Reviewed! ‘Fail Lab’ Is a Winner

/ Oct 29, 2013


We rated it





If you’ve watched the films of Quentin Tarantino then you’ve seen the director’s visual aesthetic shining through every shot. Tarantino, growing up a compulsive martial arts and pulp movie fanatic, infuses the ultra violent, low-fi feeling of those genres into each one of his films. It’s his visual (and auditory) stamp. The combination of elements that make Tarantino films undeniably his and his alone.

Patrick Scott, creator, director, and editor of TestTube’s newest series “Fail Lab,” has the same sense of visual consistency as Tarantino, or Anderson, or Kubrick. Scott, if you’ve ever heard him speak or even watched his various web shorts, is an animal. Not like keg-standing, fist-pumping animal though, the director is literally obsessed with humans walking the line between civilized and feral. It burns behind every video Scott has ever done. He’s fascinated by the barriers that separate us from brutal primates and rabid dogs. It’s with this in mind that one must approach watching “Fail Lab.”

Each episode, “Fail Lab” examines a popular web video in which someone typically ends both physically and mentally hurt, and examines it through the lens of pure science. Hosted by molecular neuroscience PhD candidate Crystal Dilworth, “Fail Lab” invites a variety of really, really smart people to talk about the “why” behind fail videos. In most cases, Dilworth and her guest genius make a convincing case for why a young man thought it would be a good idea to try a backflip in front of a group of girls. As it turns out, the young man’s brain is not fully-formed (literally), thus he cannot predict that said backflip will end in an amazing faceplant.

It’s a brilliant premise that few — if any — web shows have bothered to come up with. In the modern web landscape, talking about fail videos goes like this: Show fail video, make lame joke about fail video, collect money. Scott and TestTube, however, are analyzing these videos on a much deeper level, which in itself is admirable.

If “Fail Lab” trips in one department, it’s in Scott’s aforementioned visual stamp. Again, Scott directs and edits on a level that is meant to evoke a visceral reaction from viewers, which in the context of a science show can be jarring. When everything is staged like some Roman bacchanal, its hard to concentrate on the hard science being detailed in each episode. We understand that Scott is trying to keep things lively, but some level of restraint must to be used.

For its slight missteps, “Fail Lab” is beautiful in its production. This is a series on par with traditional cable TV science shows like “MythBusters” (which also airs on a Discovery-owned channel). It’s unique and completely immersing. Sure, Scott does make it a little weird at times, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from diving into this innovative series.

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