1999, TV

Spaced (1999)

So I must say I knew nothing about this. I actually thought it was a science fiction comedy. So, I really knew nothing about it.

What it actually is is a sitcom without a laugh-track and with a really distinct visual style, borrowed from films and animation. That style is actually really jarring initially, given its vintage, and I was kind of not sure what to think. (Again, not realizing it was just a quirky sitcom.)

But pretty soon I became kind of delighted with it. It’s aggressively different from your average sitcom – at least your average American sitcom – and that feels more fun and entertaining than it does dated. (Though it does feel dated because technology has improved greatly.) The style can get too much, such as in the opener of the second season, which felt like it would give me a seizure. But, mostly, it works. And it really singles it out when the situation itself might not have.

I also feel like this show has been hugely influential on other shows. For example. though Family Guy is obviously indebted to The Simpsons first and foremost, and though it premiered before Spaced, I can’t help but think that Family Guy incorporated ideas from Spaced. (Given McFarlane’s habit of stealing gags, I’m very willing to believe the relationship goes this way and not the other. But I’m open to being convinced otherwise.)

Not every episode works, though I do appreciate that they try to do some other things than a normal sitcom. I should emphasize that I haven’t seen enough ’90s UK sitcoms and it’s possible that this show is less risky than I think. But I can’t really think of a comparable live-action sitcom from earlier in the decade that is this aggressively stylized and referential. So I’d probably rank it even harder if there weren’t a couple episodes that didn’t work for me.

Still, really unique and probably hugely influential. Oh yeah, and very funny. I think I forgot to mention that.


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