7 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Disney Channel (available now at Disney Channel on Demand on some cable systems).
All the conditions are right for a breakout Disney show starring a trio of dangerously attractive brothers. Nick, the youngest at 16, was just photographed lunching with his ex Miley Cyrus. Flat-ironed Joe, 19, already has cut a swath through young Hollywood, dumping Taylor Swift for Camilla Belle. Even paparazzi magnet John Mayer is doing his part, romancing Scheana Marie, who plays a fantasy pizza delivery girl on the May 16 episode. Then there's the "Jonas Brothers World Tour," which kicks off in June.
All "JONAS" really has to do is be better than the hammy "Hannah Montana" -- and it is. But just barely.
The title is in all caps because it was conceived as a spy show, with the letters standing for Junior Operatives Networking as Spies. But it ended up being about teen superstars who try to live a normal life at school. (Stop me if this sounds familiar.)
Producers have name-dropped "A Hard Day's Night" and HBO's whimsical "Flight of the Conchords." But let's be honest: The high-water mark for this sort of project is "The Monkees." Let me break it down for you:
• Nick = dreamy Davy Jones.
• Joe = goofy Micky Dolenz.
• Kevin = quirky Michael Nesmith.
The "Bonus Jonas," little brother Frankie, is set to guest star on several episodes. Maybe he'll shape up to be Peter Tork-like.
On the episode I screened, Nick was the weak link -- odd, considering he's got Broadway experience. He underplays his part, which is a mistake when you're in competition with gimmicky sound effects. Nick told People magazine, "Kevin is not afraid to go over the top to get a laugh, and I am." So at least he is aware of the problem. But if he's hoping to emerge from this Faustian bargain with Disney with his dignity intact, he is in for profound disappointment.
The boys josh with each other, flirt with girls, slide down fireman poles, make dumb jokes and talk to the camera. Occasionally their rabid fans chase them and try to tear their clothes off. Occasionally the boys break into song. The amateur acting is endearing until they play a scene opposite someone with real comedic timing -- like John Ducey, who plays their dad. He puts Billy Ray Cyrus' plodding one-liners on "Hannah" to shame.
Joe, who wanted to be a comedian before he was a singer, has more fun, and Kevin, 21, is perfectly silly in the show. Kevin can be overshadowed by his hottie brothers and their sugar-buzz love lives, but he emerges as the leader on "JONAS" -- and even dares to reveal a hint of chest hair.
With time, the brothers will probably loosen up. For now, it's slightly more amusing to watch for the creative variations on private school uniforms. If the Jonases' plaid messenger bags start a trend, you'll know the show is a hit.