Spy continues to awesomely impress
During the summer I reviewed the first season of the kickbutt British comedy ‘Spy.’ After watching nine episodes of the second season, is it still as awesome? Thee words: Yes! Yes! Yes!
Over the summer, I discovered the hideously amazing Spy, the British Chuck, on Hulu TV. Because the UK shows I watched on Hulu (Kingdom, Party Animals, Green Wing, Campus) no longer aired, I assumed the same for Spy. Luckily, that isn’t the case. I did a 1970s joy dance when the new episodes appeared on Hulu in Fall 2012. With Community not yet aired (and all but gone), Animal Practice cancelled, and 30 Rock on its way out, Spy gives me the dose of gentle absurd humor I need. If you haven’t caught it, Spy is basically an office comedy surrounding Britain’s internal intelligence. Think of it as The Office meets Chuck. Spy covers big box electronics store worker, Tim, who accidentally receives a job with MI5 after walking into the wrong interview.
Season one primarily followed Tim’s dual awkwardness at home and work. Tim’s familial life surrounded his ongoing custody battle with his social-climbing ex-wife, Judith, over his brilliant prep school-attending son, Marcus. In his work life, he slowly yet painfully adjusted to the spy world with his uber-cool boss, the Examiner; his uber-cool, love interest, Caitlin; and her uber-cool, CIA-exchange boyfriend, Portis.
In season two, rather than continue pigeonholing Tim into the position of all-around downtrodden, well-hated guy, the writers penned a capable Tim, liked by his fellow employees, loved by his boss, and only mildly disliked by his ex-wife and son. I have to applaud the writers for not maintaining season one’s scapegoat template. This season, Tim morphed from his boss’s mini-punching bag to the object of The Examiner’s obsessive desire. I love this because Darren Boyd is hot. We all know this. I doubly love the writers no longer hide Darren Boyd’s external pretty boy. Sure, the show places him in awkward scenarios with boy-next-door-haircuts, terrible blue-checked shirts (WHO WEARS THOSE?!) and hideously over-sized jackets, but he’s still hot. Having a cougar-esque character like The Examiner crush on Tim, emphasizes Tim’s inherent awesomeness. I especially love The Examiner’s equal opportunity creepy personae. Let’s be honest, a hot, assumedly single guy like The Examiner won’t ignore other hot, single guys. And, if you’re a hot couple avoid office play at all times, The Examiner has a camera which he loves to use.
This season’s more capable Tim is deliciously less ethical than last season. He hilariously beats the crap out of an MI6 agent, he handles inappropriate interrogations casually, and participates in disastrous internal spy training missions with aplomb. Contrary to last season’s Tim who banned his son’s illicit book club gambling, this season he allows his skeevy genius friend to pimp out his son’s Harry Potter-rip-off novel for 200,000 pounds. Last year, the show displayed Tim’s hidden talents. But, this season he’s less willing to rely on his own intelligence and more willing to cheat, lie or steal to get what he wants (with increasingly abysmal yet hilarious results). So far, I’m enjoying this delectable dark hole Tim inadvertently turned towards, as the show maintains the same lightness and humor as last year. I love that Marcus is no longer the elementary school’s BMOC and that his headmaster/almost-stepfather is now less of an irritable, social-climbing twat, and more a lovable goof (with social-climbing desires). I especially love that Tim’s mate, Chris, continues to fit better into the plot by working at Marcus’ school.
At the end of the day, the show’s just a workplace comedy. While The Examiner or his guy Friday might inappropriately interrogate a prisoner (or the prisoner’s girlfriend), for the most part, Tim’s no longer shocked and spends most of his time hanging with his co-workers by his computer. I love that the main office characters no longer stick to the template of totally cool guy or insanely awesome girl. Caitlin’s no longer the blonde uber-pretty girl. She’s a bit of a doofus that Tim can’t stop crushing on. Portis is no longer the hot, leather-wearing, uber-agent introduced last season. He wears the same hideous shirts as Tim (only worse – they’re SHORT SLEEVES!) and has gone from chic to geek.
I have to applaud Spy’s wardrobe department for taking the two hottest men possible and using the most unflattering shirts EVER to de-hotify them. It also speaks well to the individual actors’ comic ability to convince me they aren’t as attractive as they are. Seriously, did you see Terence Maynard in MERLIN? Yea. Exactly. Well, Portis is a gap-toothed sexist geek with a terrible American accent. I keep waiting for the writers to admit that Portis isn’t American. First off his name is PORTIS!!! What bloody (yea, I said bloody) American would EVER call their child PORTIS?! Sure, Charles Portis and Clinton Portis exist, but AS A FIRST NAME?! REALLY?! Second, LISTEN to him. Yea. Exactly. Even Renée Zellweger’s British accent was more convincing. But, enough of my talking smack, I love the addition of Portis to the cast and Terence is awesome. It helped fully translate the show to a workplace comedy.
Although ABC’s considering developing an American adaptation, I hope it doesn’t come to pass. We already had an American Spy. It’s called Chuck and it was on NBC. Also, regarding re-vamping British shows for U.S. audiences, they should take a look at NBC’s recent ill-fated adaptations like Prime Suspect and Free Agents and think again. (Note: ignore the The Office and America’s Got Talent). Spy is full of original, quirky talent. And, sometimes, when you have a good show why duplicate it? Why not enjoy it as it is?
If I viewed Spy as gobsmackingly hilarious (yea, that’s right, I said gobsmacked) last year, I find it blindingly hilarious this year. The characters are still demented — Chris especially — but it’s no longer about Tim as a pseudo-Alice in spy Wonderland. Now it’s about Tim as a pseudo-Alice discovering he fits in with Wonderland’s Mad Hatter, the insane Queen of Hearts and the pot-smoking Caterpillar more than he ever imagined. And, that’s an awesome thing.