Look Around You is a British television comedy series devised and written by Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz, and, in the first series only, narrated by Nigel Lambert. The first series of eight 10-minute shorts was shown in 2002, and the second series of six 30-minute episodes in 2005, both on BBC2.
The first series was broadcast on BBC America in early 2005, with a slightly edited version of the second series airing in March 2006. Starting 18 January 2009, the series was aired on Adult Swim in the US (rated TV-PG). The first series of Look Around You was nominated for a BAFTA award in 2003.
Although a third series has been ruled out, Robert Popper stated that he and Serafinowicz will do another project together, saying:
"Sad news is we are not making a third series of Look Around You, but hope to make a new series of something else silly some time."
In the first series, the episodes ("modules") satirise and pay homage to late 1970s and early 1980s educational films and school programmes such as ITV's "Experiment" series, which were re-run for many years after they were made. A different scientific subject is covered in each episode.
The humour is derived from a combination of patent nonsense and faithful references and homages. For instance, fictional items that have a passing resemblance to everyday objects are shown and discussed. Such items include the Boîte Diabolique, a keyboard instrument with "forbidden keys"; and "Garry Gum", a performance-enhancing chewing gum which has the unfortunate side-effect of inducing diarrhoea, necessitating the consumption of "Anti-Garry Gum". Each episode begins with an authentic "countdown clock", similar to the one used on ITV Schools programs from 1979 to 1987. The music that accompanies the countdown is in the same spirit as the original, but is played on a solo guitar, and at the beginning of "The Brain" module, the guitarist can be heard tuning.
The module subjects are distorted beyond recognition; for instance, germs are described as coming from Germany, and whiskey is said to be made by combining water with nitrogen. The maths module features a distorted and inaccurate version of the ancient 'seven cats' puzzle by Ahmes. Additionally, subjects are mixed - for example a chemistry experiment about eggs (In the episode Water) turns into a French language lesson. Each episode follows a general format, beginning with an introduction to the subject, followed by a series of silly experiments performed by the hapless (and normally mute) scientists, played by Popper, Serafinowicz and Edgar Wright, among others.
The series has been praised for its attention to detail. The colour and overall look of the film was purposefully altered to replicate 1980s television for schools, and passably authentic incidental music written by Serafinowicz and Popper under the pseudonym Gelg was overdubbed to complete the parody of the original programmes.
A running gag throughout the series is the fastidious labelling of all items, such as hairdryers, magnets, or a jar of nuts (which contained both types of nut: the foodstuff and fastener). Another recurring joke is the use of fictional apparatus and materials used in the experiments – items such as the Besselheim plate pokes fun at real lab equipment, often named after their designers (e.g. Petri dish, Erlenmeyer flask). Pencils are always used to point at key elements of the experiments, as the 'scientists' do not speak: this is sometimes taken to ridiculous levels—pointing out pencils using a pencil; pointing at chocolates and then at a person to show they are a gift.
The series was commissioned based on a 20-minute pilot episode (twice the length of an episode in the first series, but otherwise identical) about calcium; this is included on the DVD release of Series 1 as an "advanced double-length module".