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TBTS Reviews: Look Around You on DVD

July 25, 2010

Those of you who regularly tune in to TBTS on your internet dial are, by now, well aware that we are nothing if not complete Anglophiles. Our love for all things Mighty Boosh and Fawlty Towers are proof of such, and it is to great delight today that we bring you a look at the recently released (finally, in the U.S.) review of season one of the cerebrally absurd British program(me) Look Around You.

I personally was introduced to BBC 2’s Look Around You several years ago, whereupon I gazed in wonderment. Here was a series of “short films” by Robert Popper and Peter Sarafinowicz which heavily parodied the “television for schools and universities” of England in the early eighties. Each segment focused upon one topic of science (season one’s topics included “iron,” “water” and 

“ghosts,” among many others) and proceeded to ask its audience to take down notes in it’s workbook as the scientists of Look Around You performed ridiculous experiments. And the fact that vet Brit actor Nigel Lambert narrated each of the pieces in a perfectly droll, straight-faced manner lended it even more of a faux-legitimate feel.

After a long wait, the BBC released the first season of Look Around You this week. The release was championed by an appearance of Popper and Serafinowicz at this week’s San Diego Comic-Con, where a heretofore unseen short was also screened. And if an first viewing didn’t confirm the notion that this was indeed cult, the DVD certainly confirms that notion.

Guest commentary on various Look Around You segments include visits from 1.) Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, 2.) Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, of Shawn of the Dead, 3.) South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and 4.) Tim and Eric of the brilliantly absurd Tim and Eric Awesome Show! Great Job! Listening to the guest commentaries — some of them tied to the show (Tim and Eric admit things they stole) and some not (Michael Cera recounts visiting Berlin for the Superbad junket). One thing, however, is clear: it’s clearly loved, if little seen in the States. 

It helped that Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim began airing Look Around You a couple of years ago, paired with the less-stellar season two (the entire format was re-tooled) as part of its “Brit Block” with The Mighty Boosh and Ricky Gervais’ The Office

It’s tough to recommend Look Around You — I’ve shown it both people who loved it and people who sat with a confused look — but the DVD is certainly worth the wait. Guest commentary aside, the DVD is paired with the original pilot (“Sulphur”), a failed bit of faked offshoot “The Hexagons,” and — probably the most interesting — a faithful recreation of Britain’s Ceefax, which served as an Apple IIe-esque version of the country’s early internet, featuring game ideas, weather and local news. 

Fans of brainy British humo(u)r take note, however: if you haven’t yet seen Look Around You, the DVD is worth picking up. Though the entire season can be watched in 71 minutes (each vignette clocks in around 11-13 minutes), there’s little from across the pond comparable to the delightful insanity of the show’s fake scientific facts and dry sight gags. In an age of over-the-top British television remakes, it’s virtually certain no one will try to tackle this — it’s simply too out-there and bizarre. But that’s what’s so beautiful about it. Look Around You is British comedy at its most ridiculously absurd and refined, and should be shared. 

Look Around You is available on Amazon now.

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