Look Around You
A few years ago, teens and twentysomethings passed around episodes of a BBC educational spoof called Look Around You. It became a sensation through the miracle of Internet piracy. It wasn't as big as the original version of The Office but it was a minor hit in its own right.
The show's initial 10-minute episodes parodied 1970s British educational films. It was apparently a spot-on goof on programs made for schools and colleges. Although many of the show's enthusiasts were from the U.S. and didn't get all the references, British school filmstrips must have been a lot like American ones. Even with the accents, it feels like something your teacher showed you in fifth or sixth grade. The picture's even washed out.
Now, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim is finally bringing the show to American TV. (Several shorts did air on BBC America back in 2005, but who watches that?) Currently, the network is only airing the shorts made in 2002; a second set of different 30-minute episodes--in the style of a news program instead of an educational film--was made in 2005 but aren't quite as delightful.
Look Around You covers basic school topics--water, germs, sulfur, ghosts--but doesn't actually deliver any relevant information. It's dead serious, but the info and class discussion questions are absolute nonsense. The first episode, "Maths," begins with the question: "What's the largest number you can think of?"
Three people on the street are interviewed. A young girl: "Umm ... 100,000?" A middle-aged man: "999,000." A professor-looking guy: "A million."
The narrator (Nigel Lambert) returns with the answer: "In actual fact, it's neither of these. The largest number is about 45 billion, although mathematicians suspect that there may be even larger numbers." On-screen, the hypothetical larger number appears: "45,000,000,001?"
The show gets a little too random at times but it's so well produced it's a joy to watch.
In Memoriam: David Brenner