Television: Jonas Brothers channel inner Monkees

  • Article by: NEAL JUSTIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2009 - 3:20 PM

The world's most famous boy band turns in a soft-rock version of a sitcom.

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Music sensations the Jonas Brothers play fictionalized rock stars in this single camera sitcom highlighted by original music in many of the episodes.

Photo: Eric Mccandless, Disney Channel

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Gasp! Eek! OMG! It's the Jonas Brothers! On TV! Every week!!!!

"Jonas," which premieres tonight on the Disney Channel, is unlikely to trigger a mass epidemic of fainting, but it gingerly polishes the squeaky clean image of the world's most celebrated boy band, while giving the trio a chance to tap into their inner Monkees.

"We're so blessed to do this because we know we are living so many people's dreams," said Kevin, the oldest brother at the ripe age of 21, in an interview earlier this year. "The atmosphere on set is so exciting because we know the scripts are going to be amazing and fun. We're in the midst of one right now and I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life."

Those tone-deaf to the Jonas' hummable ditties and blind to their puppy-dog looks are unlikely to be converted by the sitcom, in which Kevin, Joe and Nick play pop stars struggling to lead a semi-normal life.

Tonight's episode mixes in sight gags (Velcro pants stuck to a chair), potential catch phrases ("Boom goes the dynamite!"), romance (Nick falls for an angelic schoolmate whose face could sell Ivory soap) and inside, wink-wink jokes (Nick reminds his crush that the teen magazines have dubbed him the serious one). Throw in a couple of new musical numbers, and you have correctly followed the Disney formula: safe, stupid fun.

Executive producer Michael Curtis lets slip that the original concept had the group playing spies, but during the development process, the band got too big to imagine the boys as anything but thinly veiled versions of themselves.

It's unfortunate that Curtis didn't make a stronger attempt to buck reality.

Last year's Disney movie "Camp Rock" proved that all three have acting chops, most notably Nick, who might even be capable of playing the kind of self-loathing characters that teenagers used to swoon over, back when James Dean was the epitome of cool.

But Disney's Fantasyland has no tolerance for motorcycles and cigarettes. The most rebellious thing about "Jonas" is that the family resides in vamped-out digs with fire poles, a drum set hovering over Nick's bed and an endless supply of fresh fruit.

Most of the first episode takes place at some sort of private school that appears to be devoid of teachers or even classrooms, as the students spend nearly all their time in the candy-colored hallways.

Of course, the show keeps coming back to the ultimate dream: the opportunity to share space with the Jonas Brothers. This desire is personified in the character of Macy Misa, a squealing, clothes-ripping classmate played to the hilt by Nicole Gale Anderson. As expected, the boys treat her stalker-like behavior with kid gloves. (The brothers come off as so pious that there doesn't seem to be anything remotely creepy about a 21-year-old roaming the halls of a high school.)

Chelsea Staub, who plays another classmate, relayed a story that suggests the Jonases' real-life antics are much more original and daring than anything the show might offer. One afternoon, after returning from a fitting, she discovered that everything in her dressing room -- the clothes, the hangers, even the lightbulbs -- was gone. A note telling her to immediately find the producers had her convinced that she was being fired.

"I walked on the stage shaking and terrified -- and it turned out it was all in Joe's bathroom," she said. "They got me really good."

It's that kind of naughty mischief that might make the Jonases more appealing to the cynical masses, even if it means mussing up some heavenly hair.

njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431

  • JONAS ★★ out of four stars

    When: 7 p.m. today.

    Where: Disney Channel.

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