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.