Look Around You: Season One
American writers and producers have borrowed a great deal from British comedy, either outright adapting British shows for consumption by U.S. audiences or simply allowing a tone of discomfort and sparks of surreality to enter into their more traditional formats. But it has only happened fairly recently that American comedy minds have started to allow the absurd and the grotesque to enter into their creative lexicon.
Much of this has been spurred on by the folks behind the Adult Swim block of programming on the Cartoon Network, particularly the work of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim on their brilliant triumvirate of shows Tom Goes To The Mayor, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, and Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule. With their success has come the opportunity for them to pay tribute to the shows that have influenced them, even going so far as convincing the folks at Turner Broadcasting to acquire the rights to re-broadcast some brilliant, but little heard of shows from the UK that shared their sensibilities. So, American audiences were finally introduced to the manic musical glee of The Mighty Boosh and the more deadpan, but equally absurd Look Around You.
Created and conceived by Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, the first season of LAY is a loving spoof of social science programming used in English schools during the ’80s. Each 10 minute episode takes on a specific subject (anything from Music to Ghosts to Sulfur to the Brain) and tears any and all facts about it to shreds. The scientists on the program (played by Serafinowicz, Popper, and future Shaun Of The Dead director Edgar Wright) perform a variety of absurd experiments with even more absurd results: mixing nitrogen with water to create whiskey, using the germs left behind by a moth to grow a “moth apple tree”, communicating with “intelligent calcium”, etc.
What makes show work so well is not just the blatantly ridiculous aspects of it, but the amount of detail they add to each one to capture the essence of the time period, from the straitlaced narrator of each episode to the shoddy graphics and perfectly boring sets used for their experiments. You can tell that their appreciation of the programs they are spoofing is as genuine as is their love of sending them up.
This DVD release features all 10 episodes of the program as well as a variety of fantastic bonus features. The best of them is the new commentaries recorded for this American version of the DVD, featuring Tim & Eric (natch), Michael Cera & Jonah Hill, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who have used Serafinowicz’s nimble vocal skills on an episode of their show, as well as hiring Popper as a writer). They provide the right mix of fanboy love and pure appreciation of the artform of comedy to keep the proceedings light and informative.
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