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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
THE PILOTS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: SPACED (FOX, 2008)
(written by Adam Barr; directed by Charles Stone; TRT: 22:32)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out: It's based on a cult U.K. series starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes.
The plot in a nutshell: After being dumped by his girlfriend Yumi (Michelle Krusiec), San Francisco slacker Ben (Josh Lawson) - an aspiring comic book creator with a highly active imagination - finds a fast friend at a local coffee shop in Apryl (Sara Rue) - an overly chatty journalist who toils away as a reporter for Tiny Dog Magazine. It seems she, like he, is in need of a new apartment (she currently shares one with four stoners) and they decide to pool their searching resources. Together they find the perfect place but there's a catch - the sad sack landlord Marsha (apologies as I didn't recognize the actress) only wants a married couple. Left with no other option, they decide to pose as one and sure enough it works. But, shortly after moving in together, their blissfully asexual relationship starts to go sour - Ben's annoyed after Apryl inadvertently crushes his years-in-the-making comic book concept while Apryl's disturbed after finding some of Ben's drawings showing him killing Yumi with a nightstick. Also thrown into the mix are Christian (Federico Dordei), an overly emotional artist who lives downstairs; Bill (Will Sasso), Ben's videogame obsessed best friend with whom he constantly battles in fake gun fights; Vivienne (Yara Martinez), Apryl's best friend and retail thief; and Luke (Bryan Callen), Yumi's new boyfriend who drives a European sports car with only one previous owner. This all leads to a showdown at a cream puff store in which Apryl - realizing she was wrong - comes to Ben's defense (with an imaginary gun no less) after Luke threatens to beat him up.
What works: Any show that spends a full three minutes detailing an over-the-top fake gun battle showdown is either the dumbest show ever made or the most deceptively clever as the above description is played against a backdrop of surreal scene transitions (a bird crashes into a window, The Transamerica Pyramid rotates and a trolley car cloaks) and a tone that suggests literally anything can happen. Regardless of being dumb or clever (or even the cute chemistry between Rue and Lawson), it's really...
What doesn't: ...not all that funny. "Spaced" is definitely in the "it depends on your mood" ballpark. If you go in expecting anything other than what's advertised - a collection of bizarre hijinks mixed with random pop culture references - you're going to hate it with the burning passion of a thousands suns. Otherwise you might get a kick out of it, in a I-happened-to-stumble-upon-it-late-at-night kind of way. "Might" of course being the key word. I'm not all that familiar with the U.K. version so I don't have a frame of reference about how it stacks up by comparison. All in all, it's a cute experiment but ultimately...
The bottom line: ...a forgettable one.