18 July 2008 | rosti-4
A Comedy Experiment Gone Wrong
'Lab Rats' is a new BBC show which started a little over a week ago in the middle of BBC2's "Thursdays Are Funny" evening schedule. I actually had reasonably high hopes for the show, as it sits on the schedule after 'Mock The Week', which is possibly the funniest thing on television right now, and before the superb 'Still Game'. I was hoping that it'd fit into the slot between the shows to create a superb evening of solid comedy. The trailer put the show in good light, and I was somewhat looking forward to it, thinking that it'd replace the now-finished 'Big Bang Theory' as my source of nerd-based comedy each week.
As you've probably guessed by now, it didn't do that at all. There's only been two episodes out of the six-episode series so far, but as of yet it's pretty dire. If it was any worse it'd be so bad that it'd actually be funny, but unfortunately it's stopped just short of that mark in the zone where it is actually just rubbish. Its main problem is that it isn't actually funny. There's no actual comedic substance to the show, and it doesn't try and substitute anything else for it either. There's no superb story to make up for the lack of laughs. The jokes feel reasonably forced, and the one-liners are generally pretty generic and witless. Pretty much the entire premise for the comedy resolves around the absurdity and stupidity of the characters. Firstly, it doesn't really work in a laboratory setting, where one of them is supposedly a Nobel prizewinner. Secondly, it just tends to cheapen everything to being silly, rather than funny. Stupid characters can work to reach brilliant heights in comedy (Father Ted's Dougal and Blackadder's Baldrick, to name two brilliant examples) but when every single character aside from the main one is eccentric and ditsy, it wears thin a little. The formula of having every character being mentally dysfunctional can work, as in 'The IT Crowd', but this show just doesn't seem to have the strength to pull it off in the same way. The IT Crowd is stupid and daft, but in a witty and surreal way that actually does result in a fair few laughs. Lab Rats, on the other hand, is just not written to the same standard.
Something else that really does irritate me about this show as well is the canned laughter. I generally dislike it in shows, but when there are so few actual laughs as in this one, it's almost like it's mocking you. To have the sound of laughter ringing through your ears when watching something that is just not funny is a torment. Sometimes there's laughter at a point where I can't even see how it could be funny. It's like they felt they had a bit of a gap in terms of the audio, so just threw a few laughs in there to fill the space. This show does occasionally have a few moments where it will raise a smile, or perhaps even a slight chuckle, but the fact remains that they are definitely few and far between. I'd suggest to anyone that they should watch 'Mock The Week' and 'Still Game', but they should definitely find something else to occupy the half hour in between. Even if it's just watching their lawn growing. It's not like shows such as 'Catherine Tate', or 'Little Britain', where I can at least see that there's humour there which is just a different flavour to what I would prefer and therefore I don't enjoy it that much. It's actually just a complete lack of any substantial humour whatsoever.
Thursdays on BBC2 is usually a haven for excellent comedy like Mock The Week, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, The Mighty Boosh and That Mitchell & Webb Look, and Lab Rats just doesn't come close to that calibre of TV show. Heck, I wouldn't even place it amongst the shows of lesser stature on BBC3, because it's still letting the side down. Like 'Supernova' (the space one with Rob Brydon) I have no idea why this show got commissioned, and given an instant prime-time BBC2 slot, when far better shows have had to spend months on BBC3 before being promoted to the main channels. Hopefully the people responsible will realise their mistake and won't allow a second series. Or they'll be fired. Either will satisfy me. As a short summary for the article, if you couldn't be bothered reading it all: don't watch it. It's completely rubbish and isn't worth your time.