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Nickelodeon's Appealing New Band Show


From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

The name is "The Naked Brothers Band," but it's not a risqué gay rock group. No, that's actually the title of a new kid show starting tomorrow night on Nickelodeon. TV critic Andrew Wallenstein says there's something for everyone, including adults.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: I don't typically review children's shows. It's not that I don't try. I'll pop in a review disk every now and then and it's like sitting on top of bucking bronco. I usually bail in ten seconds or less. Their inherent silliness doesn't translate to my refined mature sensibility.

Then came "The Naked Brothers Band," a new Nickelodeon franchise, launching in the form of a 90 minute movie, equal parts cute and clever. In the spirit of Pixar movies like "The Incredibles," it has goofy charm that works for kids but has a satirical streak aimed at adults too.

The fictional band here are real life brothers Nat and Alex Wolff, jaded world famous rock stars who happen to be nine and six years old. "Naked Brothers" is a mockumentary that follows their band's dizzying ride to the top, complete with hit singles, instant fame, and of course adoring women.

See if you could recognize the voice of the famous actress in this scene pretending to be a huge fan of a band.

(Soundbite of "The Naked Brothers Band")

Ms. UMA THURMAN (Actor): (As Herself) I'm sorry. Would you mind terribly giving me an autograph? I mean for my kids.

Mr. NAT WOLFF (Actor): (As Himself) Oh, yeah. Really? It would be an honor.

Ms. THURMAN: (As Herself) Oh, great. Well, I just happened to have -

Mr. WOLFF: (As Himself) What are the kids' names?

Ms. THURMAN: (As Herself) My kids?

Mr. WOLFF: (As Himself) Yeah.

Ms. THURMAN: (As Herself) Just sign it to Uma.

WALLENSTEIN: Yup. That's Uma Thurman. She's one of many celebrities whose cameos put a surreal spin on "The Naked Brothers," including the cast of "30-Something" and Arsenio Hall. Odd choices, I know. But consider that the director is actually the Wolff boys' real mother, Polly Draper, who played Ellen on "30-Something." Acting opposite the boys on screen is their father, Michael Wolf, Arsenio's former bandleader. And don't they make a cute 1990s TV power couple.

"The Naked Brothers" is also supplemented with actual home movie footage of the boys as toddlers fooling around with musical instruments. Seems the whole concept of the show was something of a real family in-joke. And the footage lends a fevered giddiness to the whole enterprise.

Also interesting to note is that the music featured in the show was actually written and preformed by the Wolff Boys. Naturally, that gives the lyrics a juvenile air, but that's part of the joke.

Hip-hop music isn't exactly the stuff of adult sophistication. Judge for yourself with the Naked Brothers tune "Crazy Car."

(Soundbite of song, "Crazy Car")

NAKED BROTHERS BAND (Rock Band): (Singing) Crazy car, to lead me nowhere, lead me nowhere, actually, it's made for dad, made for dad.

WALLENSTEIN: I have to confess I watched the beginning of the series a month ago and that tune is still swimming around my head. Maybe that's also because there's a funny bit where "Crazy Car" is adapted into different musical genres. It's just one of the ways "Naked Brothers" seems like "Spinal Tap" for the elementary school set. But parents are also invited to the party.

(Soundbite of song, "Crazy Car")

NAKED BROTHERS BAND: (Singing) Crazy car. Crazy car. Crazy car. Crazy car. Crazy car.

BRAND: Yeah, sing it. The show is "The Naked Brothers Band." It debuts tomorrow night on Nickelodeon. Andrew Wallenstein is an editor for the Hollywood Reporter and a regular contributor to DAY TO DAY. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Wallenstein
Andrew Wallenstein is the television critic for NPR's Day to Day. He is also an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers television and digital media out of Los Angeles. Wallenstein is also the co-host of the weekly TV Guide Channel series Square Off. His essay on Holocaust films was published in Best Jewish Writing 2003 (Jossey-Bass), and he has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Business Week. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.