Script Review – US Remake of SPACED

     March 14, 2008

Written by Matt Goldberg

Before I get to the review of the pilot for the US remake of “Spaced”, I feel it’s important to make a few disclaimers.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of this show getting remade for American audiences. It’s not even that US audiences wouldn’t “get” it.

It’s that it was handled so poorly by those who chose to remake it that such disrespect for the creators is a sign of disrespect for the property, considering it as nothing more than an easy pitch in a creative wasteland. Also, creators Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Jessica Stevenson are all awesome and attention should be paid.

However, I have to review this script with an open mind. I have to at least allow for the possibility that it may be good. As much as I would like to hate it to pieces just on general principle, and I should feel no remorse in being disrespectful to those who disrespected this show, it would be dishonest. It would be fanboyism; by hating it sight unseen, then there can’t be an honest discussion or examination of where this remake is headed and how it relates to the original version.

Finally, I can’t really say how I got my hands on the script other than I summoned it from the ether along with a bag of Fritos. Also, the script is VERY recent. And yet, it’s also very old. Let me explain:

The pilot of the US version of “Spaced” reads almost exactly like the pilot of the British original but not as good. Tim is now Ben, Daisy is now Apryl (the spelling with the ‘y’ drives me up the fucking wall), and both are looking for an apartment. Ben’s been kicked out by his hot Japanese girlfriend Yumi who is cheating on him with his former-friend Clinton (couldn’t shorten this to just “Clint”?). Apryl is just trying to find a new place to live so she can stop squatting with stoners.They find a great place but they have to pretend that they’re a couple in order to get it.

Everything you’ve seen in the British original is there in the American version, sometimes word-for-word. There are even attempts to mimic the original down to Wright’s direction like when Barr notes jump cuts and sound FX. I can’t really tell if Barr has a genuine respect for the series (although Pegg, Stevenson, and Wright are credited as the creators of the original on the cover sheet) or if he’s just doing the easiest adaptation possible, making only minor tweaks so it isn’t straight-up plagarism. Think the pilot episode of the American version of “The Office” but without the blessing of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

To Barr’s credit, when he does try to use his own words (which isn’t as often as I’d like because it means he’s essentially getting a paycheck for plagarism), he comes up with some good jokes. When Ben and Apryl are getting to know each other, we see them reading the classifieds, talking, reading the classifieds, playing air-hockey, reading the classifieds, playing the holographic chess-like game from “Star Wars”, reading the classifieds. It’s a similar sequence to what was in the original and although Barr hasn’t made it his own, but he hasn’t embarassed himself either.

Further to his credit, he at least ACKNOWLEDGES the original, which is more than McG and his cohorts have done. When Ben and Apryl meet landlady Marsha (the only character who has the same name as the British-counterpart) for the first time, Marsha says, “Hello. I’m Marsha. You must be Tim and Daisy.” Ben replies, “No. Ben and Apryl”. Interpret that tiny exchange how you will.

Hewing so close to the original, it’s unsurprising that the script doesn’t suck. When you watch the Ethan Hawke version of “Hamlet”, yeah, it’s nowhere near as brilliant as Shakespeare intended it, but it’s still “Hamlet”. I would say the only cringe-worthy moment was when Apryl holds a clock to her chest and makes a Flavor Flav reference. But I can’t really get mad at a script that’s so faithful to a brilliant show, at least in name if not in spirit. Some of the scenes have been switched around, a few jokes and lines changed, but for all I know, Barr could have just grabbed the original screenplay for the original series and mixed it around in Final Draft.

But then came page 23.

You see, at page 23, Barr runs out of Original Pilot. So what does he do? He creates a new conflict where Ben and Apryl are having doubts about moving in with each other. Ben’s thought-process seems understandable and is familiar to anyone who’s about to share their home with someone they don’t too well. Apryl, on the other hand, become a neurotic drama-queen who thinks that Ben has gone to murder his ex-girlfriend. It’s clearly her imagination getting away from her, but that’s good enough to phone up her friend, look up Ben’s MySpace page (which does involve a good joke using photos of Ben and an unhappy Samuel L. Jackson), and then the show goes into coincidence-overload as pretty much every character except Marsha meets in a creme-puff store.

After an over-done emotional battle between Ben, Yumi, and Clinton where the new couple shout dime-store psychoanalysis at Ben for a good few pages, Barr does his damndest to resolve the situation and give Ben back his dignity with a fun action scene where Ben, Apryl, and Bill go into “videogame-mode” and creme-puffs are the ammo. It’s a clever sequence ruined by reusing the Flavor Flav joke.

Rewatching the pilot and reading this script, it occured to me that while “Spaced” is unbelievably clever and witty, it’s more than just words. The people involved left a very unique stamp on this and no amount of recycled material gets you a remake that will be just as good.

The sad thing is (or at least, one of many sad things regarding this project) that this script is probably as good as it could get short of having the input of Pegg/Stevenson/Wright and the courage to take the premise and similar characters and move it in an entirely new direction. But this imitation of greatness is just that: an imitation. You can crib all the lines you want from the original but the truth is this: There’s only one Simon Pegg. There’s only one Jessica Stevenson. There’s only one Edgar Wright. And without even so much as their blessing in attempting a remake, there’s really only one “Spaced”. Barr’s script is the key piece of evidence proving that these three people were not just the creators of the show but an essential part of why it worked.

Latest News