"The Big Bang Theory" really tries to be a sitcoms for nerds, and sometimes it even succeeds, but too often I feel that the characters' nerdiness is used as a mere punchline i.e. "look at these characters, they're complete and utter losers because they like Babylon 5." It can get kind of annoying.
"Spaced," a 2 season sitcom from Britain, does not have that problem. Although its characters are nerdy/ weird, the nerdiness is rarely the joke. Instead, humor comes from the odd behavior caused by the nerdiness. as well as an awesome barrage of very funny pop cultural references. I can honestly say I really enjoyed a series that seems to be written by and for the nerdishly inclined.
Our two main characters are Tim (Simon Pegg) and Daisy (Jessica Stevenson), two twentysomethings who befriend each other while searching for flats. When they finally find one, they discover that it's for "professional couples only." However, since it's such a good flat, they decide to pretend to be dating in order to live there.
But that brief plot summary doesn't really do "Spaced" justice. The real power of the shows relies on its interesting characters. Tim is an aspiring graphic artist whose dream is to publish his comic book "The Bear," about a mutant bear superhero. He's very nerdy but also very driven and motivated, despite his slacker veneer. Daisy, however, is a complete slacker, a "writer" who hardly ever writes anything because she's too easily distracted. She is a very nice and caring young woman, however. Her best friend Twist (Katy Carmichael), is, according to Tim either "sweet and stupid or an evil genius," and works in "fashion" (i.e. at a dry cleaners). Her compliments to others (especially Daisy) often sound more like insults, but she's an enthusiastic member of the group. Tim's best friend Mike (Nick Frost, in his first acting role), is a big, fat army nut who loves everything to do with the military. Unfortunately, thanks to a childhood mishap caused by Tim he's been disqualified from the regular army, and he was kicked out of the Territorial Army (the British equivalent of the National Guard) for stealing a tank and attempting to invade Paris. Brian (Mark Heap) is the strange person who lives just below Tim and Daisy, a passionate but somewhat inarticulate artist consumed and fueled by feelings of depression, fear, and rage. Rounding out the cast is Marsha (Julia Deakin), the drunked middle-aged landlady who quarrels constantly with her never-seen daughter. The interactions between these characters plus more minor ones (like Tim's ADD-afflicted bike messenger friend Tyres, extremely nerdy boss Bilbo, and archnemesis Dwayne) is fascinating: each one develops in the presence of the others. These people seem like real people, the kind you might meet when you yourself are a twentysomething cruising through life.
The pop culture references are amazing. About half of one episode in the second season is a long tribute to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and I noticed scenes referencing "The Sixth Sense," the various "Star Wars" movies, and "Fight Club," to name but a few. This is putting aside the hundreds of references to all sorts of things in dialogue. There are so many homages that the DVDs I watched the series on have a track that points all of them out. And these references never feel forced or unnecessary: they are just how these people would imagine or phrase things.
The sense of humor is madcap. An episode of "Spaced" may start one place, and end up somewhere entirely different. But nothing is random slapstick: everything comes from the characters and how they think.
"Spaced" is amazing, unafraid to be proud of its nerdiness. It creates wonderful characters that feel real and fascinating. If you are a nerd or geek especially, but even if you are not, you should check it out. It's as fresh as when it was first broadcast (I was amazed to learn this series is almost ten years old! It felt so new and innovative). Definately check it out.
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