Here at The A.V. Club, we’re pretty big on the movies director Edgar Wright has made with star and co-writer Simon Pegg—so much so that all three of them appear on our list of the best film comedies since 2000. And many of our readers might know that the duo first attracted attention with Spaced, the cult single-camera sitcom they created with Jessica Hynes (née Stevenson), which ran for two series (or seasons, as we call them in the Western hemisphere) on the U.K.’s Channel 4 around the turn of the century.
But Spaced wasn’t their first collaboration. That distinction belongs to Asylum, an obscure low-budget series that aired in 1996 on a fledging satellite channel that would eventually become the British affiliate of Comedy Central. Asylum, which was never seen any kind of home video or digital release, is notable for the sheer amount of talent involved: It was directed by Wright, who was then all of 22; co-written by Wright and David Walliams of Little Britain; and starred Pegg, Hynes, The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt, Black Books’ Bill Bailey, and a host of then-rising British stand-ups who are less familiar to American audiences.
Pegg plays Simon, an everyman who is mistakenly admitted to the bizarre mental institution run by Dr. Lovett (veteran stand-up Norman Lovett) while trying to deliver a pizza. (As the joke goes, the budget was so low that the actors all had to use their real names.) The production values were non-existent; the series was meant partly as a showcase for its cast and guest stars, which makes it feel like a surreally plotted variety show. All six of the episodes are available on YouTube, taped off a broadcast in the late 1990s. We’ve embedded the first one below.