By Barb Oates
The Monkees meets Flight of the Conchords? That’s how Disney Channel president Gary Marsh is describing its latest venture with the Jonas Brothers – a scripted comedy series titled JONAS, premiering Saturdays, beginning May 2.
“What we’ve tried to do with JONAS is create a fusion of a sitcom and a music video and use original Jonas Brothers songs as the foundation to glue it together,” Marsh says.
A format that should satisfy their tween demographic, despite the Jonases’ disappointing run at the box office earlier this year with Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. When it comes to TV, however, Disney viewers have faithfully followed the talented trio, with the short-form reality series Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream and last summer’s Camp Rock (the brothers’ first original movie) topping Nielsen ratings.
Their fictional comedy series finds them starring as Kevin, Joe and Nick … Lucas, who live in a converted New Jersey firehouse on Jonas Street. The brothers happen to be the world’s most popular rock band, JONAS, who try to balance ardent fans following their every move with everyday school life at their private academy.
“The band is called JONAS because the converted firehouse they live in is on Jonas Street, and so that’s what they named the band after,” said Michael Curtis, executive producer (Curtis’ credits include executive producer and writer for Friends). “We wanted there to be some sort of break between actual reality and the show that we’re doing, so they came up with a different last name. I don’t think we’ve used it once in 14 episodes.”
Balancing average teen problems with being chart-topping superstars provides plenty of absurd storylines, from re-creating the family’s destroyed home movie collection and meeting the Queen of England to everyday tasks like taking out the trash with a mob of hysterical fans awaiting. The series incorporates a bit of the Jonas Brothers’ personal style and home life as well.
“There’s an episode where we go through all our home movies, so I think there’s a lot of personal Jonas Brothers stuff in there,” says costar Chelsea Staub. “The firehouse is filled with real pictures of the boys when they were little, and there’s home videos from when the boys were babies, and me – you know – that stuff that you always hope will end up on national television.”
The 21-episode series also stars the “bonus Jonas” – the Jonas Brothers’ 8-year-old brother Frankie.
“He surprises us every day – how well he does,” says Joe Jonas. “It’s a lot of fun. We’re so used to doing music that this gives us a great opportunity to have acting and music involved. Going into it, we were pretty nervous. We weren’t sure how we would do. We did Camp Rock, but doing a television series, we didn’t know exactly how it would roll out. It’s been a lot of fun and a great opportunity so far.”
Obviously, the premise mirrors somewhat the Jonases’ reality – living the dream while trying to maintain some sort of normalcy. “We’re just like normal guys,” says Kevin Jonas. “We like to hang out. We go shopping. We hang out with friends. We go see movies. But we just work a lot at the same time, but we love it.”
As with anyone in the limelight, it’s your friends who help keep you grounded. Staub (Minutemen) stars as the brothers’ childhood friend and fashionista Stella Malone, who takes a special interest in making sure they look and act their best. Also among their group is their self-proclaimed No. 1 fan Macy (Nicole Anderson). In real life, the brothers rely on family and friends to do the same.
“I think we consider ourselves normal guys who are doing our best every day to make our mom proud, and that’s what we’ve been saying from the beginning,” says Nick. “Live like you’re at the bottom even if you’re at the top. For us, that just means ‘stay humble and do your best every day.’ We’re not saying we’re perfect. Nobody’s perfect, but we’re doing our best.”
© 2008 Disney Enterprises, Inc. Credit: Jaimie Trueblood