What ARE birds? We just don't know
August 5, 2019 11:08 AM   Subscribe

 
Thanks, Vesihiisi. Thiisi.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:17 AM on August 5, 2019 [53 favorites]


Thanks for this! I loved this show! Imhotep does indeed have 3 oranges and Synthesizer Patel is much missed.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 11:21 AM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


this is probably my favorite thing to show to high nerds. their reactions are glorious.
posted by bagel at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2019 [6 favorites]


I work in biomedical research and showed a clip of this a while back on one of the lab's Slack channels as a joke. It took a while for some people to get that it was satire of educational programming. Popper and Serafinowicz really did nail the aesthetic and mannerisms of late 1970s Britain and television.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:25 AM on August 5, 2019 [11 favorites]


This is great. I loved this when I first stumbled upon it somewhere on the internet in the early 2000s. I think I watched the first series in a single sitting.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:28 AM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


What ARE birds? We just don't know

This is a Top 5 most frequently used catchphrase in my house. You'd be surprised at how often it seems relevant!
posted by something something at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2019 [22 favorites]


When I was in college, there was a chemistry professor who would just teach half a class, stop, announce he'd be showing a video that further explained the day's lesson and everyone should take good notes, put on "Calcium," and leave the room. I never took chemistry, so I didn't get to see the incredible confusion in the room that comes from watching it completely cold, but then everyone would go home and show it to their friends and download the whole series from the campus file-sharing network.

If you've never seen it, just watch it now with as little knowledge as possible.
posted by zachlipton at 11:31 AM on August 5, 2019 [20 favorites]


The first time we saw it, under_petticoat_rule and I stumbled upon it on TV and were unsure if it was satire or authentic. (We had a similar experience with Garth Marenghi's Darkplace – if you like this, you'll probably like that too.)

We saw the creators at an early morning panel at ComicCon in...2010? 2011? They were very high and hilarious.
posted by rednikki at 11:34 AM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am such a huge fan of this show. I often think of "Write that down in your copybook" and casserole-themed restaurants and MEDI-BOT and thanking ants. Thants.

I have the DVD of Season One, I keep hoping that Season Two will be available some day.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:38 AM on August 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


Also, if you love this, Markets of Britain is a must-see. "Here are some giant pencils. And some giant erasers, for rubbing out mistakes. We've all made mistakes. I know I have."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:41 AM on August 5, 2019 [9 favorites]


I am slightly surprised there was no mention of "Little Mouse," which was my introduction to the show.

I still can't nail down that key of S, no matter how I try.
posted by stannate at 11:47 AM on August 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Finally, the only oral history that matters.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:58 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


If you've never seen it, just watch it now with as little knowledge as possible.

I just followed this directive. Highly recommend. I'll read the article now.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:00 PM on August 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Learning of cDonald's Theorem changed my life, man. Seeing that line curving in on itself and somehow joining back at the beginning (I call it a "closed meander") just really blew my mind, man!

n^2 + 9 + 9
posted by NoMich at 12:06 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


And if you are sitting there, thinking, "I don't know, man, this show looks pretty interesting, but what it's in it for me?" Olivia Colman, that's what's in it for you
posted by NoMich at 12:09 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


I have the DVD of Season One, I keep hoping that Season Two will be available some day.

Season 2 is available on Amazon UK, if you don't mind getting a region 2 dvd.
posted by Eleven at 12:10 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have incorporated subtle Look Around You references into more than one science curricula, in hopes of making at least one teacher's day a little brighter.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:20 PM on August 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


Olivia Colman, that's what's in it for you

Although not until series 2, as I recall.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:27 PM on August 5, 2019


Yes, that is true.

For those not in the know, season 2 is radically different than season 1. Where season 1 was based on educational films, season 2 had more a 1970s variety show feel about it.
posted by NoMich at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2019


The Boîte Diabolique is one of my favorite bits ever.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:32 PM on August 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


look around you

Look around you

Look. Around. You.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:40 PM on August 5, 2019 [8 favorites]


I can’t remember who introduced me to “Look Around You.” I think it was a college housemate circa 2004-2006, though, thinking back on my friends’ senses of humor. At the time I remember thinking it was a production of the 80s/90s, based on the similarity to American educational videos of the time familiar from middle school and high school science (Don Showalter, anyone?). So, empirically, they nailed the tone. I also had no idea that Peter Serafinowicz was involved — awesome.

Clearly I need to check out Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, based on recommendations in this thread (Sorry LA Mefites who were telling me this years ago)!
posted by Alterscape at 1:41 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Look Around You is not only a classic of British TV comedy; no history of the hauntological current in British culture would be complete without it. In some ways, it is the Scarfolk of the time before 2016.

I actually was sent a copy of the DVD by the producers when it came out, as they had used an adaptation I made of the Teletext typeface in the subtitles. It's probably in my storage locker in Melbourne.
posted by acb at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2019 [13 favorites]


Oh, good GOD, the reveal of the special Slimby picture is one of my favorite moments in, well, anything

I had a hard time finding it a few months ago when I wanted it, but it seems to be back now. If you are of a nervous disposition please turn away from your television screen.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:34 PM on August 5, 2019 [11 favorites]


Olivia Colman, that's what's in it for you

To be fair she was in everything until she started winning all the big awards. After that she was in everything else too.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 2:45 PM on August 5, 2019 [9 favorites]


To be fair she was in everything until she started winning all the big awards. After that she was in everything else too.

Quality Barometer Coleman
posted by UltraMorgnus at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


I love this show so much, all these years on. In the days before streaming services I used to give discs and drives full of children's media to friends with small children, and would often receive a puzzled query later about this weird... British science show, maybe? that I'd include, because if you only saw ten seconds of it while passing through a room, it mostly looked on the level, which is completely the demented appeal of the thing. I'm waiting for my own children to be old enough to understand, and it baffles my wife, who was raised by hippy academics and in Montessori primary schools, with nearly no access to television until she was well near ten, and so is not steeped in the vernacular of crap educational programming like I.
I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the periodic table yet.
posted by MarchHare at 3:21 PM on August 5, 2019 [11 favorites]


Thants.
posted by sydnius at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2019 [5 favorites]


I am scrolling round that periodic table on my phone and cackling with laughter, cheers! So many great ones which make such a weird sense.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 4:49 PM on August 5, 2019


I've only seen a few episodes and trying to track down the rest has been very difficult. Cruelly, there's apparently a real children's show called Look Around You that Hulu thinks is the one I want.
posted by Sibrax at 4:52 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


This is one of my favorite shows, if not my very favorite. A few months ago I had some fun and taught myself how to play the little guitar riff you hear during the little countdown clock at the beginning of the first episode.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:32 PM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's funny that, given all the bizarre sight gags and ridiculous nonsense of Look Around You played completely straight, my favourite joke from the show is when they type in a BASIC program that will print 'LOOK AROUND YOU' forever in the opening titles. It's not clever, but I enjoy how deeply irresponsible it is in a way that just seems so emblematic of the period they're going for.

My second favourite is where they introduce the concept of 'maths' by having kids graffiti a mathematical equation on the wall, which has the virtue of being an actual joke.
posted by Merus at 5:34 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


Merus, that BASIC program was the first one a lot of us learned.

Brilliant show.
posted by argybarg at 5:59 PM on August 5, 2019


Thanks, zachlipton. Now I want to shout "WHERE ARE YOU?" at the milk in my fridge. Because the calcium might be sentient and hear me.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:07 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Merus, that BASIC program was the first one a lot of us learned.

That's why I enjoy it - it's close to the first basic program everyone learns, which is to print something to the screen (traditionally 'HELLO WORLD'), but making it loop like that (which is also something you'd learn very early on) means you have to either work out how to terminate the program, or turn the computer off. Either way, if you were doing it 'properly' you'd have it check for input so you can stop it gracefully.

Look Around You doesn't do anything 'properly'. It's always, to some extent, just a little bit off.
posted by Merus at 6:23 PM on August 5, 2019


This is so very exactly my sense of humor and I didn't know about it, so thank you. Also, further recommendations are imperative at this point, I think.
posted by lauranesson at 6:41 PM on August 5, 2019


Periodic Table? It's been done better, and I know... I bought the shirt.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:34 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


If you liked Look Around You, check out People Like Us:

How Bank Lending Works
Airline Pilot Intro "one of the most responsible jobs it's possible to imagine. Going wrong."
posted by fshgrl at 8:43 PM on August 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


Merus, I learned it with the endless loop. You had to know what the interrupt keystroke was. BASIC programming was that stupid.
posted by argybarg at 10:16 PM on August 5, 2019


omg omg omg
posted by Going To Maine at 10:31 PM on August 5, 2019




If you enjoy this check out the Guide to Modern Life, and the Peter Serafinowicz Show in general. Loads of clips on YT.
posted by Acey at 11:42 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I stumbled upon it on TV and were unsure if it was satire or authentic.

To those who were not obliged to sit through hours of this sort of programming as part of the British education system in the 70s and 80s - it is hard to convey just how very closely Look Around You matches to the source material it parodies: the music (courtesy of of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop if you were lucky), the clothes, the count down introductions, the RP accents, the tedium enhanced by poor editing - and above all questionable the assertion of facts - were all there for real. Remember that this was a time when content provides did not have to do better than a million Youtube competitors. They only had to out-appeal her - or that.

Sulphur - has all of this - and my laughter at it comes with a tinge of regret at having set through so many hours of the originals.
posted by rongorongo at 3:15 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]


Here is a compilation of the sort of original material being parodied. The continuity clips are left in - because everybody has a minute or so to spend listening to music while they wait for each programme to begin.
posted by rongorongo at 4:56 AM on August 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


When I click on the special "watch this in a window" button for rongorongo's find, YouTube suggests I watch "IS GLOBAL WARMING A SCAM? - David Icke | London Real" and I just don't know what to do with that. (If I go to YouTube's site my various extensions get rid of it.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:41 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


You needed a lot of lead time to corral a classroom of primary school children to their places in front of the enormous television, even in the relatively low-sugar 1970s, that's why the intermission music.

I don't know about anyone else, but my fascination with the educational and informational culture of Britain in the 1970s is completely unironic (there's a lot of it about, from Scarfolk to The Focus Group to beyond). Catch me at the wrong moment with this apparently blameless bit of light library music and I might just burst into tears. Or this less blameless bit of strangeness might get an even stronger reaction.

The other thing is Open University programming, which might have been stunningly dull (and it was), but it was actual university lecturers talking about actual, for example, higher mathematics. OU programmes I've seen over the last few years seem to be a lot friendlier, but a lot lower information.

I'm wandering, aren't I...?

My favourite LYA-related thing is Soundhog's remix of Machadaynu.

LYA is gloriously silly. I think the weirdest show would still have to be Jam, which is very, very strange and genuinely upsetting. And offensive. Please consider yourselves warned.
posted by Grangousier at 10:47 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


I note in this interview with the Look Around You creators that Robert Popper composed all the music for the show. Here - in addition to the tracks posted by Grangegousier - are some more of the original pieces:
"Lucy" BBC Schools Programme "'diamond' count down - for secondary schools content.
More Diamond Countdown Music - this was for primary schools "Sara's Tune" posibly - I believe both of these were composed by Inigo Killborn
The Free Life - Alan Parker
Children of the Forest - Johnny Pearson
The Cuckoo Calls - Leslie Pearson
Bart - Randy Ola
Tennessee Railroad - Martin Kershaw
Puppy Dogs Tails - Theme.
Guadalajara by Leonard Salzedo
Chateaux - Francis Fumiere
posted by rongorongo at 5:18 AM on August 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am so glad all this music is being posted. I am a big big big fan of library music. I used to have some KPM library albums many years ago when I was in film school, and they gave my student films that special "70s ish" vibe (along with a tinge of "this guy is clearly more concerned with the soundtrack than his direction").
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:28 AM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I immediately watched the Calcium episode, which I loved right up until the last joke--a slur against Roma people. WTF? Why? Prejudice is not fucking funny, and it wasn't any funnier 17 years ago.
posted by rikschell at 9:42 AM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I've noticed that a lot of UK TV shows frequently have more casual racism in them than American TV shows generally do, including (or especially) toward Roma people. Not defending it, at all; just pointing out context - i.e. this was originally made for UK viewers, who would likely not bat an eye at that joke then or today.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2019


Especially a lot of early 2000s shows. Lots of blackface and other horrendous stuff. I caught some episodes of Little Britain and holy shit how does Matt Lucas still have a career after something like the Ting Tong character?
posted by jason_steakums at 11:39 AM on August 7, 2019


I'd forgotten about that until I rewatched the episode, and it is indeed pretty disappointing. You could generate a sort of plausible read of why they chose to do that in a show that otherwise is pretty free of casual -isms, but speaking solely for myself I'm not interested in doing that kind of apologia here.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:24 PM on August 7, 2019


Lots of blackface and other horrendous stuff. I caught some episodes of Little Britain and holy shit how does Matt Lucas still have a career after something like the Ting Tong character?

It's even worse in their follow up series Come Fly With Me, where Lucas dons literal blackface to play an immigrant character whose main trait is devious laziness. IN 2010.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2019 [3 favorites]


I am so glad all this music is being posted. I am a big big big fan of library music
As part of my research for the music, I discovered Radio Sounds Familiar - who concentrate on exactly this kind of thing. The music they play originates from a series of (more or less impossible to find CDs).

I learn from their site that "Sara's Tune" - mentioned above in relation to the BBC Diamond, was written by David Lord.
posted by rongorongo at 11:00 PM on August 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I immediately watched the Calcium episode, which I loved right up until the last joke--a slur against Roma people. WTF? Why? Prejudice is not fucking funny, and it wasn't any funnier 17 years ago.
I watched it. It was very mildly amusing in spots, but I guess not growing up in the U. K. I'm not primed for it. As for the "slur against Roma people," I guess my slur threshold is a little higher than "never give a Gypsy calcium." Are calcium-drunk Gypsies a thing? I thought it was just random, and it would have been equally funny if you substituted Indians, Italians, or bishops of the Church of England. Which is to say, not really funny but not a slur, unless recognizing the existence of a group in a joke is automatically a slur.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:12 PM on August 9, 2019


Previously.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:10 PM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


And just to put my cards out on the table, the presence of that slur doesn't stop me from considering this one of my favourite shows and recommending it to people (albeit with slight reservation), just like the name "Gipsy Danger" doesn't stop me from considering Pacific Rim one of my favourite films of all time.

But I'm also not Roma, so I'm never going to tell anyone who feels more strongly about the word than I do that they're making too big a deal of it. It's just not for me to decide that.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:23 PM on August 9, 2019


tobasco and Gilgamesh, I think this is a much more active insult than just the presence of the word. The prejudice against Roma assumes they are all untrustworthy and the line is an implication that they’ll get up to something untoward if given something valuable. It’s reinforcing a really toxic sort of bigotry and it’s punching down in the worst way. It’s a tiny fraction of the running time, a seemingly throwaway gag that’s maybe easy for some people to ignore. But it’s also the final bit: that’s what they chose to end with. It spoiled my desire to see more. There’s plenty of good comedy I can spend my time on that doesn’t include a single racial insult.
posted by rikschell at 5:37 AM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


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