Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Simon Pegg & Jessica Stevenson
Many pilot episodes focus too much on exposition and establishing who the series’ characters are. In those instances, pacing and humor frequently fall by the wayside. Spaced’s first episode is anything but a slow, disappointing introduction of characters and grating jokes. From the opening scene, intercutting Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg) and Daisy Steiner (Jessica Stevenson) leaving (or in Tim’s being thrown out of) their current flats, “Beginnings” is a surreal look at two people who meet by accident and form a friendship of necessity.
Tim and Daisy are London twenty-somethings who first meet in a café. Daisy first makes the mistake of thinking Tim is a drug dealer, but the two eventually bond while they search for available flats in the newspaper. After knowing each other for barely two weeks, they decide to pose as a professional couple to meet the requirements of an ad for a flat on 23 Meteor Street. Tim and Daisy spend a day concocting elaborate anecdotes from their fictional relationship and learning as much as possible about each other’s pasts in order to seem like a convincing couple in their meeting with the building’s chain-smoking owner and landlady, Marsha Klein (Julia Deakin). Despite their off-putting over-eagerness in the interview, Marsha lets them have the flat.
Part of the appeal of Spaced is its constant referencing of pop culture, especially with Tim’s character. We first see Tim as his five-year girlfriend, Sarah, dumps him for another man. Heartbroken, Tim rejects Sarah’s criticism that he can’t be emotional by professing the tearful effects of the finale of Terminator 2, with the thumb and the molten... This highlights one of Tim’s biggest problems in the series and a main source of the show’s humor. That is, his emotions are inexorably linked to cult films and comics, and he is very nearly unable to act like a real adult. “Beginnings” also includes sly references to The Shining and Scooby-Doo. These references are not wholly gratuitous, however. Many of them mirror the relationships within the show and/or serve to reveal character flaws. When Daisy investigates Tim’s room – “playing Scooby-Doo” – Daisy and Tim say that, as children, they always pretended to be Daphne and Freddie. Now adults, the camera pulls back to reveal Tim dressed exactly like Shaggy and Daisy like Velma. Expectations are not always reality.
This is where Spaced resonates with audiences. It is by no means a revolutionary sitcom: a guy and a girl need to find a new home. Tim and Daisy are very different people – a nerd and a normal girl, to put it as simplistically as possible – but they come together to get a flat in a building populated by bizarre neighbors, artist Brian (Mark Heap) and the drunken Marsha. But in some respects, the characters in Spaced had never been seen on TV before. Spaced was truly ahead of its time. You could go as far as to call it the first comedy for the Millennial generation, but labels like that usually incite harsh debate. What set Spaced apart from other sitcoms was its inclusion of characters who relate to the world around them almost exclusively through the lens of pop culture. The struggle for these people throughout the series is then to learn to interact and relate to others in the real world. More and more since the mid-2000s, shows have been doing exactly this with characters more in tune with pop culture and references galore.