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"Jean is shorter than Brutus, but taller than Imhotep. Imhotep is taller than Jean, but shorter than Lord Scotland. Lord Scotland is twice the height of Jean and Brutus combined, but only one-tenth of the height of Millsy. Millsy is at a constant height of x − y. If Jean stands exactly one nautical mile away from Lord Scotland, how tall is Imhotep?"
An Affectionate Parody of educational programming such as "Television for Schools" in series 1, and later a Mockumentary in the style of Tomorrow's World. The series mimics perfectly the style of British programming in the 1970s, right down to using authentic period cameras and effects. The science seen in the series bears no resemblance to that of the real world (mixing sulphur with champagne gives sulphagne, and it gives you powerful Eye Beams if you drink it; passing nitrogen gas through mains water produces whisky, and iron was invented in the 18th century by a cyclops named "Lord Iron de Haviland"), but, nevertheless, the spot-on parodies of educational programming and "almost-correct" science means the writers have Shown Their Work.
The second series was almost a total change from the first - the 10 minute episodes became 30, the action moved from lab to studio, and the faceless voiceover was replaced by presenters delivering parodic Witty Banter.
After 8 unbearable years of No Export for You, as of July 20th, 2010, the BBC have finally released a Region 1 DVD set of the first series.
(The answer? Imhotep is invisible.)
Tropes used and parodied by the series:
- Aerith and Bob: Helen, Rosie and Partario.
- AI Is a Crapshoot: Although Bournemouth has a sinister knack for escape artistry, he otherwise seems like a perfectly nice computer.
- Anachronism Stew: "Humans have been using iron since the Stone Age."
- Ascended Extra: Jack Morgan was a one-shot character for Series 1, but was brought back for Series 2 as a main character.
- Auto Doc: Medibot, from the second season, is a very unstable prototype of one.
- Back From the Dead: Parodied. "Viewers distressed at the death of Clive Pounds, who died during production of this programme, may be pleased to hear that he has since come back to life." Also the ill professor from 'Germs' shows up as a spirit in 'Ghosts', implying he suffered from a Bus Crash.
- Baker's Dozen: a bonus, double-length episode about calcium (the unaired pilot) is included with the DVD of the first series.
- Beneficial Disease: There's a disease called "Cobbles", which causes the skin to take on the appearance of stone until the victim looks like a pile of rocks, but also grants the ability to fly. The scientist who discovered a cure for the disease, a sufferer himself, opted not to use it because he liked being able to fly so much.
- Black Humor: Much of the humor derives from the narration blithely ignoring the detrimental effects of the experiments on the subjects (for instance, the boiled-egg experiment, where the subject retrieves the eggs from the boiling water with an increasingly burned hand).
- The Blank: In the last episode of Series 2, HRH Sir Prince Charles ends up looking faceless after Leonard Hatred sprays him with his "Psilence" liquid skin. (It's not explained how His Royal Highness is able to breathe after this happens, but he seems to manage.)
- The Helvetica Scenario, as depicted in the Calcium pilot.
- Blatant Lies: Do not trust Look Around You as a source of reliable information of any kind.
- Bleep, Dammit!: When the survey for men's preferences from Popular Men's Leisure Magazine is displayed, the word "sex" (coming in at #2) is written as "s*x".
- Body Horror: See again the Helvetica Scenario.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
- Brown Note: the boîte diabolique, a keyboard which plays notes that humanity was not meant to hear.
- Cloudcuckoolander: The show itself follows the most cloud-cuckoolandish logic imaginable and, depending on how you interpret it, either the fictional creators are a bunch of Cloud Cuckoolanders, or they're straightforward scientists living in a pure Cloudcuckooland universe.
- Continuity Nod: The ill professor from 'Germs' shows up in 'Ghosts' as a spirit. Also the hilariously-inaccurate periodic table shows up every so often.
- The calcium episode begins by demonstrating the adhesive power of calcium, sticking a coin on the back of the scientist's hand. Later experiments, the coin is still there.
- Credits Gag: false continuity announcements are run over the ending credits, and some episodes are prefaced by fake adverts listing the line-up for "St. Frankenstein's Day" and "Antmas Eve".
- Curse Cut Short crossed with Gory Discretion Shot, possibly Relax-O-Vision: In the outtro to the "Music" episode, the fuse of a bunch of dynamite burns down. Just as it's about to hit the dynamite (with a scientist staring intently at it from about a foot away), the credits finish.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The first series likes this trope, which often results in the narrator giving hilariously circular and unhelpful descriptions.
- "But we do know that water is the most powerful substance on Earth, and, whatever form it's in, be it ice, vapour, or just water..."
- "Here is a model of an iron molecule. And here is a model of a model of an iron molecule, modelled in iron."
- On the brain: "Think of it as a kind of modified heart, only with a mind, or brain."
- On germs: "They're basically a form of malevolent bacteria with one purpose: to spread germs."
- From the second series: "That's according to the latest survey carried out by popular men's leisure magazine, Popular Men's Leisure Magazine."
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Pam discusses the new-fangled "computer games" with a man playing one, frantically waggling a joystick held in his lap with mounting excitement.
- Dresses the Same: One of the "Maths" exercises is to compute the probability of this happening. The party gets canceled.
- DVD Bonus Content: the bonus content includes a quiz with incorrect answers, a badly scrambled Ceefax page, and authentic captioning, in the style of 1980s Ceefax subtitles.
- DVD Commentary: parodied by having Jack Morgan commenting on the "Little Mouse" video
- Eenie Meenie Miny Moai: Imhotep.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Jack Morgan, according to Peter Packard in the Health episode.
- Expo Label: old-style red laboratory labels on absolutely everything in the first series.
- Extreme Omnivore: "The Human Dustbin"
- Eye Beams: one test subject gains them by ingesting a mixture of champagne and powdered sulphur, or "sulphagne." (Sulfane is another word for hydrogen sulfide, a hideously poisonous gas that also gives rotten eggs their stench.)
- Future Pam also demonstrates an eye beam with her nuclear eye.
- Fake Shemp: Subverted. HRH Sir Prince Charles is played up throughout the entire series with a single stock photograph, then in the final episode, he is introduced with several obscured-face and back-of-head shots. When he arrives in the studio, he is portrayed by adeptly blended-in archive footage and convincingly dubbed by Peter Serafinowicz.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas: In the last episode:
Pam: And Sam, how about you? How many times have you had sex?
- Five-Token Band: Jean, Brutus, Millsy, Lord Scotland, and Imhotep.
- Flight: the series takes for granted that people can fly, complete with footage of people flying to work accompanied by an entirely matter-of-fact voice-over including the line "if you can fly".
- The second series also features Cobbles, a disease that literally reduces its victims into piles of rock, but "it's not all bad - at least you can fly".
- Fun with Acronyms: "Maths" sands for "Mathematical Anti-Telharsic Harfatum Septomin".
- Fun with Subtitles: In the last episode, Pam and Peter's names are switched when initially shown, and was quickly corrected. Later, when Simon Teigh's invention was shown, his name was briefly displayed as "Caption".
- Future Badass: Pam meets her future self as a birthday present. (Shockingly, she is unsurprised, even when she finds out what her life will be like.
- Gender Bender: The sex change machine, derived from a dry cleaning machine. It takes five minutes and sprays you with hormones.
- Glass-Shattering Sound: High-pitched tones cans break glass. Low-pitched tones can reconstruct it.
- Happy Birthday to You: Sung at the end of the "Food" episode, with additional lyrics.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "Here's a pair of tits." Purely intentional.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Keep an eye out for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in bit parts.
- Edgar Wright can be seen as a lab assistant in some episodes.
- Ho Yay: The two male Music 2000 contestants, first dancing together then actually making out during a musical performance by one of the presenters at the end of the episode.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: During the "Iron" episode's electricity experiment: "We're using AC/DC because it's heavy metal."
- In the "Maths" episode, the narrator says a pencil bag should contain "a pair of compasses". Cue the scientist pulling two (navigational) compasses out of a pencil bag.
- In the "Water" episode, while boiling eggs: "Make sure you look out for the release of the new albumen. It's out now."
- It Will Never Catch On: Peter's reaction to "Rap" music.
- Little-Known Facts: the entire point of the series.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Leonard Hatred seems to have some issues.
- Nightmare Fuel/Look Around You
- No Last Name Given: Patricia from the second series' "Computers" episode is a subversion. She has a surname but it's silent.
- No OSHA Compliance: The scientist performing the experiments has absolutely no regard for his own safety, gluing objects to his hand, reaching into a beaker of boiling water three times...
- Obituary Montage: parodied with a voiceover at the end of the episode stating "viewers distressed at the death of Clive Pounds, who died during production of this programme, may be pleased to hear that he has since come back to life."
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: "Water, water, what hast thou donst?"
- Once an Episode: Every episode of the first series included the "copybook clip", showing an amusingly intent-looking schoolboy with a Look Around You textbook.
- One Steve Limit: Averted in the second series' "Music", which features three contestants named Tony, Toni, and Antony.
- "On the Next...": each episode of the first series ended with a clip from what was supposedly the next episode, even though no such episode existed, and each clip generally ended with some sort of mistake (a scientist standing next to a lit stick of dynamite, or confusing flowers with flours)
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future
- Parodic Table of the Elements: The entire Periodic Table of the Elements as used on Look Around You is available on the BBC website here, featuring such elements as "manganesium", "music", "toronto", "jazz", and "Hello". It can also be seen on the season 1 DVD if you squint.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: the show regularly throws out convincing but completely made-up scientific jargon, particularly in the first series which has several per episode. Included are fictitious chemicals ("bumcivilian", "segnomin"), laboratory equipment ("Besselheim plate", "gribbin"), units of measurement ("billigrams", "quorums per second") and many more.
- Poe's Law: Almost inevitable.
- Pokémon-Speak: Medibot.
- Portmanteau: "Thanks, ants. Thants." Turned into a Running Gag throughout the second series.
- Post-Modern Magik: the Hallowe'en episode Ghosts considered the science of ghosts, such as what would happen if a roll of Sellotape was possessed, or how effective a lab partner ghosts were.
- Rhymes on a Dime
- Running Gag: The ridiculous Portmanteaus lasted the entire run. The first series also had the opening sequences in which clips of stock footage that clearly did not indicate today's topic would be played while the narrator intoned "Look around you... can you tell what you are looking for? Correct. It's [BIZARRE TOPIC]."
- "Write that down in your copybook now."
- Scare'Em Straight: an example of a new fat loss program includes a horrifying picture supposed to scare people from eating, suppress appetite and even cause fat to ooze from the sweat glands. The episode features a lengthy "send your children out of the room" sequence, only for the actual image (a stuffed bear and a model skeleton) to be hilariously tame.
- Science Show: What season 1 was parodying.
- Shout-Out: At the beginning of Music, the bottles' embossing tape read the following: Rock, Metal, Earth, Wind, and Fire.
- Shrinking Violet: Toni Baxter, a Music 2000 contestant.
- Stock Footage: frequently parodied in the first series (the footage that appeared was bizarre to say the least: a man with no teeth trying to eat a burger, children graffiting calculus onto the walls of a house, and an old lady asking how much 5p scraps of meat cost), while the second series digitally edits stock footage of Prince Charles so he appears to be presenting the Look Around You award.
- Stylistic Suck: Jack's "Little Mouse" and "Reggae Man" singles and all three Music 2000 entries.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The aforementioned flight and Eye Beams, as well as other activities that are treated as mundane, such as experimenting on ghosts.
- Video Inside Film Outside: Probably purposely done for a Retraux feel.
- Widget Series: The series as a whole is quite strange and rather British.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Synthesizer Patel!
- You Fail Biology Forever: "Almost all living things have brains. If we look inside one of these peas, we can see its tiny brain."
- You Look Familiar: Computer Jones previously appeared as the Ghost of Tchaikovsky's attendant.
- Your Head Asplode: NEVER eat moth apples.
- But...I heard they taste sweet! Why shouldn't I eat them?