Fun's Over! NBC Sics The Lawyers On The Inspector Spacetime Kickstarter Project

By Greg Kumparak , written on March 1, 2012

From The News Desk

The tale of "Inspector Spacetime" is one of the Internet at its finest.

It all started with a gag on NBC's "Community".

Playing to its largely geeky fanbase in that charmingly authentic way that so few shows manage to pull off, a few of the main characters on "Community" were shown watching a program called "Inspector Spacetime." Based on the adventures of a humanoid alien inspector who traveled the galaxy in his flying phone booth, it was essentially the BBC's "Doctor Who," just... not.

A decade or two ago, that's where the joke would have ended. But this is the Internet. Jokes don't just end here. Almost overnight, the fan base behind "Inspector Spacetime" (again, a show that does not exist) exploded. A full, deeply-intertwined backstory sprang from nowhere. Stickers and T-shirts were made. Posters were printed. Not by NBC, mind you, but by the fans.

Then things got crazy: Travis Richey, the guy who actually played Inspector Spacetime in that fleeting scene, decided to make it into something real. It'd be a series of webisodes, paid for by the fans themselves through Kickstarter. (A show, from a show, from a show. BWAAARM.) Alas, it seems that NBC and Sony Pictures are having none of it.

In an update to the Kickstarter project, Travis says that lawyers from NBC and Sony have put a kibosh on things:

Lawyers from Sony and NBC have contacted me demanding that I cease production on an Inspector Spacetime web series.

Though I firmly believe the law would be on my side in producing this parody, I have no wish or ability to fight a show that I love as much as "Community." I had hoped that they would embrace what is essentially a fan film and appreciate the value it adds to the character, and the audience that we would bring who are finding "Community" for the first time through this character, but alas, that's not the case. So, I will be removing all references to Inspector Spacetime from this series (it only happened in the title anyway), and altering the appearance of the Inspector so that he does not look like Inspector Spacetime. What remains is 100% the creation of myself, my writing partner, and you, the fans. In other words: development on the show will continue, albeit without any of the stuff that really made it work. In the meantime, the project has been cheekily redubbed "Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time." As of this morning, they'd raised $13k of the $20k they were looking for.

I'm uncharacteristically torn on how I feel about this.

On one hand: Really, NBC/Sony? One of your shows makes a one-off joke that, through some ridiculous stroke of luck, flourishes into a meme? Embrace it! Don't light it on fire and stomp on its ashes. The show's team has been very clear that they have no intention to cash in on this, refusing to sell any DVDs or merchandise of any sort. The show would just be a cool thing that exists for the sake of existing.

On the other: Yeah, it probably wasn't a good idea for anyone to try and take NBC's I.P. and try to run with it, for profit or not. Especially not when it's the guy who was hired to play the part in the original scene. There are legal grey areas, and then there's covering your eyes and pretending everything you're doing is completely legal just because it's kind of awesome. Hell, they might've been fine if they'd found a way to fund it without Kickstarter.

Now, lets see if NBC tries to milk this Inspector Spacetime meme now that they've thrown lawyers at the zany fanbase that made it worthwhile.

The original "Inspector Spacetime" clip is embedded below.

Update: Adding another clip because it's amazing: