SPACED: Every episode ranked worst to best.
Every few years I re-watch Jessica Hynes’ and Simon Pegg’s late 90’s/early 00’s cult classic TV series Spaced. For the uninitiated, Spaced stars Pegg and Hynes as Tim and Daisy as two flatmates posing as a couple (though that’s not very important) in order to get a cheap flat in London (I know, I know, but it was the 90s). Tim is a skateboarding, playstation-ing, comic book artist who works in a comic book shop. Daisy is an aspiring writer who… umm… likes tin foil. There friends include Brian, an artist who rents downstairs (but isn’t gay), Twist who works in fashion, Mike who wants to be in the army but can’t because of that thing that happened when him and Tim were kids and Marsha, their wine guzzling, divorcee landlady.
Spaced is often thought of as being “the show that started it all”. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost had both done some TV work before but this was their first project together and it would eventually give birth to the much-loved Cornetto trilogy (and slightly less loved Paul). It is often forgotten that the writing credits on Spaced belong to Pegg and Hynes not Pegg and Frost and Jessica Hynes is often relegated to a support role in people’s memories, when in fact she was at the very centre of the whole thing.
Spaced looks like it was great fun to make and that gives the show a certain charm. Some of the references are dated, some of the jokes don’t land anymore and there are a few uncomfortable moments when the men fantasise over the anonymous teenage girl who lives upstairs. It has not, however, dated any worse than other classic British sitcoms and probably far better than many. Simon Pegg railing against geek culture selling out to be more marketable seems ironic now that he has been involved in both the Star Trek and Star Wars post-nerd abominations. Even so, the show has some strong jokes and great moments.
Anyway, without further Apu*, here are the Spaced episodes ranked worst to best for how much fun they are to watch today.
Number 14 (Worst): Back (S2E1)
Daisy comes back from travelling and finds it hard to adjust. Tim’s trauma over the Star Wars prequels feel dated in a time when geek culture is no longer niche, especially given Pegg’s aforementioned involvement in Star Wars. The big sin of this episode, however, is a rather poor effort at spoofing the Matrix (which I’ve re-watched recently and still holds up very well). Frankly, it’s tedious, predictable and painfully cliché and not a good start to the second series:
Highlight: “I’m off the point the pink pistol at the porcelain firing range”.
Lowlight: All the Matrix spoofing.
13: Gatherings (S1E2)
The second episode of any sitcom is difficult, characters are still being introduced and established. Routines are being drawn up and the rules of the show are still uncertain. Tim and Daisy throw a housewarming party but it’s rubbish, meanwhile Marsha’s daughter Amber is having a party of our own, which excites the men no end. Daisy gets off with a paper boy. It’s weird, it’s pervy and nothing actually happens.
Highlight: “Why’s Mike bringing a gun?” … “Security?” … “Are you expecting trouble?” … “Not that kind of security, like a teddy or a blanket.”
Lowlight: Daisy kissing the paperboy while he plays his Gameboy!
12: Ends (S1E7)
This is one of those episodes where everyone has their own mini plot and that’s kind of nice. It does, however, just seem like a bit of a heavy-handed attempt to wrap everyone’s arc for the season up as neatly as possible. It’s just a little bit pants.
Highlight: Mike’s interview for the TA.
Lowlight: It’s just incredibly forgettable.
11: Mettle (S2E3)
Daisy gets a job and her boss is a bitch, which is quite a fun plot and very relatable. Tim and Mike get involved in a sort of Robot Wars Fight Club situation. I really like Robot Wars and I really like Fight Club but somehow this doesn’t work. Maybe it did then but now that EVERYTHING references Fight Club, it has a tedious feel to it.
Highlight: Bitchy boss is brilliant.
Lowlight: Fight Club references may have been fresh at the time but now they are just irritating.
10: Change (S2E2)
Tim and Daisy go to the Job Centre and have very different experiences. The Job Centre jokes are strong and will resonate well with anyone who claimed JSA back in the day. It keeps the jokes about The Phantom Menace going.
Highlight: “This is form 4B, you need form 4b”.
Lowlight: None in particular. It is fine but it never really peaks.
9: Dissolution (S2E6)
Everyone falls out. They throw some cake at each other. Marsha leaves.
Highlight: An incredibly well-timed Bugsy Malone reference after the cake fight and a brilliant Empire Strikes Back parody at the very end of the episode.
Lowlight: You can see the fall out coming and it really ramps up the anxiety and awkwardness, which is kind of fun but I’m not sure it ever pays off fully.
8: Beginnings (S1E1)
As first episodes go, it’s not bad. It does an excellent job of making clear just how important film references are going to be and introduces the main premise nicely. There are some really fun moments. There are a few moments where it seems to introduce the idea that something is wrong with the flat, that are reinforced in episode two but never come to fruition. I’ve always found this weird.
Highlight: The effort Tim and Daisy go to in order to pretend to be a couple but Marsha doesn’t look in their album.
Lowlight: The opening conversation is confusing. I showed it to someone who had not seen it before and it left them really unsure over whether Tim and Daisy knew each other or not.
7: Leaves (S2E7)
The final episode is another rush to resolve everyone’s arcs but unlike series 1 it actually manages to do it quite well. It’s a good way to round off the show and it does encapsulate the ups and downs of being in your 20s nicely. There’s a warmth and sweetness to this episode and some of the smartest camera work in the whole series. I’ve come to quite admire the framing of the sequence of Tim riding the robot, which is not the sort of thing one normally notices in sit-coms. I’m weird.
Highlights: The plan to get Marsha back is brilliant. I mean, you could to that right? That would work.
Lowlights: It probably doesn’t pack in the laughs as well as other episodes but it still works.
6: Epiphanies (S1E6)
Everyone (except Marsha) goes clubbing. It’s quite fun. Brian realises that clubbing in the early 2000s isnt’ the same as clubbing in the 80s, which is cool. I realise that clubbing in the 20s** isn’t the same as clubbing in the 00s. This episode perfectly captures the feels of a night out with your mates.
Highlight: Tyres is a brilliant character and the mood swings are amazing.
Lowlight: I really don’t know. It arguably takes a little while to get going but I don’t think that’s fair.
5: Chaos (S1E5)
The gang must team up to rescue Daisy’s dog from a vivisectionist. This is a fun episode with some good laughs and non-stop movie references.
Highlight: Bill Bailey’s story about a Marxist hunting dog, but I would say that.
Lowlight: Some of the refences are dated or have been done better elsewhere but for the most part they are pretty brilliant.
4: Help (S2E4)
Tim gets his big chance to become a comic book artist but Daisy accidently puts an incriminating caricature in his portfolio so Mike, Tyres and Tim endeavour to get it back in a stealth infiltration of an office block. Nice.
Highlight: “Tim, that girl you fancy has just walked in.”
Lowlight: Mike wearing an Argentina shirt. Mike wants to be in the army. Army. Argentina. Is it just me or is this a massive consistency error?
3: Art (S1E3)
First episode where we really get to have fun with Brian. He gets invited to his ex-girl-boyfriend Vulva’s (David Walliams) play, which is a brilliant parody of conceptual theatre. Tim takes some speed and plays Resident Evil 2. Shaun of the Dead is an extrapolation of one scene from this episode.
Highlight: Brian and Tim imagining what Brian and Vulva’s work consisted of.
Lowlight: Not enough Mike.
2: Gone (S2E5)
Tim and Daisy go out on the town and get themselves in a spot of bother when they lose their keys and some yobs accuse them of swapping marijuana for oregano after Tim quotes a Kia Ora advert. There are a couple of brilliant moments of physical comedy in here that every man can relate to!
Highlight: Masculine telepathy. Genius.
Lowlight: I’ve not got one, it’s an almost perfect episode and would be number one of it wasn’t for…
1: Battles (S1E4)
Daisy gets a dog. Tim and Mike go paintballing and run into the guy who stole Tim’s girlfriend. This episode contains one of the greatest moments of British TV comedy – better than when Del Boy fell through the bar on Only Fools and Horses (and Trigger made a face***).
Highlight: The paintball shoot-out is sheer comic genius.
*Free Simpons reference.
**I have not been clubbing in the 20’s.
***Free Stewart Lee reference, I’m spoiling you today.