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TV Series Review

Eleven going on 21. That's the easiest way to describe the ensemble cast of Nickelodeon's The Naked Brothers Band, a sitcom/mockumentary about two real-life sibs and a handful of musical peers who take their popular show on the road. Imagine a post-MTV Partridge Family-meets-Little Rascals dynamic that (like most Nick series) keeps every clueless adult hopping around like an organ-grinder's monkey. The good news: No one gets completely naked.

These children do, however, obsess over the opposite sex, which may encourage young viewers to do the same. Sensitive older brother Nat—the lyricist and lead singer—is a girl magnet, a preteen Davy Jones (the Monkee , not the pirate) pursued by hordes of giggling fans. The only cutie he can't woo is the one he pines over, the band's lone female member, Rosalina. Meanwhile, Nat's 8-year-old brother Alex (the group's rebellious, do-ragged drummer) has eyes for their traveling babysitter, a tattooed 21-year-old partial to immodest fashions.

The show is produced, directed and often written by the boys' mother, Polly Draper. Their dad, Michael Wolff, plays the pair's only onscreen parent, a clownish accordian player more childlike than the band's bespectacled 11-year-old manager. Talk about role reversal. Top to bottom, this is a kid-empowerment fantasy that Draper considers a novel approach to home movies.

"The Naked Brothers Band was born purely from the imagination of my kids. As a mom, first and foremost, I knew I had to document this time in their lives," she said. "I knew immediately I wanted Nickelodeon to be the home for The Naked Brothers Band because they're bold enough to try something as authentic, real-kid as this is, and this experience has been a dream come true for my whole family!"

One parent's dream may be another's nightmare, especially if you're not a big fan of crass put-downs and bodily function jokes. A recent episode found Nat desperate to top his little brother's flatulence humor ("My farts are so much funnier"), only to learn from comedian George Lopez the power of an off-color insult ("You can always count on 'butt-face' getting a laugh"). Where's the don't-try-this-at-home disclaimer when you need one?

Despite airing during the TEENick programming block, Naked Brothers Band clearly targets a preadolescent fan base, as do its advertisers and shrill, hooky pop songs, such as "Crazy Car" and "Fishing for Love." Pure bubblegum. In fact, among 6- to 11-year-olds, Naked Brothers Band was the cable network's highest-rated series premiere in the past seven years. The problem areas won't be a big deal for older teens. But frankly, it's hard to imagine anyone watching this show who's mature enough to wade through it's questionable preoccupations.

Episodes Reviewed: Feb. 25, Mar. 4, 12, May 20, 2007

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Bob Smithouser

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