SPACED. (1999-2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


SPACED. (1999-2001) DIRECTED BY EDGAR WRIGHT. CREATED AND DIRECTED BY SIMON PEGG AND JESSICA STEVENSON. STARRING SIMON PEGG, JESSICA STEVENSON, NICK FROST, MARK HEAP, KATY CARMICHAEL AND JULIA DEAKIN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a very British sitcom, of both the satirical and surreal kind, about a group of twenty-somethings who have watched a huge amount of television and films and played an enormous number of computer games in their time. Ditto their creators. It’s only just come to my attention, twenty-odd years after its conception, and I’m glad it has.

I really enjoyed it and found it entertaining, except where they were basing storylines on things I hadn’t personally watched and didn’t care for, like ROBOT WARS. Also, believe it or not, I don’t much dig the whole STAR WARS franchise, although I did laugh at the bits where Simon Pegg’s character had been traumatised by the ‘90s trilogy of prequels, was it, that kicked off with THE PHANTOM MENACE. I know a lot of die-hard fans had trouble accepting Jar Jar Binks into the STAR WARS family.

Oh, and I hated the bits of SPACED that were all about guns and paintballing and masculine pursuits like that, although I loved the character of Mike, who’s in the Territorial Army and positively lives for guns and tanks and military manoeuvres and such-like. But let’s go back and start at the beginning, shall we? I’ve heard that that’s a very good place to start…

Simon Pegg (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, WORLD’S END, PAUL) plays Tim Bisley, an occasionally unemployed graphic artist who works in Bilbo Baggins’s comic book shop. Bilbo is played by Bill Bailey, by the way, the co-star, along with Dylan Moran, of the superb BLACK BOOKS which came along shortly after SPACED.

Tim is very boyish-looking and even more boyish in manner. All he really wants to do is go on the Play-station with Mike, his best buddy who’s in the TA’s, and simulate battles with him, whether on the computer or physically, on and around the couch.

Mike is played by Nick Frost, by the way, Pegg’s partner in the Cornetto trilogy of movies, and he- Mike- once stole a tank while in the TA’s and tried to, ahem, invade Paris. Yes, I said Paris, and, no, I don’t know why…

Tim puts Mike and their comic-book-and-movie-related conversations and re-enactments ahead of anyone or anything else in his life, and yet he’s still surprised when his girlfriend Sarah dumps him for his supposed friend, Duane Benzie. Duane is a real man, as opposed to Tim’s very obviously still-a-boy-and-likely-to-remain-so-unless-he-gets-some-kind-of-rude-awakening persona.

Maybe Sarah doesn’t want a boyfriend who takes recreational drugs until he hallucinates and puts skateboarding and science fiction conventions ahead of her in the pecking order. I can’t say I blame her. There comes a point in every woman’s life when she needs a man, a real man, and not a lad who wants to make a working robot to impress his mates more than he wants to be with you

Daisy Steiner, played by comic genius Jessica Stevenson (THE ROYLE FAMILY, BLACK BOOKS), is an unemployed wanna-be writer living in a squat when she meets Tim by chance in a café. Tim is homeless now too after being dumped by Sarah, so the two of them, Tim and Daisy, decide to get a flat together, which would solve their immediate housing problems.

They end up pretending to be a ‘professional couple’ in order to rent a flat owned by their new landlady, Marsha Klein, a game old gal who’s got two ex-husbands and a bit of a wild past life under her belt. She hasn’t too much to do these days and so takes a keen motherly interest in the lives of her tenants.

Marsha has a bolshy teenage daughter called Amber whom we never properly meet, and she’s (Marsha) a chain-smoking alcoholic who’s almost certainly had sexual relations with Brian, her younger lodger; he’s a conceptual artist who specialises in painting his own angst, lol, and possesses very little in the way of social skills.

Marsha is probably my favourite character, next to Daisy. She’s been there and done that- just ask Mick Jagger and the lads!- and wouldn’t mind finding a little love again before she’s tossed unceremoniously onto the romantic scrapheap, as happens to us all at some stage. Could love in fact be right under her nose, in the form of a certain Mike…?

Daisy and Tim quickly settle into their new surroundings. They get an adorable Scottie dog called Colin, Mike is round all the time calling for his soulmate Tim to come out and play, and Daisy’s shallow fashion victim bezzie mate Twist falls for Brian, much to poor Marsha’s distress.

Tim gets fired from his job at the comic book store for refusing to accept THE PHANTOM MENACE into the STAR WARS franchise, and Daisy also becomes unemployed after writing a few pieces for magazines. She wants to be a writer, but she can’t seem to just get her arse in that chair in front of that typewriter (typewriter???) and bloody well write something.

I feel her pain, lol. I’ve hardly typed a word myself since this wretched heatwave began. Any excuse to bunk off. First it was the pandemic, then it was the American presidential election, now it’s the ruddy heat, haha. What will it be next? Global warming…? Could be, could be…

Tim gets a new girlfriend called Sophie, but, typical bloke that he is, he fails to notice the feelings that Daisy clearly has for him, bubbling away just under the surface of her bright ‘n’ breezy exterior.

Will he see what’s so obviously right under his nose, or will he blow it and just stand by and watch Daisy as she slouches sadly off to Colwyn Bay to a job she doesn’t want, because she thinks there’s no future for her at the house in Meteor Street…?

The series is bursting with references to films and popular culture, everything from PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK to THE SHINING, from THE ROYLE FAMILY to TRAINSPOTTING, from THE MATRIX to, of course, the much-mentioned STAR WARS and all its bright shiny constellations, including THE PHANTOM MENACE and the despised Jar Jar Binks, lol. Some references I didn’t get because I’m not a bloke who spends his life playing computer games or reading graphic novels, but the ones I got I loved.

The familiar faces you might recognise popping up as one-off characters include Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith from THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, Ricky Gervais, David Walliams, Bill Bailey- him that won STRICTLY COME DANCING in 2020!- Kevin Eldon and, of course, Peter Serafinowicz as the deliciously deeply-voiced Duane Benzie. Remember when he talked Fran to orgasm in BLACK BOOKS once? He’s one of those blokes about whom it is said that they could recite the phone book and birds would find it sexy…

SPACED is a lovely warm nostalgic comedy with some very clever writing from two people who clearly love films and the horror genre, and, quite honestly, it livened up an exceptionally dull week in this rather confusing post-Covid (or, are we post-Covid yet?) world we’re inhabiting at the moment.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m taking my entertainment where I can get it these days. Every day could be your flamin’ last. So head off to Meteor Street and see who’s about. At the very least, there’ll be a bottle of something cold and wet standing open…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

SHAUN OF THE DEAD. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SHAUN OF THE DEAD. (2004) DIRECTED BY EDGAR WRIGHT. WRITTEN BY EDGAR WRIGHT AND SIMON PEGG.

STARRING SIMON PEGG, NICK FROST, KATE ASHFIELD, PENELOPE WILTON, BILL NIGHY, DYLAN MORAN, LUCY DAVIS, PETE SERAFINOWICZ AND JESSICA STEVENSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Motherfucker…

Don’t forget to kill Phil!

The front door is open. AGAIN…!

We’re coming to get you, Barbara!

Shaun to Ed- D’you want anything from the shop?

Ed- Cornetto.

Bill Nighy’s character on being bitten by a zombie- I ran it under the cold tap.

This is my kids’ favourite movie of all time, and yet I resisted watching it until recently, if you can believe it, because I’m such a film snob, mostly preferring ‘pure’ horror to spoofs-slash-horror comedy. But SHAUN OF THE DEAD is bloody brilliant!

It’s the warmest, cuddliest most feelgood zombie film ever written, despite the lashings of gore and violence, and it left me with such a good (hot?) fuzzy feeling inside that I immediately wanted to write about it and tell the whole world my opinion of a seventeen-year-old movie, lol. Talk about late to the bleedin’ party!

The first film in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (HOT FUZZ (2007) and THE WORLD’S END (2013), it was based on such films as George A. Romero’s own trio of classic zombie movies, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and DAY OF THE DEAD (1985).

It tells the story of Shaun, marvellously played by Simon Pegg, a twenty-nine-year-old Londoner who works in a shit job selling electrical goods. His girlfriend Liz is breaking up with him because she thinks he’s immature and never wants to do anything different or go anywhere new. As he spends every night in the Winchester pub with his soulmate, his bezzie mate Ed (played by an equally wonderful Nick Frost), this accusation might just be true.

Shaun hates his step-dad, the mild-mannered Philip (Bill Nighy), and is always fighting with his mum Barbara (Penelope Wilton) because of this. He also hates Liz’s mate David (David’s a twat!), one half of the couple David-and-Dianne, and he’s not getting on with his housemate Pete, because Pete thinks that Shaun and Ed are a couple of losers who waste their time on the Playstation or down the Winchester.

So, you see, by the time the Zombie Apocalypse begins, Shaun has been made to feel really bad about his life by Other People. I say Other People, because Shaun and Ed were both perfectly happy about the nice comfortable rut they were in before the Apocalypse (Ed still is!) until Other People started sticking their oars in.

But the Apocalypse, which the horribly hungover Shaun and Ed are quite slow to recognise for what it is, might just provide Shaun, whose pens have had the utterly banal bad taste to leak through the pocket of his white, short-sleeved work shirt, with a golden opportunity to display the proactive leadership skills that have hitherto lain dormant in his nature.

Can he win back Liz’s love (and, let’s face it, they’re perfick for each other) while simultaneously saving her, his mum, his step-dad, his bezzie mate Ed and David-and-Dianne as well from the Zombie Apocalypse? Will the previously reviled Winchester provide the gang, after all, with the fortress-like security they need to keep them safe from the onslaught of slavering zombies? It’s all to play for, folks.

Highlights include Shaun and Ed having a deadly serious conversation in the middle of a zombie attack about which records to chuck- or not to chuck- at the shambling, slobbering brain-dead brain-munchers, and the gang nipping over garden fences trying to get to the Winchester before the zombies do and discovering their friend Yvonne (played by the brilliant Jessica Stevenson, aka Cheryl from THE ROYLE FAMILY) leading an exactly parallel group to their own one but in a different direction.

The parallel group, though they don’t get to say much, features well-known comedy actors such as Matt Lucas (LITTLE BRITAIN), Reece Shearsmith (THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN), Martin Freeman (NATIVITY, THE HOBBIT) and Tamsin Greig (BLACK BOOKS, alongside its writer-creator Dylan Moran).

I also love that ordinary normal people like ourselves are portrayed as zombies as we go through the frequently mind-numbingly boring motions of everyday life. No wonder people like Liz sometimes yearn for a complete change of scene or direction, or even of watering-hole. Just to do something a little bit different, for once! We’ve all felt that on occasion, all been there.

I also love that scene in the garden where Shaun and Ed think the zombie lady is merely another Sunday morning still-drunk hangover victim, and also the sheer normal-ness of the Asian-run corner shop and the perfectly ordinary street where they live.

The separate scenes between Shaun and his step-dad, in which Bill Nighy as Philip tries touchingly to impart how tough it is to be a dad, never mind a step-dad, and also between Shaun and his lovely mumsy mum, are part and parcel of what gives SHAUN OF THE DEAD its enormous heart.

But the central love has got to be between, not Shaun and Liz, although they undoubtedly do love each other, but Shaun and Ed, his best friend. They love each other the way only real, true best friends can love each other, and each of their two final scenes together in the film had me in floods of tears.

I was laughing more than I was crying, though, because the comedy in the film is seriously well-written. Nearly two decades after it was conceived, penned and committed to celluloid, I finally get to watch it. And pronounce it practically perfick.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.