On a different channel, one suspects there would be more talk of girls and perhaps a few puffs of smoke on a show about two 15-year-old skateboard enthusiasts. On the Disney Channel’s boy-oriented spinoff Disney XD, “Zeke and Luther” emerges as a G-rated but still goofy, good-spirited affair — a sort of cleaned-up, live-action “Beavis and Butt-head.” Nostalgia for classic sitcoms is often misplaced, but this one does have a latter-day “Leave It to Beaver” quality, albeit without any meddlesome parents to muck up the fun.
Indeed, almost in the manner of a Charlie Brown cartoon, parents simply don’t exist in the three episodes previewed, though there are adults in the form of cranky neighbors or, in the premiere, a fast-talking mattress peddler. Mostly, there’s Zeke (Hutch Dano), whom Disney doubtless hopes will be its next (and initially much cheaper) Zac Efron; and Luther (Adam Hicks), his equally skateboard-obsessed pal, whose intelligence rates just above the level of low-grade moron.
In the first episode, the two are offered money to perform acts of skateboarding derring-do to drive traffic to the aforementioned mattress store, but unleashing their idiocy in a hotel room nearly costs them the gig. Without giving too much away, it’s been a long time (“The Seven Year Itch” comes to mind) since I’ve seen the toe-stuck-in-bathtub-faucet routine, and it’s still pretty funny.
Zeke and Luther’s narrow world is occupied by rival Kojo (Daniel Curtis Lee) and Zeke’s 12-year-old sister Ginger (Ryan Newman), who happens to be the brains in the outfit. As for the title duo, they do perfectly silly things like waste hours playing Rock Paper Scissors or visit Luther’s nana in the retirement home not so much out of goodwill but because wheelchair ramps are perfect for skateboarding.
The show was created by Tom Burkhard and Matt Dearborn (“Even Stevens”), and its genial stupidity isn’t particularly self-conscious, though at one point Zeke does note that in children’s TV, “Lying always comes back to bite you in the butt.”
Most refreshingly, and unlike much of what’s currently programmed for kids, the series doesn’t condescend to its youthful audience. And it manages to feel reasonably irreverent without resorting to any material that might make a real-world parent wince.
Truth be told, if not for those modern-day helmets that thwart Darwinian selection, Zeke and Luther are the kind of kids who probably wouldn’t survive long enough to dilute the gene pool. But for now, anyway, watching them skate through life makes for amiable company.