This new feature series, awesome reader, is a celebration of the greatest achievements our beloved small screen has to offer. This is not a list nor a countdown to the greatest TV show of all time. There will be no chronological elitism. The choices will not be based on viewing figures or awards or the amount of episodes produced. There will be no out-of-work comedians you have never heard of telling you what they remember of the show via talking heads.
Every show chosen will, in probably many ways, be completely brilliant — some obvious, some surprising, but all rather good in their own way. So join me as we delve into the curious little box — or enormous, wafer-thin, wall-mounted time-sucker; whatever your situation may be — and peek at the joys it beams into our hungry eyes and discover the The Greatest TV Shows Ever, starting with a little series called Spaced
Spaced is the geekiest show that has ever been on television. There are other shows about geeks or that have flashes of geekery (it’s a word? Well, it is now), maybe even a whole episode devoted to our beloved movies or comic books. But Spaced is the best example of a TV comedy series made for geeks by geeks. It feels like one big in-joke, one that you have with your geeky friends. Everything from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to The A-Team, via Grease and Fight Club get the Spaced treatment.
Even the scenes which do not feature pop-culture references are so brilliantly executed that they feel like you know them from a film, and probably a film you like. Before you start worrying that it’s just a Scary Movie-type parody series stretched out to 14 episodes, fear not. It would be a waste of time to try and list or count the number of film and pop culture references in each episode, and more than that it would spoil the fun when you watch it. What’s amazing is how they fit so perfectly in to the story. This will come as no surprise considering the creative geeks behind it.
Spaced is a sitcom about two strangers — Daisy and Tim (played by co-writers Jessica Stephenson and Simon Pegg) — who, thanks to failures in their love lives, followed by a lack of suitable available living spaces, have to pretend to be a couple to get a flat. Daisy is a writer by trade but who, like most writers will attest, spends most of her time staring at a blank piece of paper or thinking of any excuse not to actually write. Tim is a talented comic artist who works at the comic shop Fantasy Bazaar, and whose life of video game playing is occasionally interrupted by conversations about Star Wars. Series 2 deals with a very important issue the world once faced and in many ways is still dealing with that awful hangover. Eighteen months previously the world was subjected to an unimaginable horror and for Tim, “˜it still hurts’. In hindsight Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace probably isn’t as bad a movie as Tim makes out, but for him, this running joke throughout the series was bad enough to lose his job over at the Fantasy Bazaar.
The entire two-series run was directed by Edgar Wright. This was much before he directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. In fact the episode where Tim plays hours of horror video game Resident Evil (a lot more entertaining than it sounds), and in his sleep deprived state sees zombies everywhere was the basis of Shaun of the Dead. It was way before Wright started work on adapting the Scott Pilgrim books into a movie, too. Here you can see why he is the perfect choice as director; the jumpy editing, frenetic action, and perfect humour. Also at this time Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) was just Pegg’s mate, Nick. Because that’s his name. His inexperience in front of the camera never shows and is consistently funny as Tim’s mate, Mike.
Spaced is not another flatmates with crazy neighbours type of sitcom. Actually it is thanks to Tim and Daisy’s neighbours Brian, a manic depressive artist, and smokes-like-a-chimney, drinks-like-a-fish landlady, Marsha. Add to that Tim’s friend Mike, a weapons expert whose dream is to be back in the army. He arrives at Tim and Daisy’s housewarming party with a landmine. And Daisy’s friend, Twist, a beautiful but possibly dangerously evil dry-cleaner. Regardless of how many “˜wacky’ friends show up, the writing is so sharp and the pop-culture jokes are done so perfectly that it really doesn’t feel like anything else on TV.
The complete series is out now on DVD in the United States as Spaced: The Complete Series and out in the UK as Spaced – Definitive Collectors’ Edition.
The best English tv show ever overlooked!
Comment by MentalMilton — June 5, 2010 @ 5:25 pm
UK readers can watch the whole of Series 1 and 2 for free on 4OD.
Comment by AJRussell — June 5, 2010 @ 7:01 pm
What i have found to be a beuaty to this show is that i watched it whilst growing up as an early teen and wasn’t a geek back then. I shamefully never saw the star wars movie until my 21st when my friends (who i thank a lot) sat me down and made me watch them through in one day. eps 1 through 6.
back to my point. back then when watching it i found it funny without being a geek, and since becoming a geek and watching it again i have found it at least 10 times funnier. For those who are not of the geek elk, there is the added bonus feature on the dvd that will highlight all references for people. though to be honest this is actually more fun for geeks as i promise they will highlight a reference that you did not notice, 1st, 2nd or even 3rd time round :-)
amaxing show, glad to see its on the Radar of those outside the UK too,
now for a pint of the black stuff$…
… not bovril!
Comment by Ryan Jon Warren — June 6, 2010 @ 7:45 am
The show in this series of Greatest TV Shows Ever should be The Mighty Boosh. Another super fantastic British show that rarely gets it’s due over on this side of the pond.
Comment by Harkonen — June 7, 2010 @ 9:51 am
Gotta disagree about the Boosh. Good show, funny show, but not one of the greatest ever made by any stretch. In my opinion ofcourse. I feel after season one they basically went down hill. Season 3 was them not handling a big budget very well if you ask me.
Shows i would love to see in this feature include:
– The Office – An american workplace – As a kid i was able to completely forget that the people on tv were actors and believe the character was the real person. I no longer accept that Steve Carell exists, Michael Scott is real! For me this show has had some good episodes, and some amazing episodes! Rarely a bad episode. You are meant to love Jim but dwight often steals the show and Michael… we all know a Michael. It far surpasses the UK version buy successfully running 6 seasons and not getting boring. The reason UK shows generally quit after a couple of seasons is to ensure a show doesnt get stale or repetitive. This show took that fear and swollowed it never to be thought again. I will be happy if it ends season 7 (as Micheal’s contract only last’s until the end of this season) but would also be happy to see this show continue on and on.
– Dexter – possibly the greatest character development story i’ve seen a while. Each season has had different personal dilemmas for Dexter to deal with not only as a monster but also as a human. He is not only the good guy without boundarie but the bad guy you can’t help but support. Season 3 was a bit ropey but Dexter managed to pull it all together through his -self-development storyline. as ever!
– Lost – no need to justify
But thats just my taste i guess, though i do think i have pretty good taste.
What i don’t wanna see is
– Fringe – had so much promise but failed to develop key character Peter in the first season, and also basically chopped and changed its rules to suite throughout season 2. Not happy with how that went :-(
– The Prisoner – remake/reimagining – this was plain awful! not only as a fan of the original but as a fan of madern day science fiction this show blew chunks
– V – 2009 remake – again what did they think they were doing? They basically through a load of money making the ships look spectacular and then when anna eats someone it looks shoddy. come on. why not just re-run the original? it was so much better!
Comment by Ryan Jon Warren — June 7, 2010 @ 11:09 am
I own both the UK and US versions of this show and regret none of it. If I ever vacation in a region 2 area, I’ll be ready. This show is the greatest thing to happen to the small screen, possibly ever. I won’t go on and risk writing an entire other review, but I’ll just say I didn’t think I could have more respect for Edgar and company after Shaun of the Dead, and then I saw their roots in this show, and was blown away.
Comment by Shawn — June 7, 2010 @ 2:45 pm
Cannot agree more
this is the best show ever filmed, and it can never be recreated– the US adaption pilot made me want to drown things, like Tim did when he got the note from Sarah explaining their break up months too late. Dammit, where’s my tomb raider game!?
Comment by Sierra — June 7, 2010 @ 10:17 pm
Watched this when it first appeared on Channel 4 back in 1999 and fell in love with the series in an instant, can’t believe it’s now 11 years ago! Still a classic!
Comment by Andy — June 8, 2010 @ 4:20 am
please mention red dwarf in this feature! one of the greatest uk shows ever….
Comment by kisah j. — June 10, 2010 @ 11:53 am