Overview: Before Shaun fought the Dead, the Fuzz was Hot, and the End of the World, there was Spaced.
Spaced, written by and starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes, feels like a prototype to the Cornetto Trilogy (an easy sensation to explain when you take into account Edgar Wright directed every episode). There are similarities throughout and some parts, e.g. the zombie dream sequence in Episode 3: Art, could be viewed as a practice run for the feature films.
Stories about Mates: The Cornetto Trilogy, by my reading of it, shares two major themes: friendship and growing up. Shaun needs to realise that he can have the girl and the grown up life and still keep his best friend; Angel and Butterman’s friendship along with Butterman’s realisation of the true nature of Sandford, form the centrepiece of Hot Fuzz. The World’s End isn’t too subtle about Gary King needing to act his age, no matter how much he wants his friends and him to relive their youth.
In Spaced the two main characters, Tim and Daisy, are approaching their thirties while clinging to their twenties. They are oversized kids, and a big element of the series is the fear that eventually the days of smoking weed, playing Playstation, and calling yourself a “writer” without writing anything will have to end. They are surrounded by other characters who are struggling to find their places in the world, with the standout being Mike, the wannabe soldier, played by Nick Frost. The story goes that Frost was Pegg’s flatmate and because he made Pegg laugh, he was given a role in the show. The rest is history. Mike is an excellent character, falling somewhere between big cuddly teddy bear and Christopher Walken at the end of The Deer Hunter.
The Wright Stuff: During his time on Spaced, Edgar Wright really honed some of the tricks that would later appear throughout the Cornetto Trilogy. The smash cuts for flashbacks and scene transitions are used to outstanding comedic effect, and the aping of other movie’s styles are tricks he pulls out of the hat in the CT, only with more experience and a bigger budget. For example, the Empire Strikes Back ending of Episode 6: Dissolution is a work of art.
Spaced has some surprisingly action packed episodes (e.g. The Paintball episode, the Robot Wars episode, the Dog Vivisectionist Prison Break episode, and the episode with the fake gun fight). It’s clear Wright honed his skills staging these ridiculous situations for comedy, skills he would later use to great effect in the Cornetto Trilogy.
Overall: Spaced is one of the best TV shows ever made, so it makes sense that Pegg and Wright (two of its creators) would go on to create such an awesome trio of films. If I had to be negative in any way it would be to say that I am always a little sad that Jessica Hynes doesn’t have more of a role in the Cornetto Trilogy. She played Yvonne, one of my favourite characters in Shaun of the Dead, who showed up to bash in a zombie with a golf club.
I think Daisy would be proud.