Spaced : The Top Ten Scenes
As any fule no, sitcom - particularly over the last decade or so - rarely gets any better than Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson and Edgar Wright's Spaced, perhaps the most accurate portrayal of a particular generation and type of twentysomething British TV has ever seen. Dazzlingly inventive in style, deft and warm in its character portrayal, encyclopaedic in its pop culture vocabulary and just downright hilarious, it's deeply resonant and enduring, and filled with moments, riffs and set pieces that ingrain themselves in the memories of the target audience it so specifically appeals to.
And so, of course, it seemed that at some point - particularly as later this year will see the tenth anniversary of its first broadcast - the natural thing to do would be to compile a list of the ten best bits, and present them here - complete with clips - to serve either the enjoyment of those who can recite them off by heart, or pique the curiosity of someone still yet to discover quite why it's one of the best comedy series of our times. So sit back, relax, and get comfy - because you, my friend, are going nowhere.
... oh, bollocks.
10. "I can be emotional! Jesus, I cried like a child at the end of Terminator 2…"
(Series 1, Episode 1, "Beginnings")
It's far from the best joke in the history of the show; it's far, even, from the best pop culture reference. But if you think back to the very first time you watched the very first episode, I can't be the only person who knew from that absolute first joke that I would wind up falling in love with the series. It's the first example of cult media being a verbal shorthand for the characters' entire lives in a fashion far beyond simply recreating movie scenes, but instead relying on shared recognition of the reactions and emotions that certain films spark – and it's aided by Simon Pegg's superb, pleading delivery. Plus, of course, the construction of the scene – leading you to believe that Tim and Daisy are splitting up when in fact they've never met – is lovely, and immediately exemplary of the show's ability to play with expectations.
9. "Babylon 5's a big pile of shit!"
(Series 2, Episode 2, "Change")
Not an obvious choice, I know, but for the story (and comics-centric nature) more than any particular individual moment, "Change" is one of my favourite episodes – and the final scene that wraps it up is eternally smirk-worthy. The coda to both the earlier Jar Jar Binks and Hawk the Slayer gags, the fact that Derek is basically Bilbo in all but name (and so they are hence, of course, mortal enemies), the "policy on vintage comics display"… it's Spaced "doing" geeks more than at any other point during the series, and in a relatively accurate and non-sneery kind of way. Plus the answerphone message is hilarious, and the sight of Tim and Bilbo dancing down the street – perhaps the first time that the show's referencing actually went so far as to homage a scene from an earlier episode – a delight. And, of course, it makes it impossible for anyone who's seen it to hear the name of a certain po-faced space opera without immediately replying…
(Series 1, Episode 6, "Epiphanies")
One of the major strengths of Spaced is the development not only of its lead characters, but the supporting cast. Initially intended as a somewhat aloof and self-centred preening artst type, in the hands of Mark Heap the downstairs tenant Brian Topp became a rather more sensitive, complex and hence likeable individual. This superbly choreographed sequence at the beginning of the famed "clubbing" episode places Brian's journey from fear (of clubbing) to acceptance right at the heart of the story. "Come On Eileen" is a brilliantly apt choice of song for the moronic, foot-stamping chanting of the crowd, and the perfectly-timed moment of impact a masterpiece of Wright's visual and audio direction.
7. "Butterfly with a bomb."
(Series 1, Episode 7, "Ends")
The odd moment aside, Mike doesn't really get so much of a chance to shine during the first half of series one. From the paintball episode (of which more later) onwards, however, there's a bit more definition given to him - and a loose arc that culminates in this, his return to the Territorial Army. The Rorschach blot gag is amusing, as is the little detail that all the officers have glasses like his (suggesting that they're not in the regular army for the same reason as Mike), but there's something so joyous about him finally achieving his wish and getting back where he belongs. And then, of course, there's the Officer and a Gentleman parody, which may end on the most obvious gag possible, but that doesn't stop it being funny - particularly when it hints at the true romance at the heart of the characters' lives. Awww.
6. "There's nothing more devastating than a big chopper..."
(Series 2, Episode 3, "Mettle")
If this scene doesn't give you the serious horn, then you're just plain weird. But no, seriously, this is Simon and Jess at their absolute best; they don't always get the chance to play off the natural chemistry that their friendship gives them, but in getting properly suggestive about the underlying tension between Tim and Daisy, while also doing a note-perfect take-off of the genuinely over-the-top flirtations of Philippa Forrester on Robot Wars (honestly, the exaggeration is only minor), they make the screen absolutely sizzle - even though they're only taking the piss. Plus, that punchline is one of the most laugh-out-loud one-liners in the history of the show.
5. "You've got some paint on you."
(Series 1, Episode 4, "Battles")
Unlike a lot of classic Spaced moments, this isn't really a memorable set piece, but instead perhaps the most brilliantly inspired sequence of dialogue in a show that positively thrived on the stuff. I'm not even sure if I can say anything in particular about this, beyond just sitting back and letting it speak for itself…
4. "Guess I got to be the hero after all…"
(Series 1, Episode 4, "Battles")
If the zombie sequence at the beginning of "Art" (not included here, ‘cos… well, good as it is, I'm not really a horror fan, so there's other bits I prefer) was, as Pegg and Wright have claimed, the inspiration to go on and make Shaun of the Dead, then surely this paintballing sequence betrayed their desire to make an all-out action flick – to the extent that Tim and Mike's "play-acting" mirrors almost exactly a similar scene towards the end of Hot Fuzz. What really makes this work – apart from the one hundred percent conviction with which it's played – is the way that you can take it not as a flight of fancy, but as something that would actually happen. It's Tim and Mike falling into a default mode of turning such a situation into an action movie cliché. I also absolutely love the attention to detail of the yellow "blood" spewing out of Mike's mouth.
3. "D'you wanna dance?"
(Series 1, Episode 7, "Ends")
It's hard to choose between the two series finales, and since they both do similar things – affirming Tim and Daisy's friendship while running through a musical montage showing the various characters' contented emotional states – I decided to just go for one. And despite the almost-brings-a-tear-to-the-eye of the "Staunton Lick"-soundtracked close of series two, I've decided to go for this one. In truth, it's not just the montage – great as it is – that makes this, but the entire scene between our two leads. Tim's musing, first on "moments of clarity" (followed by Daisy's obvious, but funny, punchline) and then on happy endings, is excellent; and we're then, in pseudo-meta fashion, shown directly by the montage that although happy endings might be a myth, it's still possible to stop and enjoy a rare moment of optimism. As for Tim and Daisy themselves, we leave them in a curious position - despite the earlier gag about Tim's "I realise my one true love..." poem, there's no real hint of a romantic undercurrent to the dancing scene - it's just two people who've become good friends, enjoying the connection that they share, and entirely comfortable in each other's company. It closes off the emotional arc of series one, with Tim having finally realised that all that he spent the series feeling like he'd lost with Sarah, he actually has in abundance with Daisy, Mike, and even to an extent Brian and Marsha (not to mention Colin). Also, it's underscored by a great song in the form of "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby". It's just lovely, perfectly-pitched, emotionally-resonant stuff that, just like the series two finale, gets to the heart of what Spaced is all about: friendship.
2. "There are a hundred off-licences in this area. She could be in any one of them."
(Series 2, Episode 6, "Dissolution")
Spaced's use of movie parodies is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the geek sensibilities of the writing and Edgar Wright's intense attention to visual detail mean that few shows can match it when it comes to doing shot-perfect homages. On the other hand, it's become an easy – and lazy – stick with which to beat the show, to suggest that it's little more than a string of movie-nerd-friendly references. As such, you'll notice that I've barely included any specific homages in the list. This one, however, couldn't pass without mention, as it's not only the finest of Spaced's parodies, but perhaps one of the greatest movie references in TV full-stop. Taking off the end of The Empire Strikes Back – as if you didn't know – this is a wonderful and meticulously-constructed sequence, right from "We'll see you at the rendezvous". The slight tweaking of the film's dialogue fits perfectly – it's one of those moments that feels natural even as it's so directly referencing – and Mike's "Chewie" yawn is a fantastic touch. And that closing shot, panning out of the door of the flat, as the music strikes up… I'm not even much of a Star Wars fan, but that sends a shiver down my spine. Genius.
1. "Let ‘em have it"
(Series 2, Episode 5, "Gone")
For an episode that was written in a rush at quite a late stage - to replace an earlier script that Pegg and Stevenson felt hadn't really been working - "Gone" has a fairly decent stab at being possibly the best of the lot. Chronicling a night out of Tim and Daisy's in Camden, it's brilliantly constructed, a satisfying character piece, and home to some of the funniest and most memorable moments the show has to offer. And the absolute centrepiece, the sequence that possibly defines Spaced in the mind of right-minded comedy fans more than any other, is this inspired and absolutely tremendously choreographed scene. An earlier, similarly-brilliant sequence with Tim, Mike and Brian had already established the "blokes having pretend gunfights driven by eerie mental synchronicity" concept, while the very first scene - flashing forwards - had left open the cliffhanger of how Daisy and Tim were to get out of being beaten up by Lee Ingleby's gang of pubescent toughs. Finally, then, we see everything pulled together - as our heroes begin a mock gunfight that, with the inevitable "death" of everyone present (because, as anyone who's ever had a pretend gunfight knows, dying is the most fun part), allows them to make their escape. This is brilliant on a number of levels - partly because despite the fact that it had earlier been established as a "male" thing, it's actually Daisy's idea to do it here and she gets to join in, and partly because of how superbly choreographed and performed it is. There are lots of lovely touches, such as the guy spurting "blood" out of his neck, and Ingleby's slow motion "Mmmmmmooootherf...." as he and Tim square off for the last time - not to mention the segue in soundtrack as the tone of the scene shifts. Aside from not relying on snappy dialogue, it's quintessential Spaced - unique, inventive, surreal - and very, very funny.