I guarantee that you’ve heard the name Edgar Wright, whether you knew who he was or not, you’ve heard it and for good reason too. Edgar Wright is the man behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both of which are genius and both of which are at 91% on the Tomatometer. He’s also got Scott Pilgrim vs. The World coming out this Friday, which doesn’t seem to be a speed bump in his career. Most people though, well most people here in the States seemingly don’t know that he actually got started before Shaun.
His first major project was a little movie called “A Fistful of Fingers” that he made in 1995. The film was shown on Sky Movies and had a limited release in the U.K. Through “A Fistful of Fingers”, he was able to work on a short series titled “Asylum”, where he would first work with Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes.
After “Asylum” ended, Simon and Jessica began working on a new sitcom, one that would eventually involve Edgar. This sitcom would be “Spaced”. “Spaced” is a show that if you just looked at the surface, it’d seem kinda boring. A show about two people, played by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes, who act like a couple in order to get a nice flat? How is that interesting? Well it’s more then that. You also have to factor in the great situational comedy, the great offbeat characters, and the great pop culture references (Almost like watching a Quentin Tarantino film).
The characters stick out in my mind almost more then anything else. You’ve got Tim’s (Pegg) best friend Mike, played by Nick Frost, who was kicked out of the Territorial Army for stealing a Chieftain tank and trying to invade France by himself, he would have been caught but he was apprehended on Space Mountain after stopping at Euro Disney. Then you also have Bryan, played by Mark Heap, who seems psychotic and sociopathic but really isn’t. Bryan’s main focuses for painting are anger, pain, fear and aggression and he may or may not have slept with the landlady. One of the great things about all of the characters is that within all 14 episodes of the show, they’re developed more then most of the shows here in the States that have 22 episode seasons.
It’s also amazing how many references they were able to pack in from the start to the finish of the show. Everything from Star Wars to Pulp Fiction to Close Encounters of The Third Kind to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Which in a way got it’s own episode) was mentioned in some fashion. There’s a Shining reference within the first 10 minutes of the first episode that pushed me from liking the show to loving it. While all of these references could be seen as a hindrance to the comedy, they’re so well employed that even if you don’t understand the reference, you can still get a laugh or two out of the joke.
And the show has jokes aplenty, I’d actually compare it to The Simpsons (Back when it was good) in terms of how fast the jokes keep flying at you. A lot of that is attributed to Edgar and his shooting/editing style but mostly to Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes’ writing. They find a way to use the conventional sitcom outline of an A story and a B story to tell unconventional sitcom plots, such as, Brian having to deal with his non-gender-specific-ex-chaste-heterosexual-lover (It’s not quite as weird as it sounds…okay maybe it was). Much like the references, the relationship between Tim (Pegg) and Daisy (Hynes) is handled in a way to where it isn’t annoying, in fact, it’s welcomed. This is largely due to just how much chemistry the cast has and it’s no surprise that Simon, Jessica, and Simon are actually friends in real life.
This show also gave the world a better chance to see Edgar Wright’s style. He was one of the first to bring a cinematic style to television and also brought his energetic style with him. His energetic style is something that you can see in everything he’s done, from something as long as all 14 episodes of “Spaced” to something as short as his fake trailer for “Don’t“. It’s also great what all he was able to do on a limited budget, a lot of the show reminds me of Sam Raimi and his style. Very quick, only keeps the camera on something as long as need be, cutting to another scene while panning, and it’s fast to where I feel tired after watching anything of his (In a good way of course).
I think that no matter what, Edgar Wright would be hitting the stardom that he’s finally getting, however, with the success of “Spaced”, we got it a lot quicker.
Check back later this week for A Look Back: Edgar Wright (Part Two) when I take a look at Shaun of the Dead.
Spaced: The Complete Series is available on DVD