SDCC 08: Talking Up ‘Spaced’

Who ever planned the finally-in-America release date for the Spaced DVD obviously knew what they were doing.

The show, which ran two seasons for a combined 14 episodes, was a brilliant reflection of 20-somethings and popular culture. With movies, television and video games references lovingly packed into every episode, Spaced is obviously a show by geeks for geeks.

So, it’s only natural the series officially debuted stateside the same week that the biggest pop-cult convention exploded on San Diego. The series’ director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) joined writers/stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes at ComiCon Friday for a panel and a late-night screening of three episodes.

Even though the show was officially released this week on DVD, the show is already a cult phenomenon, evident by the lineup— which snaked outside the convention center, down a set of stairs and beyond—to an episode screening later that night that kicked off with the three creators initiating the entire crowd into a massive slow-motion gunfight.

Earlier that day, PCZ had the chance to sit down with the three Brits to discuss the show, and its impact on nerds around the planet.

On the success and appeal of Spaced in America:

Simon Pegg: I like to think that it was a shared experience. Despite being from a different country, people that watched it said that’s like our lives—we sat around, play videogames, smoke a lot of weed, got up to adventures.

And I think the [geek] culture is a very unifying thing around the world. While everyone sort of looks toward dictators and despots in fear of them taking over the world, we are fucking taking over the world.

Jessica Hynes: It feels like that, when you’re in San Diego.

Edgar Wright: If we got together all the geeks in the convention center, we could have a bloody coup against the rest of the world—dressed up as Klingons.

But I wouldn’t necessarily say that [Spaced] has a broad appeal, I think the reason [it’s been a success]…is that it speaks to a specific audience that really relates to it.

On American influences, past and present in the U.K.:

SP: We’re big fans of American culture in the U.K. There’s that perplexing question we asked sometimes, when [reporters] bring up Benny Hill. Like a show like Arrested Development, for us, was doing a comedy that was doing the same with what we were trying to do with Spaced, which was make an associative, clever, lyrical kind of comedy.

JH: I’m a big fan of Six Feet Under and I think that that’s the most incredible television show.

EW: I think it’s interesting that American TV has influenced British TV and vice versa. Show like Seinfeld, and Larry Sanders, I think is the most influential shows of the last kind of 15 years. I think that the U.K. Office wouldn’t exist without Larry Sanders.

On their non-genre inspirations for the show:

EW: I think the reason it has the sort of joi de vive is that we were the age of the characters. At the time that we made the series, we were unlike other shows at the time that were about youth-orientated sitcoms, which were written by people in the 40s and sometimes in their 50s.

This was a show about twenty-somethings written and directed by twenty-somethings.
And we were all the same age of the characters, and we were sort of living that kind of life. Especially during the first series, playing a lot of Playstation, and kind of cohabiting with other people, sharing apartments. And I think that there’s a lot of personal stories that you know feed into the show.

SP: The Young Ones particularly, that show was like a bomb in comedy in 1992. I was only 12 and it changed the lives of a lot of kids in the UK. Suddenly there was a comedy show that spoke so personally that parents were disallowing it. It was punk to comedy— and anyone that had an interest in comedy could no go forward unaffected by it. And I think that when we came to Spaced, we wanted to make our Young Ones.

On how the impressive commentary tracks, which include Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Patton Oswalt, and more, was put together:

EW: I sorted it out, but it came together at the last minute. We were originally going to release the English Collectors Edition in the States—and it was probably around the time that the [McG-helmed] remake was floating in the air. And we had a lot of American fans who had given us press quotes for the DVD, so I thought maybe it would be fun to do commentaries with all those people and especially talk about the cultural differences.

So we had one day in Los Angeles Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, Matt Stone and Quentin Tarantino—and it was Jess’ first day in L.A.— I had personally sorted it out, and everyone was doing it for free.

And as for Kevin Smith, I had to get him out of bed. When you hear him on the commentary, just bear in the mind that he literally just rolled out of bed.

On Spaced’s female fans:

JH: I think we bring a different sensibility to it. In the case of Spaced, the female sensibility was brought in the fact that there is a strong, and I think, quite a unique female character that is many ways different but equal to the male character.

Not that in any way you could say that she is any sort of archetype or stereotype, or any type, she’s just an original and authentic character. And that, for me, was the interesting perspective. And I think that because I’m a female writer, that was a thrilling and exciting thing for me to do—to have a strong and original presence alongside strong and original male presences is unique. And I think the only way to achieve that is to have a male-female writing team because they will write what they know, or their own things.

I disagree in terms of women are not interested in [genre stuff]. I think that women are interested in it and I think that the female fanbase that Spaced has is as strong as the male fanbase. And I think the fanbases for many things are the same.

There are no sort of gender division in terms of fans. They’re just fans. And I think that the whole point of being into pop-culture or sci-fi is about escaping into sort of fantasy world, and there are no sort of gender boundaries.

On a potential reunion:

SP: Aside from the practical [elements] of actually doing it, getting us all back together, having time to write it, and shoot it, one of the other [reasons not to do it], is that we’re worried we’ll get it wrong. We don’t live those lives anymore.

But I’d love to do it. We’re thinking a Halloween Special.

JH: A Halloween Horror Special!

EW: We should obviously do it with CGI sets and hardly any of the original cast. Y’know, I think that’s obviously the way to go with that – “Spaced: The Phantom Menace”.

Thank you to Jessica Hynes, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for taking the time to chat with us.