Appropriately, the very first word to be uttered in this sitcom is 'why?' Each of the characters has something they want, which they believe would make them happy. Tim (Simon Pegg) has been dumped by his girlfriend, flatmate Daisy (Jessica Stevenson) isn't writing for Marie Claire, Brian (Mark Heap) hasn't got an exhibition in a gallery, Marsha's (Julia Deakin) daughter hates her and Mike (Nick Frost) isn't in the army. They all wonder why.
Spaced (Channel 4, tx. 1999-2001) explores miscommunication, lack of direction and the random collections of people who come to represent family in modern urban society. In the first episode, Tim and Daisy move in together as flatmates (although they have to pretend to be a couple to secure the only decent empty flat in London) and gradually become friends with each other, their landlady Marsha and her other tenant Brian, a disturbed artist.
Each character tries to escape their own private misery with displacement activities: Tim spends hours drowning Lara Croft on his Playstation, Daisy will organise anything (parties, performances, pets) rather than sit down and actually work, Marsha uses booze and (when available) Brian, Mike (Tim's childhood friend) joins any organisation which allows him to wear army clothing and Brian hides in his dark basement room, torturing himself with ideas which he can never seem to capture on canvas.
Director Edgar Wright mixes the everyday with the extraordinary, achieving an impressive array of sight gags which reference streams of sci-fi and pop culture movies from 2001: A Space Odyssey (d. Stanley Kubrick, 1968) to Human Traffic (d. Justin Kerrigan, 1999). Wright doesn't just borrow from the cinema, he aspires to the visual quality of a different medium and achieves it (he maintained control of every shot, filming over and over again - with just one camera - picking up the action from a different perspective each time). Co-writers Stevenson and Pegg aren't afraid to employ slapstick (people falling off skateboards and through doors), but their characters have a complexity unusual in sitcoms. Crucially, they are allowed to develop rather than spinning like a hamster around the same old behavioural wheel.
Spaced is often as touching as it is funny, and deeply sceptical about the things that twentysomethings are told to believe are the very essence of life... conceptual art, clubbing, responsibilities, love, a happy ending. As Tim says in the closing scenes of the final episode, "Hollywood endings are just a myth, life is just a thankless struggle."