"Look Around You" is a spoof science programme that hilariously recreates both the drab, depressing air of 1970s educational television and a bygone world of tedious school science lessons. Each of the 10-minute episodes--or "Modules"--takes the form of a number of surreal and pointless experiments based on a chosen theme ranging from "Water" and "Sulphur" to "Ghosts" and "Brains".
"Look Around You"'s humour lies not only in an absurd take on education and the impenetrable jargon of science, but also in evoking a sense of nostalgia in the viewer. In this respect the series is helped immeasurably by faultless production and attention to detail. Narrated in austere, Queen's English, using precise scientific terminology, this is a world of scratched film inserts, dubious periodic tables, cheap, synthesised music, giant hairstyles, bulky, teak-finished technology and a proliferation of DYMO labels. Each show is even prefaced by a few seconds of the "Television for Schools & Colleges" countdown clock. The tutorial format of the series is not without its problems though--it is essentially a single, plotless joke stretched to eight episodes, and there are no characters to speak of, save glimpses of the deadpan and much-maligned lab-technician (cowriter Peter Serafanowicz). Despite these shortcomings "Look Around You" is still a refreshingly different comedy, which is so well put together that you can almost smell the Bunsen burners while you watch.
On the DVD: "Look Around You" on disc comes with a sizeable and appropriately bizarre selection of extras. The superb animated menus are designed to mimic the arcane, pastel-coloured diagrams found in any well-thumbed science textbook, and even feature the background noise of what is presumably a white-coated technician shuffling around the lab. The Additional Features include the double-length "Calcium" episode, a full-length music video of the song created in the "Music" module (the surprisingly catchy "Little Mouse" by Jack Morgan, BSc), a selection of spoof pages from Ceefax and the Test Card. The different sound modes allow you to watch with or without the narration, subtitles or an entertaining commentary from the programme makers. --"Paul Philpott"