Lab Rats

Just because you're making a show for kids doesn't spare producers from needing to exhibit basic elements of coherence, which would be where Disney XD's latest live-action experiment, "Lab Rats," entirely implodes.

Chase - Billy Unger
Adam - Spencer Boldman
Bree - Kelli Berglund
Leo - Tyrel Jackson
Williams Davenport - Hal Sparks

Just because you’re making a show for kids doesn’t spare producers from needing to exhibit basic elements of coherence, which would be where Disney XD’s latest live-action experiment, “Lab Rats,” entirely implodes. A sitcom built around a kid who discovers his stepdad created a trio of bionic teenage siblings, the show labors under groaning one-liners and such a broad tone as to completely undermine any human aspect. Even kids drawn to the premise should quickly demand an exit from this dead-end maze.

While the one-hour pilot (the series will normally be a half-hour) features too many lapses in logic to fully address them all in a single review, two fundamental to the premise help capture its absurdities: Young Leo (Tyrel Jackson Williams) moves into the house of his new billionaire inventor stepfather, Davenport (Hal Sparks), having never previously seen it; and the kid almost instantly stumbles on a super-secret facility housing three super-powered teens, bred from birth to have extraordinary abilities and carry out dangerous missions.

A nerdy kid, Leo adopts the trio (played by Billy Unger, Spencer Boldman and Kelli Berglund) and endeavors to win them a more normal life, much to Davenport’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Leo’s mom (Angel Parker) seems only mildly nonplussed about this turn of events, which is just as well, since she has less dimension than the snarky talking computer who serves as Davenport’s alter ego.

Sparks — a comic whose acting resume includes “Queer as Folk” — is actually a pretty funny guy, and seeing him here almost makes one wonder if he lost a bet. Either way, the series — created by “That ’70s Show” alums Chris Peterson and Bryan Moore — takes such a headlong leap into its improbable, poorly explained formula as to create an impression the hope wasthe idea of “kids with superpowers” would sell the show strictly on its own.

Of course, look a little closer — even without the heat vision or super-senses of the teen trio — and there’s actually something creepy about the whole exercise, what with kids being raised like test subjects in “biologically regulated atmospheric chambers” and held sequestered from the world when they yearn to be a part of it.

Maybe that’ll be the darker, back-to-the-drawing-board version for someone like sibling ABC Family down the road, but for now, “Lab Rats” represents a badly failed trial.

Popular on Variety

Lab Rats

Disney XD, Mon. Feb. 27, 8:30 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by It's a Laugh Prods. Executive producers, Chris Peterson, Bryan Moore, Mark Brazill; co-executive producers, Gigi McCreery, Perry Rein; supervising producer, Ron Rappaport; producers, Pixie Wespiser, Greg A. Hampton; director, Victor Gonzalez; writers, Peterson, Moore.

Crew: Camera, Johnny Simmons, Rick F. Gunter; production designer, Garvin Eddy; editors, Cole Kennedy, Chris Harvey; music, Bert Selen; casting, Howard Meltzer, Carol Goldwasser. 60 MIN.

Cast: Chase - Billy Unger
Adam - Spencer Boldman
Bree - Kelli Berglund
Leo - Tyrel Jackson
Williams Davenport - Hal SparksWith: Angel Parker.

More TV

  • Sean Spicer Emmys

    Sean Spicer's Casting Explained? Red States Love 'Dancing With the Stars'

    ABC faced backlash this week after casting former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.” But that outrage might actually spice up the dancing competition’s dwindling ratings — particularly in Trump Country. “Dancing with the Stars” has faced a relatively alarming decline in ratings over the past two cycles, falling 32% [...]

  • Peppa Pig

    Hasbro Acquires Entertainment One in $4 Billion All-Cash Deal

    Toymaker Hasbro is acquiring studio Entertainment One in an all-cash transaction valued at $4 billion, bringing My Little Pony and Nerf under the same umbrella as “Peppa Pig” and “PJ Masks” and furthering Hasbro’s growth goals in the infant and preschool categories. Hasbro aims to expand its operations in film and TV. Entertainment One’s production [...]

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar

    'Other People's Houses' Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar in the Works at Fox

    Sarah Michelle Gellar is looking to reunite with “Ringer” creators Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder on a dramedy co-produced by Fox Entertainment and UTV. Fox is developing “Other People’s Houses,” Variety has learned, and has given the project a script commitment. Charmelo and Snyder will write and executive produce, while Neil Meron, Sarah Michelle Gellar [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • Jamie-Lynn Sigler'Woke Up This Morning: The

    ‘Sopranos’ Cast Members to Present at VMAs in New Jersey

    The VMAs will reunite “Sopranos” castmates for the big awards show happening Monday night in Newark, New Jersey — right next door to America’s favorite crime family.  Drea De Matteo (who played the mobster girlfriend-turned F.B.I. informant Adriana La Cerva), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (who played Tony Soprano’s precocious daughter Meadow Soprano) and Vincent Pastore (who played [...]

  • The L Word

    'The L Word: Generation Q' Teaser Unites Original Cast, New Characters

    Showtime has released the first look at the next generation of “The L Word” and its new cast including Rosanny Zayas, Jacqueline Toboni, Sepideh Moafi, Arienne Mandi, and Micah Lee. Along with some of the original cast, including Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, and Katherine Moennig, the series sequel picks up where its creator Ilene Chaiken [...]

  • ACCESS HOLLYWOOD -- Season: 24 --

    'Access Hollywood' Franchise Adds New Half-Hour Show

    After a spate of recent layoffs and the departure of host Natalie Morales, “Access Hollywood” is extending its brand with a new half-hour series. “All Access,” premiering Sept. 9, will take an in-depth look into the national headlines and look to uncover the real-life drama occurring in everyday places, exploring a blend of true crime [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content