In 1999 a show emerged in the U.K. on Channel 4 that for once spoke directly to “geek culture” rather than talk down and mock it. It was a show that gladly rewarded those in the know enough to spot every tiny pop-culture reference, because those were this shows people, it’s audience, it’s willing accomplices. It was a team of individuals that would go on to help shape pop-culture in the noughties, That show was Spaced.
Conceived and written by Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson in collaboration with director Edgar Wright, Spaced tells the story of Tim Bisley, a failing comic book illustrator who works in a comic book shop to pay the bills, to subsidise that he finds a flat mate in Daisy Steiner, an equally failing writer. Navigating through the pitfalls and promise of being a twenty-something at the turn of the millennium and joined on their often strange journey by Tim’s best friend Mike, a T.A enlistment with delusions of military greatness, Brian, the eccentric conceptual artist who lives downstairs, Marsha, their land lady and Twist, Daisy’s shallow best friend.
Spaced was a breath of fresh air to the genre inclined fan at that time. Up until this point their hadn’t really been a show that spoke to the all consuming love of all things geeky & pop-culture oriented that didn’t spell out its intentions. Spaced and its writers held a lot of faith in its audiences knowledge of popular culture, to ‘get’ the jokes and innumerable references, references that were so great in number that when Spaced was released on DVD is was given a ‘Homage-o-meter’ to list each reference as it happened on screen.
Up until the early noughties, it wasn’t cool to be perceived as a geek. Sci-fi and fantasy as genres were still eyed with a degree of derision and we were yet to have the dawn of the Marvel franchises, the return of Doctor Who, Sherlock, The Walking Dead, Girls had yet to start posting selfies of themselves in ‘NERD’ t-shirts wearing too large glasses with no lenses. It was not yet chic to be a geek. The Spaced team helped to pave the way to a more commercial and widespread audience, certainly in the U.K, If not further afield. Spaced was a phenomenal start, it was edgy, stylish, incredibly funny and didn’t dumb itself down to appease the lowest common denominator, it spoke to its audience with the familiarity of a good buddy. Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg, Joined by Spaced alumni Nick Frost in an acting capacity, went on and wrote & directed ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’ of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The Worlds End, lovingly crafted odes to the pop-culture tropes of the zombie, action and sci-fi genres respectively, all three films were a commercial and critical success and further cemented Pegg & Wright in the public eye. Pegg himself reaching geek critical mass by starring in both Star Wars & Star Trek franchises. Edgar Wright would go on to direct the movie adaptation of Brian O’Malleys much loved comic, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and lend writing duties to Marvels Ant-Man. These people are now household names, their influence on popular culture is to be plainly seen far and wide, and it all started with a small, daft sitcom on Channel 4. As for the title to this piece, it was either that or ‘You Can’t Drink A Pint Of Bovril’, it was a close call.