Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and ‘Spaced’
I really like Simon Pegg, I have ever since I saw ‘Run Fat Boy, Run’, so of course I (eventually) saw ‘Paul’. It was a much better and much funnier movie than I had expected which explains my use of the term eventually. A discussion this weekend about ‘World’s End’ turned into I must see ‘Hot Fuzz’, and quicker than you can jump a fence, the DVD player was loading the movie. I must say the first half was the kind of wry British humoUr that I particularly enjoy. Then it turned. What followed was a total dude fest mock-up of every action movie EVER filmed. YAWN! The discussion that followed my critique of said movie led to the fact that I must see the roots of all Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright films……the short lived British television show ‘Spaced’ which earned two BAFTA nominations as well as an International Emmy nomination . Ahhh….I was rapt, completely caught…..hook, line and sinker. I watched the whole series (14 episodes) back to back. It was a thrill to try to catch each pop culture reference; it became almost a game to see who could name the most! Suddenly, it was over. Wrapped up into a not so quite tidy package that has left me wanting more.
It all began in 1995 when Jessica Stevenson (Hynes) was cast in the BBC series ‘Six Pairs of Pants’ alongside Simon Pegg. The following year, when Pegg went on to make the surreal sitcom ‘Asylum’ with Edgar Wright the two invited her to take part in the show. Together the three of them dreamed up ‘Spaced’ with Hynes creating most of the initial characters and situations: she and Pegg are friends who pretended to be a couple in order to secure a flat rental.
‘Spaced’ was to be an American remake, although Hynes, Pegg and Wright, who signed away their rights a decade ago, had never been consulted. "They developed our show for nearly a year without our knowledge or blessing," says Hynes. "It's unforgivable." Nevertheless, Pegg and Wright, perhaps, have fewer grounds for resentment than Hynes does. Simon Pegg and Wright took the ‘Spaced’ formula to the big screen with ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’ and now ‘World’s End’. It is the other third of the trio who did not fare quite so well. Hynes has never been short of theater, film or television work— she appeared in
‘Shaun of the Dead’ and is in ‘World’s End’– but until last year, Hynes' most high-profile post-Spaced role was in another short-lived BBC sitcom.
I was optimistic when Pegg and Wright were interviewed at ComicCon and the discussion turned to ‘Spaced”. However, just as I was lifted to the heights I was quickly plunged to the depths. The duo have said they will not make any new episodes. I can see their point, it would be hard to go back (the characters were all in their mid-20s) and a post reunion can be tricky (i.e.: ‘Arrested Development’). There is no discussion though that the humoUr, pop culture and uber geek references that this golden trio display
are rock solid and make their movies more than just funny and more than cult favorites, they are iconic.
Simon Pegg’s Offical statement regarding the American re-make of ‘Spaced’:
“Now that the pilot has been officially announced, I thought it might be a good idea to clarify my position on the subject. The whole affair seems to have inspired some spirited debate and some heartening displays of loyalty and love. All this for a show which is almost 10 years old, is all rather wonderful and a vindication of all the blood, sweat and tears (both of joy and pain) we shed in the show’s creation. It was always our aim to create a comedy which spoke to its audience on such a personal level, it almost felt one on one. It would seem the fan reaction to the news that Fox has appropriated the format, confirms at least, that we
As far as remaking TV shows for different territories is concerned, I don’t have a problem. The Office remake being a perfect example. Yes, the original British version is a wonderful and compact piece of comedy writing and performance, but I think it’s bit much to expect a large scale American television audience to fully relate to the minutiae of day-to-day business life in an obscure British suburb. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you are the type of person who takes pleasure in the variety of entertainment you enjoy, relishing the differences between our various cultural touchstones but there is a massive audience out
there, which perhaps isn’t as culturally savvy (euphemistic phrase for ‘geeky’) as we are and need their signifiers to be a little more familiar. So, Slough is replaced by Scranton, and the office archetypes become a little more archetypal to an American audience. The spirit of the show remains intact. The performances are uniformly great and the show scores big ratings and wins EMMYs, whether we as comedy purists prefer the original or not. The success of the remake is born out by it’s undoubted success and appeal.
My main problem with the notion of a Spaced remake is the sheer lack of respect that Granada/Wonderland/Warner Bros have displayed in respectively selling out and appropriating our ideas without even letting us know. A decision I can only presume was made as a way of avoiding having to give us any money, whilst at the same time using mine and Edgar’s name in their press release, in order to trade on the success of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, even professing, as Peter Johnson did, to being a big fan of the show and it’s creators. A device made all the more heinous by the fact that the press release neglected to mention the show’s co-creator and female voice, Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson). The fact is, when we signed our contracts ten years ago, we had neither the experience or the kudos to demand any clauses securing any control over future reversioning. We signed away our rights to any input in the show’s international future, because we just wanted to get the show made and these dark days of legal piracy seemed a far away concern. As a result, we have no rights. The show does not belong to us and, those that do own it have no obligation to include us in any future plans. You would perhaps hope though, out of basic professional respect and courtesy, we might have been consulted. It is this flagrant snub and effective vote of no confidence in the very people that created the show, that has caused such affront at our end. If they don’t care about the integrity of the original, why call it Spaced? Why attempt to find some validation by including mine and Edgar’s names in the press release as if we were involved? Why not just lift the premise? Two strangers, pretend to be a couple in order to secure residence of a flat/apartment. It’s hardly Ibsen. Jess and I specifically jumped off from a very mainstream sitcom premise in order to unravel it so completely. Take it, have it, call it Perfect Strangers and hope Balkie doesn’t sue. Just don’t call it Spaced.
It’s a shame, since the pilot is now a certainty, whether we like it or not, a simple phone call and a few reassurances might have helped to at least curtail the tide of indignation from fans and creators alike. I have, as of yet, heard nothing.”
Although an American remake of ‘Spaced’ sounded intriguing and both Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg spoke publicly of their feelings about it, never fear, the pilot was so horrible the whole show idea was canned. I watched some footage of the pilot and…..hmmm…..gee….it was just, how shall I say? Well, weird, and honestly….horrific. I really do not know where they were trying going with it and they muddled the characters into simplistic caricatures of the originals. Call it artistic justice or just plain ol’ Karma; I am just glad it did not work out.