SDCC 2008: Spaced

At the afternoon panel, a capacity crowd cheered as Simon, Jessica, and Edgar took the stage. Moriarty from Ain’t It Cool News (aka Drew McWeeny) moderated and started things off quickly by mentioning the new Region 1 DVD box set that had just been released a few days before. These DVDs include commentaries from such notable geeks as Quentin Tarrantino, Kevin Smith, and Diablo Cody, among others, and he wanted to know just how the trio managed to get these people to do commentaries for the DVDs. Edgar said they were fans of the show, some from the beginning, and some later. Since it was such a long time since the UK box set was released, they decided to put new content on the North American set. He also said that he literally had to wake Kevin Smith up to come down and record the commentary and once he was done he went back to bed, so we should keep that in mind while listening to his commentary.

The next question was about how the show was among the first to speak to geeks and whether that was a conscious decision or if that’s simply what Simon and Jessica knew so that’s what they wrote. Simon said they just wanted to write about things they liked. He liked connecting situations on the show to references to other works he enjoyed. Jessica started to ramble on about their interests and how they wanted to reflect life and be authentic, but in a more surreal, whimsical universe. "Skip to the end," urged Simon. Jessica ignored him and finished with what she was saying.

Moriarty then noted that if this show were made in the US, it would be market researched to death and homogenized to the point of blandness. He wanted to know if the network executives understood what they wanted to do or just had faith in them and allowed them to write in their voices. Jessica said they had little resistance from the network. Edgar thought they were very fortunate at the time, since they were able to say what they wanted to say. He thinks they were lucky and wouldn’t be able to make that kind of show now.

The next question was about the casual lifestyle portrayed in the show and how there was no moralizing for or against drug use. He noted that it was another thing that you couldn’t do on an American show. Simon thought that drug use is a part of life for some people and since this portrayal was a comic one, it wasn’t really necessary to moralize and show consequences. They weren’t doing "a very special episode of Spaced." Edgar then talked about how they did an entire show about Ecstasy while never mentioning it by name or showing people taking it and wondered how many viewers or network suits even realized.

Moriarty made a comment about the generation of British comics that the panelists are a part of and how they support and appear in each other’s projects. He wondered if it was a part of British comedy culture or if it was unique to them. They joked that not all are generous. Simon thinks there is a relatively small group of comic actors in the US as well and they all work together at some point, so they’re supportive here too. Moriarty then said that most Americans discover British comedy through friends and recommendations and he wanted to see that tradition kept alive.

He then went on to discuss the commentaries on the North American DVDs. Edgar said they recorded nine commentaries in one day. Jessica enjoyed having the commentators around, thinking it was "brilliant." Edgar thought it was cool to have Quentin Tarrantino comment about a scene in one of the episodes where they did a shot for shot bit from Pulp Fiction.

The next question was whether the panelists feel like they’re done with Spaced now and what, if any, future there is in the project. Simon feels like it is hard to say no about a third season since they originally envisioned the show as a three-part story. He mentions "a little gift" on the DVD that hints at where the story was going to end. The passage of time ("all of us are old") and their busy schedules make it unlikely they’ll do it. Jessica thinks that Daisy would still be living in the flat, but that Tim would have moved out by now. Edgar fears that going back after all this time would be their "own Phantom Menace."

Then it was time for the audience questions. The first person wanted to know if they ever had a reference that no one got. Jessica wanted to reference The Goonies where she was Chunk. That got a lot of laughter from the audience.

The next person thought the tank scene in the last episode was charming and wanted to know about the writing for that scene. Simon says it was a reference to Say Anything and how it was cool to have Mike save the day. Since they had written the plot so that the characters really had to impress Marsha, they knew they needed to do something "bloody spectacular."

Another person wanted to know what inspired them to start making movies. Edgar said he wanted to become a director when he saw Raising Arizona. That was followed by someone who wanted to know if there would be a follow up to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz would be released. Simon said that he and Edgar planned on getting together next year to write the third part of what has become known as the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy.

The next question was about whether the panelists planned on having another TV series in the future. Simon and Edgar were pretty happy doing films for now, but acknowledged that TV has become more film like, especially in America. He didn’t rule it out, but didn’t have plans at the moment.

Another mentioned the enduring popularity of Spaced. Edgar thinks that audiences sympathize with Tim and Daisy. He went on to say that they were the age of their characters when they did the show (mid to late 20’s) and were living those lives and actually did live in the same area of North London where the show was shot.

The next person wanted to play a game with Simon. He warily agreed. The audience guy then whipped out his finger guns John Woo style and Simon immediately played along as the characters do in the episode "Gone" to the delight of the audience and other panelists.

That was followed by a guy who admitted to downloading the show. He wanted to know what the panelists thought of media merging with the internet and the future of media distribution. Simon said he knew Spaced had been on YouTube for a long time, but didn’t mind since he wanted people to see it. The audience guy then promised to delete the files and buy the DVDs now that they were available. Edgar joked that they now know who that guy is and can come after him.

The next person wanted to know how much the panelists approached the show analytically versus intuitively when writing and directing the show. Jessica felt that they may have started out writing the show in an analytical manner since they were setting up the premise and characterizations, but once they had the basics established, they would let the characters and situations grow organically based on what was funny.

Another had a question specifically for Simon ("good!"). He wanted to know if Simon would take over for >b>David Tennant in Doctor Who. Simon said he enjoyed his guest stint on Doctor Who as did Jessica. He felt that Tennant has doing a brilliant job on the show and that it would "be a tough act to follow." As for him, he just liked playing the bad guy.

The next wanted to know the status of Ant-Man. Edgar said that it’s being written. That question was followed by another who wanted to know when we would see the character Tyres in something else. Edgar said the actor (Michael Smiley) has been in other things and looks completely different to how he looked as Tyres. Simon mentioned that he was a zombie in Shaun of the Dead. He went on to say that he’s writing something for the UK. The audience guy didn’t really like the fact that it’s "for the UK." Edgar then teased that an episode with Tyres may be part of the screening they were doing later that night.

The next person mentioned that she was from Devon (the three all went "aww" at that) and wanted to know what each panelist’s favorite flavor of Cornetto (ice cream popular in the UK) was. Edgar likes strawberry, Simon original, and Jessica mint. "We’ll never fall out," joked Edgar, referencing the advertisements.

Another wanted to know if Edgar would direct an episode of Doctor Who. He said he was actually offered the first episode of the new series with Christopher Eccleston since the showrunners knew he was a fan. Unfortunately he couldn’t do it.

The next person wanted to know if they used storyboards for Spaced like they did in Shaun of the Dead. Simon said they were way more chaotic in their writing for Spaced and didn’t plan things out to that degree. They chose to plan more in Shaun of the Dead since movies are different than TV. After that was a guy dressed up like Shaun who wanted to know if there were references to Spaced in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. Simon thought there were a lot, ("like Tyres the zombie," added Edgar) and were for fans of the show. They then went on to discuss some injuries. Edgar was shot in the leg with tissue paper by his brother. Jessica had a fish hook stuck up her nose thanks to her sister. She had to sit in the ER with the fishing line hanging out of her nose

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The final question was whether the new DVDs were American only or if they were also available in Canada. They are available in Canada, as well as Australia. The moderator then mentioned the screening later. With that, the panel was over. The three stayed a couple of minutes after to chat with fans, but had to leave to do their autograph signings scheduled just after the panel.

Later that evening, this reporter braved the endless line to get into the screening. Simon, Jessica, and Edgar walked up to the stage like champs. Simon was wearing a shirt with a storm trooper on it. There was a bit of confusion among the three as to who was going to talk at the podium. Simon finally stepped up to the mic and said that since they were among Spaced fans, they were going to do a little something first and thought this was going to "be the biggest one we’ve ever done." Right on cue, all three busted out the finger guns and started blasting away at the audience, who of course reciprocated. Edgar and Simon were down, but Jessica bravely continued, before finally getting shot down. Simon and Jessica then popped back up to applause, but "Edgar, sadly, [was] dead."

Once everyone had settled, Simon then said that they were going to show the first hour of Star Trek prior to Spaced. Edgar clarified that it would be Star Trek V rather than the new film. He went on to say that the three episodes of Spaced they were screening were voted for by the fans on the internet and introduced the three episodes Friends style: 1.3 "Art" ("the one with the zombies"), 1.6 "Epiphanies" ("the one with the Ecstasy"), and 2.5 "Gone" ("the one with the finger gun fights"). Simon thanked everyone for coming and said it was a big deal being at Comic-Con. Jessica said it was her first Comic-Con and it’s "been amazing and absolutely brilliant."

After that, the lights went out and the screening started. They started with the recap seen at the beginning of the second season, then played the three episodes in order. There were people in the audience who had never seen the show, but all seemed to really enjoy it. If you haven’t already, check out Spaced, now available on DVD.

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