Apparatus, method and conclusion

Sunday, August 10, 2008 by

When Chris Addison and Armando Iannucci were enjoying huge critical acclaim with The Thick Of It, you may not have thought their next move would be to remake The Goodies – but that’s what they’re doing with Lab Rats, which Addison is starring in and writing (with Carl Cooper) and Iannucci is overseeing as Executive Producer.

I was really looking forward to this series because I think we need more family-friendly laugh-tracked silly comedy on our screens. Sadly it’s not quite there yet, with some inspired gags and genuinely funny jokes mixed with some rather iffy character development and scenes which cross the line from “silly” to “stupid”. If it reminds me of anything it’s Hippies – another much-hyped series from some big names which was enjoyable and amusing, but also chaotic and sometimes self-indulgent.

Sadly too it looks like Lab Rats is following in the footsteps of Hippies by performing quite poorly in the ratings and enduring some stinking reviews. It’s perhaps to be expected – watching Robin Ince in a silly wig running around shouting for an entire episode is something that’s always going to be an acquired taste. But I’m sticking with it, and it’d be a shame if it didn’t get a second series after this week’s episode, which if not the funniest half hour of television this year, was almost certainly the cleverest.

It revolved around the team having to stay up for seven nights in an underground lab – represented on screen by a brilliantly over-the-top Galloping Galaxies-esque set with loads of flashing lights. The entire episode was bravely done on this one set, which is something I always enjoy in sitcoms, but while there were plenty of good jokes, the absolute high point was the final scene.

At the very start of the episode, the Dean had expressed her concern that the experiment would end up as “a circus”, and at the very end, she walked into see Addison dressed as a clown, Jo Enright on a trapeze, Dan Tetsall brandishing a chair and a whip and Geoff McGivern in his pants holding up a weight. Why was Addison dressed as a clown? Because he was wearing an anti-static suit and had just been blown up by some booby-trapped biscuits. Why was McGivern in his pose? Because he’d taken his clothes off to relax and did his back in lifting up a standard lamp. Brilliantly, the final scene was the conclusion of umpteen quick references over the previous half hour, and was so well-crafted I really didn’t see it coming.

What a shame that, as can be seen, it’s virtually impossible to describe and it came so far in the series most viewers will probably have switched off long ago. But congratulations must go to Addison and Cooper for the most satisfying climax to any sitcom in ages.


One Response to “Apparatus, method and conclusion”

  1. John Hoare on September 22nd, 2008 1:11 am

    Quite right – it was bloody marvellous. Easily the best of the series – why the hell it was stuck away in the 5th episode slot is anyone’s guess.

    Does anybody know if the series has been recommissioned? It deserves it, for that episode alone.