In this weekly column, I’ll introduce you to the world of British comedy in the chronology of how I, an American anglophile, discovered it in my life. This week: Look Around You.
The great crop of British comedic voices that popped up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s are now fast becoming household names here in the states: Simon Pegg, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Chris Morris, Armando Ianucci and now Peter Serafinowicz.
American audiences might recognize Peter Serafinowicz as Fa’ad Shaoulian from the now defunct FOX series, Running Wilde. Or perhaps Sctanley, from the Vince Vaughan/Jon Favreau vehicle, Couples Retreat. Or maybe even as the voice of Darth Maul. In any case, that would be a grave disservice to Mr. Serafinowicz.
I recommend audiences go back to watch the full body of his work from the BBC and I’d start with the cult classic, Look Around You.
Written and created by Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, Look Around You debuted on BBC2 in 2002 as eight 10-minute shorts. The show paid stinging homage to the types of educational films you might be forced to watch in school during the late 70’s and early 80’s. They capture the tone of dusty, mind-numbing edu-tainment perfectly, and as one watches you can almost smell the chalk and feel the adolescent boredom in the room.
Each episode of Look Around You would tackle a topic, like germs, or water, and attempt to educate the audience in increasingly bizarre and misleading ways.
Look Around You…Water:
Series one was very funny, but in my opinion really only laid the groundwork for the second series, which was far more dynamic and hilarious. Hosted by an ensemble of very funny performers (led by Serafinowicz), Look Around You series 2 hit the airwaves in 2005 and had a much more Real People or 3-2-1 Contact vibe (for American audiences, that is). The show still tackled themes, but it was expanded to six 30-minute episodes.
When I first saw Look Around You I was absolutely bowled over with jealousy and admiration. Outside of Adult Swim, there just wasn’t a venue for a show like this in the States, and here it was, fully produced, and executed to perfection. A terrific combination of dead-pan conceit and absurdity, Look Around You was very influential on my own attempts to stay true to my creative ideas, no matter how niche or obscure.
Rap is Born!:
With his cross-over success to America, I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more from Peter Srafinowicz, but it may never be as surreal, and sublimely ridiculous as this again. (And before you all start beating me up for not recommending the Peter Serafinowicz Show, I’m covering it in a future column!)
I leave you with the classic, Little Mouse:
Curtis Gwinn is a writer and comedian living in LA. He’s written for The Onion, MTV’s Human Giant, Comedy Central and FOX Searchlight Pictures. He also co-starred in and co-wrote Fat Guy Stuck in Internet on Adult Swim.