I get a lot of DVDs here at the office. A lot. And 99.9 percent of them aren’t worth taking out of the cellophane. But every so often something crosses my desk that turns out to be brilliant, the sort of thing I can’t wait to force random strangers to watch.
I get a lot of DVDs here at the office. A lot. And 99.9 percent of them aren’t worth taking out of the cellophane.
But every so often something crosses my desk that turns out to be brilliant, the sort of thing I can’t wait to force random strangers to watch. Which brings me to today’s topic, “Look Around You: Season One.” Never heard of it? Neither had I. And now I can’t get enough of it.
“Look Around You” is a pitch-perfect satire of dull science shows. In fact, it’s so good you might mistake it for the genuine article. That is, until you hear the narrator say something like this: “But what is water? It’s a difficult question, because water is impossible to describe. One might ask the same about birds. What are birds? We just don’t know.”
Clearly, as a science program, “Look Around You” is substandard. But as a comedy show, it’s top-notch. First broadcast in England in 2005 and shown here on Adult Swim last year, “Look Around You” consists of several short “modules” devoted to such basic science topics as “Germs,” “Sulfur,” “Maths,” “Iron” and, um, “Ghosts.” Framed as the video companion to a science class, each module begins with a wonderfully retro title sequence and the same shot of a bored student at a desk, then launches into the learning portion, narrated by the dulcet tones of Nigel Lambert.
It’s impossible to choose the strangest and/or funniest moment of “Look Around You.” Is it the sequence where we discover peas have tiny, humanlike brains? Maybe it’s learning the largest number in the world is 45 billion (or is it?). Or maybe it’s the “fact” that sulfur added to champagne produces “sulphagne,” an “eggy smelling” mixture that gives you heat vision.
It’s all nonsense, of course, but what makes this nonsense hilarious is that it’s all presented with deadly seriousness. Creators Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz (who are barely on-screen) never spoil the jokes with a laugh track or winking asides. Instead, they use clever wordplay, subtly bizarre visuals and deadpan humor to create a world where not only do ants build igloos, but ghosts can’t whistle.
As a bonus, the “Look Around You: Season One” DVD has a surprising amount of extras. There are commentary tracks from both the creators and some big-name fans (including Brits Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone), a double-length pilot episode devoted to “Calcium” (which, you might not know, is refined from teeth) and, strangest of all, an elaborate spoof of an early British version of the Internet that contains dozens of hidden jokes.
Curious? Check out the “Look Around You” clips on You Tube. Then I think you’ll want this DVD.
Will Pfeifer writes about DVDs for the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star. Contact him at email@example.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movie man/.
From the Vault: Classic mad scientist films
The scientists of “Look Around You” are just strange, but there are plenty of DVDs about mad ones, too.
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”: Both the 1931 Fredric March version and the 1941 Spencer Tracy version are worth watching, though the 1931 film delivers more shocks.
“Bride of Frankenstein” (1935): Sure, Colin Clive first played the notorious doctor in 1931’s “Frankenstein,” but he’s even better in the sequel — and he gets an assist from his mentor, played humorously by Ernest Thesiger.
“The Invisible Man” (1933): Also directed by James Whale, this horror classic features Claude Rains (well, mostly just his voice) as a jolly madman who discovers the secret of invisibility. Fast-paced and fun.
“The Fly” (1986): David Cronenberg’s gruesome remake features a great performance by Jeff Goldblum as a guy who goes nuts when he genetically bonds with a housefly.
Make room in your collection
Some DVDs out this week ...
“Bong Joon-Ho Collection”: Three films from the popular Korean director: “Mother,” “The Host” and “Barking Dogs Never Bite.”
“Galaxy of Terror”: Roger Corman’s cheap and cheesy (but fun) science fiction flick finally arrives on this DVD, which is packed with extras.
“Jersey Shore: Season One”: If you need concrete proof that society is collapsing around us, here it is.
“Look Around You: Season One”: The British science spoof encourages you to “look around you.” I’d encourage you to look above in this story for the Movie Man’s review.
“The Runaways”: Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning star in the real-life story of the all-female rock ‘n’ roll band of the 1970s.
“The Superfriends: Season One, Volume Two”: Kids, rent this set and see how terrible the cartoons from your parents’ childhoods really were.
“Yoga Evolution”: Not, unfortunately, video of apes doing yoga. Think how much fun that would be!
And CDs …
Jamie Foxx, “Body”: Trivia note: Did you know the real name of Oscar and Grammy winner Jamie Foxx is Eric Marlon Bishop?
Kidz Bop Kids, “Kidz Bop 18”: Sorry parents. The Kidz Bop nightmare just won’t end.
Sheryl Crow, “100 Miles from Memphis”: Crow says “I grew up in a small town 100 miles from Memphis, and that informed not only my musical taste, but how I look at life.”
Soundtrack, “Jersey Shore”: If you don’t believe the DVD is a sign of the apocalypse, surely you’ll believe this is.
Impending Doom, “There Will Be Violence”: Clearly the best band name-album title combination of the week.
Brian Setzer, “Don’t Mess with a Big Band”: This live album recorded during a tour of Japan includes both Setzer’s swing music and some old Stray Cats tunes.
Sources: dvdtalk.com, tophitsonline.com