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.