Wednesday, March 5, 2008


The horror, the horror! One of the finest ever UK sitcoms, Spaced, is getting the US remake treatment. Perhaps not surprisingly Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and Jessica Stevenson - the show's creators- are not involved in it in any way at all. In fact they weren’t event told the remake was happening until the deposit was paid to the landlord. All three have come out against what they're calling "McSpaced".

Charlie's Angels director McG (who?) is in the directors chair whilst Will and Grace star Debra Messing with take on the 'Daisy' role and balding former child star son of an Irish American arms dealer and star of 'The Mike O'Malley Show' (no, me neither) Mike O'Malley will become wannabe 2000AD artist Tim. No word yet on who’ll be portraying ‘Wheels’, the moadouva courier, but my money’s on David Holmes. No doubt they'll turn Mike into a Harlem globe-trotting Iraqi war vet with a heart of gold and Tony Danza is sure to pop up somewhere, probably as Bilbo Bagshot...

Simon Pegg is not too pleased with the remake, although with one eye on his burgeoning Hollywood career he gives it a cautious welcome in his official statement (below).

'Spaced' was an absolute gem of a series, and like all the great sit-coms it was retired early by its creators - after only two series. Pegg and Wright went onto the movies and lived happily ever after, and Pegg will soon turn up as Scotty in the upcoming Star Trek movie. Even though 'Spaced' absolutely reeks of the 90's in parts, it's humour hasn't dated a bit and it stands up to repeated viewings, and alongside the overlooked and exceedingly under-rated 'Early Doors', 'Fr. Ted' and the 'Royal Family' it's probably the nearest thing we've come to 'Fawlty Towers' in the last 20 years.


Now that the pilot has been officially announced, I thought it might be a good idea to clarify my position on the subject. The whole affair seems to have inspired some spirited debate and some heartening displays of loyalty and love. All this for a show which is almost 10 years old, is all rather wonderful and a vindication of all the blood, sweat and tears (both of joy and pain) we shed in the show’s creation. It was always our aim to create a comedy which spoke to its audience on such a personal level, it almost felt one on one. It would seem the fan reaction to the news that Fox has appropriated the format, confirms at least, that we succeeded.

As far as remaking TV shows for different territories is concerned, I don’t have a problem. The Office remake being a perfect example. Yes, the original British version is a wonderful and compact piece of comedy writing and performance, but I think it’s bit much to expect a large scale American television audience to fully relate to the minutiae of day-to-day business life in an obscure British suburb. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you are the type of person who takes pleasure in the variety of entertainment you enjoy, relishing the differences between our various cultural touchstones but there is a massive audience out there, which perhaps isn’t as culturally savvy (euphemistic phrase for ‘geeky’) as we are and need their signifiers to be a little more familiar. So, Slough is replaced by Scranton, and the office archetypes become a little more archetypal to an American audience. The spirit of the show remains intact. The performances are uniformly great and the show scores big ratings and wins EMMYs, whether we as comedy purists prefer the original or not. The success of the remake is born out by it’s undoubted success and appeal.

My main problem with the notion of a Spaced remake is the sheer lack of respect that Granada/ Wonderland/Warner Bros have displayed in respectively selling out and appropriating our ideas without even letting us know. A decision I can only presume was made as a way of avoiding having to give us any money, whilst at the same time using mine and Edgar’s name in their press release, in order to trade on the success of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, even professing, as Peter Johnson did, to being a big fan of the show and it’s creators. A device made all the more heinous by the fact that the press release neglected to mention the show’s co-creator and female voice, Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson). The fact is, when we signed our contracts ten years ago, we had neither the experience or the kudos to demand any clauses securing any control over future reversioning. We signed away our rights to any input in the show’s international future, because we just wanted to get the show made and these dark days of legal piracy seemed a far away concern. As a result, we have no rights. The show does not belong to us and, those that do own it have no obligation to include us in any future plans. You would perhaps hope though, out of basic professional respect and courtesy, we might have been consulted. It is this flagrant snub and effective vote of no confidence in the very people that created the show, that has caused such affront at our end. If they don’t care about the integrity of the original, why call it Spaced? Why attempt to find some validation by including mine and Edgar’s names in the press release as if we were involved? Why not just lift the premise? Two strangers, pretend to be a couple in order to secure residence of a flat/apartment. It’s hardly Ibsen. Jess and I specifically jumped off from a very mainstream sitcom premise in order to unravel it so completely. Take it, have it, call it Perfect Strangers and hope Balkie doesn’t sue. Just don’t call it Spaced.

It’s a shame, since the pilot is now a certainty, whether we like it or not, a simple phone call and a few reassurances might have helped to at least curtail the tide of indignation from fans and creators alike. I have, as of yet, heard nothing.

Simon Pegg


backpedalbrakes said...

Debra Messing?! Eugh. What an insult to Jessica Hynes. The whole thing stinks... let's just hope it goes the way of the US IT Crowd.

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