It was around this time a decade ago that Channel 4 aired the first episode of now cult-smash sitcom Spaced. I’m not really sure how well received the show was from the off, but I remember falling in love with it from day one. Anyway, in order to celebrate this wonderful sitcom I’m racking my brain to come up with my ten favourite (in no particular order) movie references squirreled away in the series.
1. Evil Dead II
For all of the Bruce Campbell-isms and zombie blasting in Episode 4 of the first series my favourite Evil Dead riff comes in a completely silly throwaway visual gag. When Daisy (Jessica Hynes nee Stevenson) reveals to Tim (Simon Pegg) her desire to own a dog Tim recoils in terror, mimicking (as the outtakes prove) with studied precision the pose of possessed Evil Dead II actress Sarah Berry from the film’s quad poster. Geeky and perfect.
2. The Sixth Sense
It was the ‘in thing’ around the time to reference M. Night Shyamalan’s spooky drama, and whilst Spaced don’t initially do anything clever with the parody – Mike (Nick Frost) having a ‘vision’ word-for-word of Haley Joel Osment’s – they score huge points by having Olivia Williams (Bruce Willis’ wife in the film) make a cameo as the cyclist they’ve hit.
3. The Matrix
Sure the first episode of Series 2 features Kevin Eldon and Mark Gatiss as obvious Agents hunting Daisy, but a better – briefer – reference is made when Mike fantasizes about how to break into Dark Star Comics in the fourth episode of the same series: Snap cut to revolving doorway and in walks a trenchcoat wearing Mike, Tim and Tyres, cue Propellerheads and machine gunning.
4. Say Anything
A very British reimagining of the boombox hoisting close of John Cusack starring teen classic involves Tim, Brian (Mark Heap) and Mike in a tank raising a ghetto blaster pumping out Take That’s Back For Good.
5. The Empire Strikes Back
The end of the penultimate episode very quickly and cleverly becomes a lovingly recreated homage to the final moments of Irvin Kershner’s superior sequel. Through a growly yawn Mike becomes Chewbacca and Brian Han Solo, meanwhile Daisy and Tim are Luke and Leia respectively. What really makes this ending pop though is the use of John Williams’ actual score, a genuine spine-tingling moment from a series that features a lot of anti-prequel ranting. The real highlight of this though was on the original Channel 4 airing where the continuity announcer himself got a little swept up in things and made some strange Yoda-like noises over the credits and then began giggling.
6. Blade Runner
Not really a subtle reference (considering it’s a spoken name-check), but this marvellous exchange comes in a deleted scene from Series 1 so it may have bypassed all but the most ardent of Spaced fanatics. Tim and Bilbo (Bill Bailey) are discussing a porno that Bilbo rented – ‘The Duke of Knockers’ – which Bilbo found disappointing so he ‘put on Blade Runner and had a wank.’ This conversation scores points for (a) being a comment on the almost perverse adoration of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece (b) being conducted wearing Klingon head-gear and (c) featuring Bill Bailey’s near perfect Yoda impression when he hobbles off to make some tea. Fried gold.
7. Jurassic Park
One of my own personal most quoted lines from Jurassic Park is adapted to fit the moment in Series 2 where girlfriend stealing back-stabbing former friend Dwayne (Peter Serafinowicz) is beaten up by a group of lads. Eye to eye with the leader of the group Dwayne suddenly realises that he’s been secretly flanked, moments before being pounced upon he borrows some famous last words from Bob Peck’s Robert Muldoon; ‘Clever boys.’
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Two references here, both in series one, not sure which one I prefer; the first comes in the second episode where Daisy stares into the freezer pondering its strange temperature controls, wondering if it has become ‘self aware’; Tim pops up in the background whistling ‘Daisy, Daisy…’ On the commentary the cast bemoan how too-subtle the reference may be. The second is almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, borrowing Stanley Kubrick’s famous bone-into-spaceship edit by moving from a flashback of knee-chomping dog (Gramsci) to Bilbo’s comic shop Fantasy Bazaar with a cut from flying leg bone to model spaceship.
As their entrant into Robot Wars Private Iron boots up we are treated to like-for-like homages to Paul Verhoven’s 80s satirical actioner; as creators Tim and Mike discuss their creation; “I think we should lose the axe.” “I like the axe.” “I like my face.” “I like your face.” Though the ‘homage proper’ is in Tim’s line; “I love this guy!” The eagle-eyed of viewers will notice in Private Iron’s data streams a list of other famous TV/Film robots, so get that pause button ready.
Skip to the end… Well, the beginning of Series 2. Acting as an introduction/catch-up the start of the second series borrows the Gershwin and voice-over (read here by Daisy) of Woody Allen’s classic comedy-drama, yet somehow – with very little altered – serves as a perfect snapshot of North London living and the scruffy antics of our ‘heroes’, rather than the neurotic shenanigans of a Jewish New Yorker. Textbook.
Naturally throughout Spaced there are references upon references, a myriad of in-jokes, homages and parodies but these are a few that instantly sprang to mind for me and in various ways represent the geekdom and enduring appeal of a TV series truly deserving of its longevity and that has propelled many of its cast and crew onto the silver screen.
© BRWC 2010.
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