Hands down, one of the highlights of my Comic-Con experience was getting to meet Simon Pegg and his Spaced cohorts, despite the brevity of our interaction. I sat down for a quick roundtable interview with Pegg and his costar on Spaced, Jessica Hynes, along with Edgar Wright, Pegg's frequent partner in crime (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) and the director of Spaced.
In the British comedy, Pegg and Hynes play Tim and Daisy, who rent a flat in London under the pretense that they are a couple. The show is filled with pop culture references and surreal experiences, and if you haven't already, you ought to get ahold of the newly available Spaced DVDs. For now, check out some of the highlights from our chat.
Q: There are a lot of horror references in Spaced. How did that come about?
Edgar Wright: I think that really is my default setting of shooting everything like it was a horror film, for no apparent reason. I mean, there were definitely a lot of references in the script already, particularly to The Shining . . . The whole style of the show is very stylized and sort of kinetic because the characters are so drenched in pop culture, it’s almost like, if they ever had to describe their mundane lives, this [a horror movie] is what it would look like. So it’s almost like, you’re watching them recount their lives, rather than the actuality.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, 'cause they’re like, "I went to work in a kitchen and it was like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." Or, "I walked into the room that time and it was like the f---ing Evil Dead," you know? And that’s what you actually see. All three of us love the idea of taking very mundane things and turning them into slightly more grand, cinematic things. Which we took forward into Shaun of the Dead as well after having learned that on Spaced. Jess and I certainly wanted to have this world that was defined by popular culture, shaped by it.
The trio expounds on this and other things (like their intense admiration of Arrested Development), so read more.
Q: Was that also a reaction to the way most sitcoms are shot?
Edgar: Yeah, I think so. I think at the time, when we made the show there were some critics in the UK who assumed that we were trying to sort of burn down traditional sitcoms and that isn’t the case, because some traditionally-shot sitcoms are just fantastic. And it was around the time that Friends was huge, and in the UK there were two or three shows that were kind of trying to do a British Friends, so we wanted to go against that, really.
Jessica: [With] Friends. . . however real it is or funny it is, ultimately there's an aspirational quality to it in terms of the lead characters — the way they look, their world — there’s something slightly unreal about it. And I suppose that I would differentiate between the style of Friends as aspirational and would think of Spaced as sort of inspirational . . . It was important to have it reflect absolutely and intimately our world and experiences and our friends and ourselves. And to have that kind of authenticity it needed to be kind of grubby and sort of . . . real. Because that was our world.
Q: In terms of American TV, do you think there are comedic shows that get it right?
Edgar: Arrested Development did. For the two and a half seasons that it was on-air.
Simon: Arrested Development was just so . . .
Simon: It was depressingly good. Sometimes you watch something as a writer and you think, "Aw, what’s the point?" That show was like that.
Edgar: That was great. Larry Sanders, obviously that’s a bit further back, Curb Your Enthusiasm is really good.
Jessica: I always really liked Seinfeld as a sitcom, just in terms of quality of gags, and characters.
Edgar: And Seinfeld had a big influence, particularly on the second series of Spaced, actually the plotting of Seinfeld was very influential for us.
Simon: I love the American Office, I think it’s great. I love the way that they've taken that and they’ve made it their own.
Photo courtesy of Channel 4