Look Around You 1 (BBC2, 2002)
I have already reviewed the second series of the great comedy show Look Around You, so now here’s a look at the first series which had a different format. All eight episodes of the first series were ten minutes long and were a very impressive parody of the drab BBC and ITV schools programmes from the late-70s/early-80s which was written and produced by Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper.
I vaguely remembered seeing Peter Serafinowicz in the BBC2 sitcom World Of Pub which had aired a year earlier so I thought that I would give the show a try. Every week a different educational subject was tackled with an unusual twist. The show began with a replica of the minute-long countdown clock used before schools programmes on ITV which made it clear that there was going to be some good attention to detail. As for me, I’m a little too young to remember that era, being more familiar with the music called “The Journey” which was used before ITV schools programmes after they moved to Channel 4 in 1987.
After the title sequence began which featured the exciting modern technology of a BBC Acorn computer, the first episode was on the subject of Maths. When the authentic-sounding plum voiced announcer began to speak it still all seemed straightforward, but when after a couple of minutes we were being informed that “Maths is discussed in chapter 3.1415926 of your textbook which accompanies this series”, it became clear that there was something a little unusual about this show and I became hooked.
Look Around You very impressively evoked the era of TV that it was parodying, it was clear that Serafinowicz and Popper had watched a lot of schools programming when they were younger, and they had put a lot of effort into the show, with good use of archive footage, and even making the background music themselves which sounded much like what was used on shows at the time with its strange electronic buzzing sounds.
As the episodes went by, there were some very creative ideas, with many bizarre experiments carried out by hapless scientists and lots of guest appearances from various comedy stars, including if you look closely Simon Pegg and many others, and we also soon became friends with other great characters including Imhotep and Partario. One of my favourite moments in the series is when a scientist eats an apple and he explodes. It makes more sense if you watch it.
Another great thing about Look Around You was its DVD release which featured lots of impressive extras, including a 20-minute long episode that wasn’t aired on TV, an interactive quiz, a hidden test card, the full-length version of “Little Mouse” from the Music episode, and best of all, a parody of Pages From Ceefax which again is so wonderfully crafted you could easily mistake it for the real thing.
Look Around You was a great success and although it was rather low-key it was nominated for some awards, with a second series although having a different format proving equally as good. Serafinowicz and Popper have produced some of the more unusual comedy to have appeared on TV in the last 15 years, performing their crazy ideas in an entertaining way. Write that down in your copybook now.