Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 20 of "My 25 Favourite Episodes of TV"

A brief notification of a swap out: I have eliminated "How I Met Your Mother's" "Slap Bet" from this list and substituted in one of the episodes I mentioned here. I still like "Slap Bet," but I don't think I have much to say about it other than "How is it a show that is now so miserable once gave us an episode so funny?" so I don't think it warrants a full writeup. And if you've been reading these posts with any regularity, you know the bar my writing has to clear to be published is low.

On to today's entry, which is regrettably the only episode on the list of a non-American show. I know. I suck. I will try to become more cultured in the future, and also watch more TV episodes that aired before 1990.

After the break: They'd only been gone one night, but somehow the town seemed different. Smaller.

Spaced, "Gone"
First aired on Channel 4 Friday, March 30, 2001

"Must be strange being a woman. All that power." - Brian Topp

In some ways, "Gone" is the last normal episode of "Spaced" that Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (or as she was known at the time, Jessica Stevenson) ever wrote. The final two episodes of the second series deal with Marsha's discovery that Tim and Daisy have been faking a relationship during their entire stay at 23 Meteor Street (all because some dumbass accidentally put "professional couples only" in her classified ad) and the resulting fallout. They present one final conflict for all the characters in Marsha's rash decision to sell the building, send certain characters into brighter prospects, and reassure others that they're exactly where they're meant to be. But even in our happiness that Daisy has decided not to leave Tim and the gang, we realize that Tim and the gang are all still leaving us no matter who stays and who goes. So the closest thing I can think to compare "Gone" to is that one, great last night you spend with your friends in the summer between high school and college. Everyone's happy for themselves and for each other to start an exciting new chapter in their lives. But at the same time, it's also kind of nice to just pretend that one great last night of being carefree, idiot children isn't the last one at all.

Which makes it only fitting that the thematic runner of "Gone" is maturity manifesting itself as immaturity. The episode begins with straight up immaturity, as the male characters bemoan their love lives - Sophie breaks her date with Tim because she has to work late and he immediately assumes she's sleeping with her boss, Brian complains that Twist is in "a mood" - and saying a lot of sexist bullshit that young guys say, with Tim commenting that women have two faces and Brian claiming that women will get on the same menstrual cycle if they spend enough time with each other. Tim's been hurt before by Sarah, the woman who threw him out of her life in the pilot episode, and Brian is dating Twist, who is awful, so it's not totally surprising they're not in very good places when it comes to their love lives.

But over their 24 minute (to us, anyway) drug and alcohol-fueled adventure in the thrilling nightlife of Camden, Tim gains an appreciation for women that he didn't have before, even though he doesn't seem to realize it. His relationship with Daisy over the 14 episodes of "Spaced" often felt like an older brother reluctantly letting his dorky little sister tag along with him and his pals, sort of like a nicer, grown up version of Axl and Sue Heck on "The Middle". The only main character who had a relationship just with Daisy before the start of the show was Twist, who Tim hates. Again, Tim is right to hate Twist because she's the worst, but she and Daisy seem to be the two characters he has the least respect for and I don't think it's a coincidence that they're women (he probably doesn't have much for Marsha either, but at least Tim a) wouldn't consider her on the same level because she's older and b) knows enough to fear her). This isn't malicious on Tim's part - just childish. Had "Spaced" depicted the versions of these characters that were ten years older, he wouldn't have still been this sexist idiot He-Man Woman Hater. It's not that he hates women in the version we get, either. He just doesn't understand them because he still hasn't completely grown up.

Pegg once said in an interview that Tim and Daisy were always going to end up together and envisioned a moment where they realized they loved each other. I'm not sure if he meant that the scene in question wasn't one that ever actually happened on the show, or was something to be saved for a third series that was never made. But I'd like to think that scene happens in this episode when Tim, Daisy, and the college kids have their big, pretend, "act like you're in an action movie" shootout. It's also probably the moment that Tim realizes (or will later realize he realized, like so many things in life) that women can do anything men can and vice versa - for all the cliched differences between the sexes, what Tim and Daisy share and like about each other has nothing to do with what's in their pants. Sorting through these differences has, as mentioned, been done to death and there's no new ground being covered here on that front. But the fact that it's executed as "all Tim wants is a girl who will play finger guns with him, and she's right there" is kind of a brilliant examination of how Tim matures. It's the first step in the transition from Tim Bisley the overgrown adolescent who thinks Daisy's childhood dream to become Elvis was stupid because "he's a bloke," to Tim Bisley the man. It's kind of beautiful in the dumbest, funniest way possible.

Being a comedy, the last two episodes of "Spaced" that I described previously aren't depressing, humourless episodes solely about self realization and growth. But in some ways this does sort of feel like the last night before the first day of the rest of Tim and Daisy's lives. It's an emotionally solid, incredibly funny episode that makes you yearn for whatever you consider to be "the good old days". In the stew that is "Spaced," "Gone" is, as Daisy would say, the good shit.

Odds and ends:

- God, Jessica Hynes steals this episode. I think she has some of the funniest moments in the entire series, but because "Gone" is so much about the evolution of Tim, it's worth mentioning how well she plays Daisy tripping. In fact, I'm going to check the DVD set now to see if there's a full version of her singing "Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear"

- There are really only two other stories happening in this episode outside of Tim and Daisy's night out and their run-in with the youths, and they're extremely minimal: first up, Mike loses Daisy's dog Colin and enlists Brian's help in finding him, only for Colin to randomly return right as Tim and Daisy come home. The other is just one flashback scene where Marsha tells Daisy about her past attempting to become an Olympic athlete, which ended when she was hit by a car. She ended up marrying the driver, who also introduced her to alcohol in order to numb the pain from her accident. It's a sad, depressing story but you can't help but laugh at anything Julia Deakin says in that thick accent she used to play the character. It's also a great use of the self-referentialism and reflexivity of "Spaced" in the way that Daisy brings up the subject to Tim (Daisy: "You know what Marsha told me the other day?" Flash back to Marsha: "I was gonna be an Olympic athlete, you know." Cut back to Tim: "What's that got to do with anything?" Flash back to Marsha: "I'll tell you!") and the transition from Marsha wondering where she might have ended up had she not had her accident to the TV where a much nicer looking and pleasant sounding Deakin is shown to be a television anchor

- To invite another "Middle" comparison, Tim's relationship with Sophie reminds me a lot of the episode "A Birthday Story" where Axl has to reconcile the idea that while his manager at the movie theatre is really hot, it's not enough to make up for how dumb she is, so he can't like her. Dad Mike is proud of his son for maturing enough that personality has prioritized itself over physical appearance when it comes to his romantic interests. Here, Tim seems so blinded by Sophie's physical appearance and only that that he doesn't really consider Daisy to be a romantic prospect (not that Daisy's unattractive)

- The finger gun shootout is great evidence that there should never be an American adaptation of "Spaced". I believe it's in the DVD commentary for this episode specifically (the new, 2008 commentaries) that director Edgar Wright says so much of the show is about these weirdos in South London acting out the things they see in American movies, and naturally that angle would be lost if it were to be presented through the system that makes American screen productions

- Peter Serafinowicz returns as Duane, the douchebag who started dating Sarah after she dumped Tim. He and Tim sort of squaring off, with Tim pushing the idea on him that Sarah is working late in the same way he assumes Sophie is, is very funny, eventually escalating into what Liz Lemon would describe as a "talking like this contest". Duane discovering that Tim has left his car keys at the bar also leads to Serafinowicz repeating a line he had previously spoken as the voice of Darth Maul in "The Phantom Menace": "At last I will emerge as the victor. At last I will have revenge".

- Tim has told Sophie so much about Daisy. What sort of things? "Well," Sophie tells Daisy over the phone, "you're share a flat...and your name's Daisy."

- "There's been a misprint on the cover of one of the new issues." "Which one?" "'Total Cult.'"

- I like that Mike is so immersed in his military life that he's forgotten the 12-hour clock

- I would watch a play called "Absolute Bollocks"

Next week: Daddy.