Look Around You

Narrator: Nigel Lambert
BBC Worldwide
RRP 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available now

Look around you... and learn more about fascinating subjects such as water, sulphur, ghosts, germs and brains...

Does Look Around You count as sci-fi? Well, it's a fictional programme about scientific subjects, that's for sure. More specifically, it's a wickedly accurate spoof of schools programming circa 1980, which comes complete with faded film stock, naff music and patronising graphics. Each ten-minute programme, or "module", is even preceded by the Television for Schools and Colleges countdown clock, as is the DVD itself.

In fact, this is science fiction in a very literal sense, in that the science described is pure fiction. We are told, for instance, by the primly enunciated tones of Nigel Lambert, that germs originated in Germany, that the boiling point of water is 1000 degrees and that pig iron is so called because it is manufactured by pigs. Don't let any small children watch this show without explaining that it is a work of fiction, otherwise you could severely damage their education!

Parental guidance is also recommended because of a few stomach-churningly gross moments, involving the aforementioned boiling water and a pipette of raw sewage, among certain other things.

The unique and carefully contrived format of Look Around You does limit the series to an extent. Only so many different takes are possible on what is essentially a one-joke idea based around pitifully pointless experiments and over-elaborate scientific jargon. However, the production team manage to put a sufficiently diverse spin on each of the eight episodes, which actually seem to get funnier with repeated viewing.

Special features on the DVD include the double-length pilot episode Calcium. You can see the genesis of later modules in this, including the intelligence test that was later used in Brains, but there's more than enough material here to make it well worth your while. The full version of the music video to the song "Little Mouse" (as featured in the episode Music) is also great fun. Other features are just plain bizarre, such as a vast selection of spoof Ceefax pages, which could keep you occupied for hours.

The audio commentary, by director Tim Kirkby and writers/producers Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz, is less satisfactory. It contains rather a large amount of shallow observations along the lines of "Great joke coming up," and "I loved doing this bit." Still, we do get to discover the identities of many of the non-speaking characters in the background, most of who are friends and relatives of the programme makers. Yes, that is indeed Simon (Spaced) Pegg portraying a sleeping guard in Maths!

An experiment was carried out to determine whether or not Look Around You is worth looking around for on DVD. The conclusion that was reached is that Look Around You is worth looking around for on DVD.

Richard McGinlay

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