Here’s a dirty little secret for all of you out there concerned about Pam and Jim’s relationship: the American The Office isn’t one tenth as good as the original. This isn’t backlash or elitism – I’ve watched quite a few episodes of the US The Office and while I’ve found them humorous and watchable, they just can’t compare to the brilliant original. The American show is like a bubblegum card version of the ceilong of the Sistine Chapel, frankly.
The Office is the best case scenario for a UK sitcom come to America*. Even without a frame of film being shot, Spaced is the worst.
Yes, as you may have surmised from that sentence, the classic UK comedy Spaced will be getting an Americanized treatment, courtesy of McG and Adam Barr. You all know who McG is, so I’ll allow you to seethe over that in your own time; Adam Barr is a TV guy who is responsible for The New Adventures of Old Christine. He also worked on Will & Grace. The only bright spot on his resume is a number of episodes of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. There’s no mention on IMDB of him buying gerbils and hamsters and putting them in the microwave for kicks, but I don’t see a reason to rule that out just yet.
There are a lot of reasons why an American version of Spaced just won’t work without even dragging McG or Barr’s past history into it. One of the big reasons is that Spaced is obviously being Americanized as part of the new TV trend of geek chic, embodied by shows like Chuck, Heroes and The Big Bang Theory. Spaced was not geek chic – it was by geeks for geeks. The jokes and references in Spaced weren’t about broad nerd things like being nervous around girls or easy to get Star Trek allusions; the show was about the kind of geek the media rarely portrays – a modestly well-adjusted (if slackery), sexually normal guy who happens to like comics, Star Wars, video games and lots of different sorts of movies. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson weren’t making a show aimed at a target audience, they were making a show for themselves. And they weren’t worried about letting everybody in on the joke – the references fly fast and furious on Spaced, and there’s no time to stop and explain a Platoon joke or a Resident Evil inspired sequence or a Don’t Look Now homage. No American mainstream show would ever be so FUBU**.
But most importantly the American Spaced just won’t have the same talent. Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes wrote terrific stories and characters, but the show wouldn’t have been the same without Edgar Wright at the helm of every episode. His cinematic style not only perfectly captured the spirit of movies being referenced, it gave the whole show a bigger feel. Even if Spaced US were done as a single-camera show, the US sitcom assembly line approach to churning out two dozen episodes a season would automatically rule out the kind of elegance and quality Wright achieved in every episode of the original (which only ran 14 episodes total. American sitcoms spit out more episodes in a season than many British shows do in their whole lifetime, and we wonder why the quality of television in the UK is so high. They take more care with their shows and don’t milk them to death!).
This is a terrible idea, and unlike the US The Office, it’s being done without any involvement by the people who created the original; Edgar Wright has never been contacted about the US version of the show. As far as I can tell, he found out about it by reading it in Variety. That seems to me to indicate the level of respect that Barr and McG will bring to this project: none at all. It strikes me as a slimy Hollywood douchebag move to get the rights to a work that is idiosyncratic, personal and unique and not even get in touch with the people who created it in the first place. Common courtesy might indicate that you pick up the phone and make a call. Edgar Wright isn’t exactly off the grid or anything.
Who knows if this will ever go anywhere, especially with a strike looming in 48 hours. While I would be most interested in seeing all involved contract beriberi and be forced to retire from Hollywood forever and perhaps take up begging on Sunset Boulevard while wearing torn up pants dyed brown with their own foul excrement and then come down with a particularly bad case of shingles and a full body infestation of crabs, I’ll settle for the whole thing swirling down the toilet of Development Hell.
To those Pollyannas in the crowd who insist on seeing the silver lining in everything*** and think that this development could speed the release of Spaced on Region 1 DVD, Wright seems to think that this is happening anyway. This glass is half full, but sadly it’s half full of Adam Barr and McG’s thick, lumpy, peanut and corn studded shit.
* In the 00s. The 70s were the heyday for bringing UK sitcoms to the US. Anyone who thinks Til Death Do Us Part is better than All in the Family or Steptoe And Son is better than Sanford and Son1 can suck my dick.
** For Us By Us
*** ‘Well, at least the people of Nagasaki got great tans!’
1 I have never seen Steptoe and Son. However, it does not feature Redd Foxx, so I feel comfortable in my request that you suck my dick if you like it better than Sanford and Son.