12 July, 2008

What the Papers Say: "Lab Rats"


Robert Hanks, The Independent


Lab Rats also seems ambivalent in its attitude to nerdishness. A comedy about scientists co-written by and starring Chris Addison, whose radio series, The Ape That Got Lucky, was remarkable for its combination of very silly jokes and rather well-researched evolutionary theory. The cast, including Geoffrey McGivern (the original Ford Prefect in The Hitchhiker's Guide), is good. The plot of last night's episode was pleasantly absurdist, the jokes were commendably odd and wide-ranging. Subjects included chocolate, snails (on living in shells: "Imagine that: sitting in there all day, listening to the sound of the sea"), and a Russian scientist called Dr Kyrtistyges (pron. "Curtis Stigers"), who had a colleague called Dr Bylirasyris (pron. "Billy Rae Cyrus"). Somehow, though, it didn't quite gel, largely because of the studio audience, whose laughter, as so often, slowed things down and underlined jokes that needed to be thrown away. It may be, too, that the cast is a little too large, so that the stories lack a focus (compare the similar but funnier The IT Crowd, with only three regulars and a couple of frequent walk-ons). Worth giving it a week or two, though.

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Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

Unlike, I am most awfully sorry to say, Lab Rats (BBC2), a new sitcom written by Carl Cooper and Chris Addison, and starring the latter as Dr Beenyman, one of a group of workers in a university research laboratory. Buried amid the kind of stuff that would barely have passed muster in the 70s (does Dr Beenyman's pink coat make him look gay? No - his hair does! How has daft Cara managed to get through life without a piano falling on her head? "I haven't!") are signs of both comedy and intelligence, but when all the jokes are spatchcocked into a wafer-thin plot that veers uncertainly between reality and surreality, this particular experiment can only be deemed a failure.

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Tim Teeman, The Times

Lab Rats is a truly appalling new sit-com. The characters – geeks who work in a lab – are not even colourful enough to be stereotypes. Chris Addison, star and co-writer, is a man transformed (all for the bad) from his winning performance in The Thick of It as the wry chief geek. Bad puns, redundant characters, lame jokes (about twenty involving “gay hair”) – and yes it really did end with a huge, rampaging snail. Not even the best surgeon in the land could save this.

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James Walton, Daily Telegraph

BBC2’s new series, Lab Rats seems to be further evidence that the sitcom tide is turning from the dark comedy of embarrassment to something lighter, dafter and more traditional.

Co-written by and starring Chris Addison (­The Thick of It), it features an unlikely group of research scientists, led by a Nobel-Prize winner whose main interest appears to be chocolate. There’s also a Dean who’s foreign and therefore funny; a Brummie who spectacularly fulfils the conventional sitcom role of The Stupid One; and Addison himself whose job is to look around at his mad colleagues and be good-naturedly exasperated. And, as it turned out, yesterday’s plot was no more sternly realistic than the characterisation – what with the team having 24 hours to perfect human cloning, but only succeeding in creating a six-foot snail.

Given that Lab Rats scrupulously observes that other traditional sitcom convention whereby a bad joke is preferable to none at all, it’s not surprising that the show is distinctly patchy. Still, there were some pretty good running gags last night (many of them starring an amusing Russian) – and the whole thing also manages the useful trick of being extremely likeable. As a result, even when it’s at its lamest, you somehow can’t help wishing it well.

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Official site

Chris Addison interview

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