DVD
Look Around You 2

Starring: Peter Serafinowicz, Robert Popper, Olivia Colman and Josie D'Arby
BBC DVD
RRP: 19.99
BBCDVD 1538
Certificate: 15
Available 16 January 2005


Have you ever wanted to watch
Look Around You but been unable to because an episode was not being transmitted at that exact moment? Well, now you can - thanks to this: a DVD. The DVD (which stands for Dynamic Visual Decoding) allows you to watch any or all of the six episodes in the second series of Look Around You, with or without an optional audio commentary...

I must admit that I prefer the shorter, schools-programme format of the first series to the half-hour Tomorrow's World set-up of the second. However, I enjoyed watching the second series more the second time around - and I'm not just saying that out of guilt, having heard the audio commentary and learned how hard the show was to make!

Nigel Lambert's voice-over is sorely missed, but there are plenty of blasts from the past to keep old-school fans happy. Each episode includes a variation on "Thanks, ants. Thants." Imhotep, the Easter Island head, appears twice. The Music episode, which kicks off the series, features a ghost - in this case the ghost of Tchaikovsky (Harry Enfield) - and also reprises the video to Jack Morgan's (Robert Popper) song "Little Mouse".

Regulars Popper and Peter Serafinowicz (as Peter Packard), who were largely mute during the original series, take centre stage as the presenters of this one. They are joined by two new additions to the cast: Olivia Colman (as Pam Bachelor) and Josie D'Arby (as Pealy Maghti).

Guest stars are also more prominent this time around. In addition to Enfield, watch out for Hyperdrive's Kevin Eldon; Serafinowicz's old Spaced buddies Mark Heap (as the appropriately named Leonard Hatred), Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; Still Game's Sanjeev Kohli (as Synthesiser Patel); Coupling's Sarah Alexander (who also happens to be Serafinowicz's girlfriend); and Colman's Peep Show co-star David Mitchell. In addition, Little Britain's Matt Lucas and David Walliams lend their vocal talents to the fan-favourite characters of "Cobbles" sufferer Dr Phillip Lavender and the supercomputer Bournemouth. Doctor Who fans may well fail (as I did) to recognise Paul ("no, not the mind probe") Jericho as Computer Jones.

Some of the jokes are used twice. There's a man who loves synthesisers so much he changed his name to Synthesiser Patel. There's a man who loves computers so much he changed his name to Computer Jones. Pealy uses an electric toothbrush, a side effect of which is that the tone of her voice is dramatically raised. Pam uses a memory helmet, a side effect of which is that the tone of her voice is dramatically lowered.

In other respects, however, this is an excellent spoof of Tomorrow's World in the early 1980s. The fashions (lots of browns), set design (more browns), electropop-style music, captions, the 4:3 aspect ratio, even the DVD subtitles are all perfectly of the time, as are the hopelessly inaccurate predictions of life in the year 2000. There's an emphasis on crap technology that fails to make life any easier or simpler, as demonstrated by Peter taking the best part of a minute to type in and run a computer program that speaks the title of the show - and doesn't even get it right - or a records chart that erases discs in the process of recording their sales.

The special features maintain the period illusion, including the whispering tones of Serafinowicz's continuity announcer, who calmly tells us which page of the menu screens we are currently viewing. The extras include more spoof pages from Ceefax, a short episode of Birds of Britain and a Medibot test card, which leads into an alternate take on the response to Jack's plastic surgery in Health.

The audio commentary, by writers/producers/performers/composers Serafinowicz and Popper, is even less revelatory than that on the previous DVD, mainly due to the fact that Serafinowicz has a stinking cold and would clearly rather be tucked up in bed cradling a Lemsip. However, we do learn about some of the challenges of making the series, such as the desperate last-minute use of library footage and voice-overs when episodes ran short, and the technical and vocal wizardry that led to the brilliantly crafted illusion of HRH Sir Prince Charles' guest appearance in the final episode.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, look around for this DVD.

Richard McGinlay

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