Science!: 'Look Around You' Hits U.S. DVD at Comic-Con 2010
Most people come to Comic-Con to promote the brand-new project they've just completed, or even to announce something so brand-new that production hasn't even commenced yet. Increasingly, however, the DVD market has allowed the people behind cult-fave films and TV series to come to the con to promote stuff they made aaages ago, but which is still beloved - such a thing is Look Around You. The educational-series spoof by Britain's Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper first hit UK airwaves in 2002, though it took several years to make it to U.S. screens and has just now hit region 1 DVD thanks to BBC America. (Who are on a roll with their con-targeted releases, having launched Spaced and The Mighty Boosh on DVD at Comic-Con the last two years running.)
For the generation who were of a youthful age in the late '70s and early '80s, each ten-minute episode of Look Around You's first series is as beloved for its clever, absurdist humor as for its spot-on sendup of stodgy educational programs with guys in lab coats, close-ups of hands holding beakers and mineral samples, and oddly cheery synthesizer music. Popper (then a commissioning editor at Channel 4) and Serafinowicz (early in his comedy career, fresh off of playing the nefarious Duane Benzie on Spaced) befriended each other and had this wild idea for a short film, which became the inspiration for the series. Entitled "Calcium", the 20-minute short featured Edgar Wright as the scientist and was previewed - with great results - for a large contingent of their comedy pals, including Sasha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais. Popper laughs about it today, remembering: "[Ricky] said that if The Office was half as well received as that, he'd be very happy." Still yet to make it to DVD here is the show's second series, which changed formats to focus its parody on the successful UK kids' educational show Tomorrow's World. In translation for the Yanks: Think 3-2-1 Contact. "We would have been happy to keep doing ten [minutes]," Popper explained, "but the BBC said 'We'll give you thirty. But we want people this time, not just fingers'." They also wisely refrained from allowing any actual science get in the way of the nonsensical mayhem. (Popper adds: "When we started writing the series for, like half an hour, we thought let's get ourselves some science books and... do some research. And then after about five minutes, we said... No, let's do absolutely no research'. ")
Though it might seem a bit odd for the pair to be promoting an eight-year-old series, it's clear that the show is still near and dear to their hearts. For example, during the Comic-Con panel, they toted along a notebook full of ideas that never made it to series as a sort of low-fi deleted scenes for the crowd, highlights, read in Serafinowicz's well-known - as the voice of Darth Maul and about 80 million killer impressions - dulcet tones. They took the time to re-record commentaries for the Region 1 release, featuring a whole host of famous fans (and friends) including Tim and Eric, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone. As they hinted a bit to the big panel and discussed in a tiny bit more length to us earlier in the day, though they're both busy with other projects (Serafinowicz will be seen in Mitchell Hurwitz and Will Arnett's new sitcom for Fox, Running Wilde, in the fall), they have been kicking around the idea of a bizarre beast of a Look Around You film. The concept is this: It starts out just like the series, in the lab, and then rapidly goes completely off the rails. Outer space will likely be involved. Serafinowicz enthused, "I would love it to be like Look Around You meets Time Bandits... meets... something else weird."