Spaced: Series 2

Spaced 2Synopsis: Tim and Daisy’s rocky relationship faces its greatest challenge. Tim finds true love, while Daisy’s romantic prospects are looking a tad peaky. Meanwhile Brian is paranoid his affair with Twist is draining his artistic juices, and Mike faces his arch-rival Dexter in a robotic stand-off.

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Spaced: Series 2 7.5

eyelights: its pop culture nods.
eyesores: too much Mike. it mimics series one episodes.

Well before its successful first run, ‘Spaced’ landed a second series. Channel 4 were so excited with the finished product that Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson had put together that they asked for a second helping before the first episode even aired.

Naturally, the trio were all-too-eager to please.

The problem with being a pleaser is that you can’t please everyone. Invariably, by pleasing some people, you will disappoint others. And, in the case of art or entertainment (or artertainment, if you must), this means throwing the careful balance that made the original such a unique concoction in the first place.

This happened to the Star Wars series and, ironically, this is also what has happened with ‘Spaced’.

I’m sure that it’s a comparison that will prove controversial with die-hard fans of the show, but, to me, Series 2 compares to Series 1 in the way that ‘Star Wars’ compares to ‘Return of the Jedi’: there’s more action, there are more thrills, more laughs, more of everything. But it doesn’t add up to a richer experience.

Thankfully, there are no Ewoks (or even remotely their equivalent) in this second series, but they do give larger parts to play to what should have been secondary characters, split up the key figures so as to develop more storylines at once, and they definitely rehash ideas that were superb the first time around, diluting their impact.

It’s starts off on a rather promising note, however: in the short time between both series, George Lucas released ‘The Phantom Menace’, an extremely controversial motion picture in the eyes of original Star Wars Trilogy fans. And Tim is one of them: demolished by his dashed hopes, he is seen burning his memorabilia right from the onset.

Unfortunately, this nerdrage doesn’t serve the series enough. It’s the catalyst for the central plot of Episode 2, but that’s about it – after which it’s more of the same from Tim, Daisy, Mike, Brian, Marsha and Twist (although, strangely enough, Daisy is noticeably absent for a large part of this series. I wonder why that was…)

Episode 1: Both Daisy and Tim have a voice-over intro. Daisy’s is like ‘Manhattan’, Tim’s is like ‘Goodfellas‘. The episode then re-acquaints us with each of the characters before getting started. Daisy was gone to Asia to find herself, and has now returned to find Mike in her stead, and having been somewhat forgotten. Meanwhile, someone mixed up her bag at the airport and some Matrix-inspired secret service agents are after her, thinking that she’s smuggling an undisclosed illegal item into the country. Obviously, that was a mix up. This was an alright episode but what bogged it down was the secret services agents – the guys playing them were wimps trying to pretend to be tough, and they overacted their “toughness” using movie clichés. Ah well, thankfully Daisy had picked up a few moves on her travels and kicked their asses. That was cool to see, however unrealistic it may be. 7.5

Episode 2: Still angry at George Lucas for making a cartoony toy advert instead of the Star Wars film he dreamed of, Tim berates a tyke for wanting some ‘The Phantom Menace’ paraphernalia at the comic shop. And gets fired. Meanwhile, Daisy has to re-apply for social services and brings Tim along. Afterwards, he convinces her to look for a job instead. I loved watching how they both coped with unemployment. However, Mike started to grate on my nerves. He was great as an extraneous character who popped up for a quick laugh, but he became almost integral at this point. Thankfully, he moved out and into Marsha’s extra room (how convenient!), so that means perhaps less of him. Hopefully. Still, he didn’t deter from this particular episode, which was quite funny. But it does set up a traditional sitcom situation, what with everyone (sauf Twist)  living in the same building now. Meh. 8.0

Episode 3: Tim and Mike have built a remote-controlled robot for their regular Robot Wars competition: a huge beast of a thing with an axe in its head. However, they have rivals, rivals who will stop at nothing to get rid of their competition. The final Robot Wars bit is rooted in ‘Fight Club’. Meanwhile, Daisy begins work at Neo Nachos – her fourth job in as many weeks. It’s an amusing segment because it’s all based on ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. Brian was offered a last minute installation and, despite his reservations, manages to pull through rather well – not that he was conscious enough to notice. Unfortunately, Daisy’s bit doesn’t have a clear ending; I’m not really sure what happened. 7.5

Episode 4: Tim gets asked to re-submit his portfolio to Darkstar Comix, even though he was put down by its editor the year before (this was not in Series 1). Tyres pops in again to deliver the package. Obviously, they go through similar motions as in Episode 6 of the last series). It was too repetitious for my taste: I can go watch the other episode if that’s what I want to see, you know? Tim had taken out an insulting caricature of that editor from his portfolio, but Daisy put it back, thinking he had forgotten it. Yeah, you can see it coming: Naturally, Tim finds out and, he, Mike and Tyres, go to Darkstar to try to retrieve the page before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Marsha coaxes Daisy to go jogging with her, and Brian gets a visit from his mom, who still thinks he’s a lawyer. All ends well because Tim scores a date with the assistant editor at Darkstar. But it was too repetitious and clichéd for my taste. Repetitious and clichéd. And repetitious. Not fresh. Repetitious. 7.0

Episode 5: Tim is prepping for his date with Sophie, the assistant from Darkstar, whom he’s been seeing by this point. She bails out and Daisy coaxes him to go out. They end up doing a pub crawl, but wind up in a bit of trouble with some local hooligans. Meanwhile, Mike’s lost Colin and enlists Brian to help find him. By this episode, it’s becoming rather apparent that Twist is M.I.A., but there’s always lame excuses for it (ex: she’s in a bad mood, …etc.). Was Katy Carmichael unavailable to play the part? What I like about this episode is that it’s more similar in tone with the old episodes: it’s looser, more about the characters’ interactions than about contrived plot devices. 8.0

Episode 6: It’s Daisy’s birthday, but Tim’s relationship with Sophie is causing problems: 1) she’s obviously feeling a bit jealous 2)  Mike is resentful of the fact that Sophie is taking up Tim’s time, and 3) Marsha is starting to wonder what is going on, since he’s supposed to be in a couple with Daisy (as per their rental agreement). Meanwhile, Brian and Twist have broken up. As can be expected, the truth about Daisy and Tim comes out at her birthday party. Marsha is upset. Everyone argues. A food fight ensues. And Marsha leaves town. The nicest touch is the closing bit, which echoes the ending of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. 7.5

Episode 7: This one starts with a sitcom-y set of opening credits. Soon everyone discovers, much to all the tenants’ surprise, that Marsha’s put the house for sale – and people are already visiting. Tim, Mike and Brian assume that Marsha’s gone to her daughter’s place, so they head off to Amber’s to have a talk with her mom. Meanwhile, Daisy goes to the neighbour’s to find Colin, whose yard she’s seen him disappearing into. All ends well, of course (Sophie is even taken out of the mix by getting a gig with Marvel Comics in N.Y.C.), aside from a small crisis of faith for Daisy. Meh. Been there done that. This was lackluster given the promise of the episode 6’s final moments. 7.25

What didn’t help was that even the direction didn’t feel as inspired the second time around. This was one of the greatest assets of the first series, and it feels like Wright is coasting during this set of episodes. Apparently they had a lot more money for this set, but they were also far more ambitious so it was harder to make.

My main issue rests with the fact that it rehashed too much from the first series, and it strayed from its original focus on Tim and Daisy. What hooked us from the start was their connection and their dynamic: the very first episode was entirely about them, and that’s what we loved about it. They were awesome as counterparts.

Now we have Mike, Brian and Marsha, who are superb in moderation, competing for the spotlight with Tim and Daisy. Not only does it mean less screen time for either of them, it forces them to be separated far too often. And, while they’re interesting individually, it is together that they are the most potent force.

For good or bad there will not be a Series 3. Too much time has passed since the first two and they are of an age that would change the initial thrust of the show – they would no longer be lost 20-somethings. Pegg has said that it’s probably better to just leave a good thing alone. And I think he’s right. Look at what Lucas did.

But it would be amusing if they put out a special edition with new scenes and special effects one day. I’m sure that fans would find that hilarious – if the originals remained available, naturally. Actually, it might be the only way I’d appreciate this second series: as comparatively thin as it is, I would probably enjoying watching for the new bits.

Dates of viewing: May 11-16, 2014

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