SPACED created by Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, with Pegg, Stevenson and Nick Frost. On region-2 DVD. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
Hot Fuzz is a slice of fried gold. Shaun Of The Dead is a slice of fried gold. The slice of Guinness cake I'm eating while chatting with the Laurel & Hardy behind those two films is also a slice of fried gold.
In case you haven't figured it out, or haven't seen either of those brilliant British comedies, fried gold is a very, very good thing.
"Fried gold? Yeah, I invented that," slurs Nick Frost proudly as he stumbles into a booth at the Dora Keogh pub pretending to be drunk. "It's even in the urban dictionary."
Frost and his best mate, Simon Pegg, are the poster boys for a new brand of British humour, one that's not clearly rooted in Pythonesque absurdity or Benny Hill bawdiness, that doesn't easily align itself with the farce of Fawlty Towers or the comedy of agonizing embarrassment typified by Ricky Gervais's The Office and Extras.
If anything, Pegg and Frost (along with director and co-writer Edgar Wright) make Britcoms with a distinctly Hollywood influence.
What is Shaun Of The Dead but a straight-up George Romero zombie movie that also cannibalizes the best bits of the traditional Hugh Grant romantic comedy? Hot Fuzz takes unapologetic aim at Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay action excess, right down to a final gunfight that could easily have starred Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
It all started with yet another slice of fried gold, the TV series Spaced, which ran for two seasons (or series, as they say in merry old England) from 1999 to 2001. (Betcha were wondering when I'd get around to talking about TV.)
This is a rare column about a show that isn't being broadcast on any channel here. And can I say I'm gobsmacked that the gormless suits at BBC Canada don't have the goolies to air it? I had to order my region-2 DVD boxed set from Amazon UK. But it was worth it.
It stars Pegg as Tim, an aspiring graphic artist who divides his time between working in a comic book shop for a guy named Bilbo, smoking "fatty boom batties" and playing Resident Evil (when he's not down at the pub, of course).
Tim's flatmate, Daisy, played by co-writer Jessica Stevenson (of the Britcom The Royle Family, which does air on BBC Canada), is an out-of-work writer, a polite way of saying she's on the dole.
While both have been dumped by their significant others at the start of the series, there's little romantic chemistry between the two, which is refreshing for a sitcom featuring young singletons.
Granted, Tim and Daisy do have to pretend they're a couple in order to rent from their wine-soused cougar of a landlady, kind of like how Jack pretended he was gay on Three's Company.
Frost, meanwhile, is the show's scene stealer as Mike, Tim's gun-crazy best mate who was kicked out of the army after he stole a tank and tried to invade Paris.
While the characters are brilliantly drawn, they're a bit typical of sitcoms in general, but the situations they find themselves in are hardly common: a Mission: Impossible-style dog rescue, a Saving Private Ryan-style paintball skirmish, a truly inspired and hilarious John Woo-style shootout that has to be seen to be believed. (You can already see the groundwork being laid for Hot Fuzz).
Indeed, Spaced contains more pop culture references Star Wars, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, T-2, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, LOTR, Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars than an average episode of The Family Guy, and rarely do they fall flat, thanks to Wright's directing.
Like the camera work in Shaun and Hot Fuzz, most of the shots in the series crash zooms, panning shots, smash cuts are directly inspired by Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films and Tony Scott's more recent work.
So if you'd like a fresh slice of fried gold, this series is where the phrase was coined and the standard set.
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, April 26
SURVIVOR: FIJI (Reality) Tribe members must decide between blackmail or betrayal in order to maintain their alliances, and Boo is faced with another injury heading into the reward challenge. Yup, the show's as addictive as ever. So shoot me.
8 pm on Global and Fox
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER 5 (Reality) The smack talk continues between Teams Pulver and Penn before two more mixed martial artists try to lay a smackdown on each other.
10 pm on Spike