, so it was a lot of hard work by our producers. Ironically, one of the people who helped with getting a crucial bit of the music cleared up was the real Nicholas Angel (the name of Pegg’s character in HOT FUZZ), who is a music supervisor.” Hynes added that “I found it funny they had to clear my Elvis impersonation; it went through the Elvis estate. I’m proud that they approved it.” Pegg also had his own theory, however, about why Americans finally have a legit version of SPACED to watch: “It was also a question of the demand for it. The demand for it had grown due to the success of the two movies as well. It created an awareness. Kind of like when you discover a band and you want to go back and see what they were doing before. It just took a long time before the right conditions.” Wright had his own humorous comparison with that, adding “Much like if you were a fan of Aerosmith from ‘Walk This Way’ and then discovered ‘Toys In The Attic’.”

One of the most intriguing aspects of the region 1 DVD release is the additional commentaries recorded for the episodes by celebri-geeks as Quentin Tarantino, Diablo Cody, Kevin Smith, Patton Oswalt, Matt Stone, and Bill Hader. Needless to say, the trio are quite ecstatic about it. “It was amazing. For Jess and I, and for Nick… Quentin Tarantino has become a friend of ours, and to have him do commentary on an episode (where we were homaging him)… to have him in the room talking about it was the most surreal moment. To have done that in honor of him and then to have him come in in honor of it… it doesn’t get any better than that.” Wright added, “I think with all the people on the DVD, most of them had seen the show after SHAUN OF THE DEAD came out, but a couple of them were uber-geeks like Bill Hader and knew the show (before that). Meeting people over the last couple of years, you realize who the big fans are, so I thought let’s get them all on the commentary track and it would be fantastic, and it was really fun.”

As mentioned, the three have been out on the road doing press and fan events celebrating the DVD’s arrival, and at that point (late July) the tour was in full-swing and rolling. “We’ve done New York and LA so far and it was amazing. We had a fantastic screening in NY at the Village East, which was incredible. We had a line around the block and had to turn away over a hundred people. And then we did another in at the Arclight in LA with Kevin Smith moderating which was very funny. So it’s been great to sort of really… last year we did a marathon screening in London at the National Film Theatre which was the first time we had seen all the episodes on the big screen and it was amazing. And it was amazing watching it at the Arclight on that huge screen. It’s great to be sitting there seven or eight years later sitting there with a packed house watching something intended for the small screen.”

What really makes the group happy is the show’s staying power. The story of Tim Bisley and Daisy Steiner, two singles who pretend to be a couple in order to get a good flat, resonates years later and continues to grow a fandom. Wright noted that, “It’s never gone away, really.” Pegg nodded assent and continued, “It was our first thing we did and it has such significance for our lives. It was such a passion project, and I look back on how we did it and how it got made, feeling our way along at the time and the whole thing was incredible and serendipitous in how it worked out. When Jess and I were writing the first series we were just hanging around at each others’ houses (thinking) ‘write a TV show, get some food’… (suddenly) we walked onto the set and we were in this apartment building we’d written about. It was a feeling like ‘this is really going to happen’ and that feeling has never really gone away.”

The trio elaborated a bit on that experience, and on their own lack of experience. “I thought yeah, it’s going to be on,” Pegg said, explaining his naïveté. “The notion of the green light… I didn’t know what the term meant. I just knew we had it.” Wright explained that, “at the time, it was a lot more laid back in terms of how a network TV show gets made over here. Maybe it’s changed now in the UK, but then we were just lucky. It was a low budget show that flew slightly under the radar in terms of cost. That meant we had carte blanche within the budget and schedule to do what we wanted and never really had any interference or the like. You look back and see how really fortunate you were that we were that age and that we had a show where we could do anything within reason.” Hynes was the only one who recollected any sort of network interference, saying “I remember one time where there was a questioning my use of a pair of glasses without the lenses in them of all things!”

Chiming in, Pegg addressed one of the show’s surprising oddities in being left alone by the network. “And yet we had an episode where everybody was clearly off their head on ecstasy. At that time we were talking about things that were very specific to that age group. A lot of the time, things just went over their heads. In the clubbing episode, it was a tribute to the fact that you could go out take a lot of drugs and not die. (Normally) In every TV show there has to be some sort of moral message…” Hynes recalled “It just so happened that we all went out with friends, and that was the night. And many people have one or two nights like that, and that’s what we were writing about.” “It wasn’t about saying ‘dude, this is great’”, Pegg continued, “it was just that this happens. The whole show was ‘this happens’.” Hynes nodded, “It happens to us all…” Pegg piped in, adding “It happens in the afternoon sometimes… it was important to show how things were.” Wright concluded the line of questioning with a cogent analysis of the show’s approach to substances, pointing out “I don’t think there has ever been another TV show where it opened more frequently with the characters being hung over. Every episode seemed to start with them walking out of their bedroom looking like (shambling monsters).”

Fans and journalists always pester Pegg and Hynes about returning to the characters for another series, but the prospects look unlikely. “If we went back to it now, we wouldn’t be qualified to do it. It would have to be different,” Pegg said. Hynes added that “We’d have to deal with the fact that we’re older, but I do think that Daisy is still living in that flat. I think Tim might have moved out, but Daisy’s back in the flat,” which drew loud laughter from the other two.”

The session wrapped with Pegg discussing some of his future projects. Asked about potential roles he could take on, Hynes interjected “You could be Batman!” Pegg then mocked himself, noting in reference to his playing Scotty in JJ Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek 11, “There’s a line in Spaced where I say ‘sure as eggs is eggs and day turns to night, every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is shit’. So that rule doesn’t exist anymore! I’ve had a bit of a fanboy’s dream, obviously. And Jess got to do Dr. Who…” Hynes smiled warmly at that memory, interjecting, “which was lovely!” Wright joined in the Who fun, cheekily saying “I’d like to announce now that I am playing Dr Who in the next season!”

That drew a slightly wistful look from Pegg, who concluded by sharing that “there was actually a poll for that (the next Dr Who, should David Tennant step away) and I came in number 2. But I don’t want to ruin that show!” Fortunately for fans of this funny trio, they now have SPACED available in a format that will keep it perfect forever.

Marc Mason

 



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