TV Preview

'Naked Brothers,' Ready for Much More Exposure

Nat, left, and Alex Wolff rocked (and charmed) their way to a TV series.
Nat, left, and Alex Wolff rocked (and charmed) their way to a TV series. (Nickelodeon)
By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 3, 2007

You're two preteen brothers who play in a band with your friends, act goofy, wrestle with each other and generally do anything to be the center of attention. A good life, it is.

Then your mom (who happens to be an actress) decides to turn your little universe into a mock documentary. She lets your best friends be in it, gets some of her famous friends to make cameo appearances, shows it at a film festival . . . and Nickelodeon gets a look and decides you need your very own television series. Next thing you know, you're at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks-Lakers game and kids are lining up to get your autograph, and girls are shrieking your name when you make a trip to the little boys' room.

Oh, and did we mention that, in the show, you get to play rock stars?

Ahhhh, now that's a great life.

Such is the existence of Alex (9) and Nat (12) Wolff, the self-named "naked brothers" of Nickelodeon's new series "The Naked Brothers Band," which conflates the real lives of the two budding musicians and the superstar stratosphere -- and does so with such a blurry mix of truth and fiction that it's almost impossible to know whether the boys are playing roles or simply being their own irrepressible selves.

Which is exactly the point.

"This is kind of the ultimate kids' fantasy come true -- it's about real kids who can become rock stars," says Tom Ascheim, executive vice president and general manager of Nickelodeon. "We fell in love with it . . . and the fact that these guys are real musicians really lets [the viewers] believe that 'this could be me.' "

The project is the brainchild of Polly Draper (a.k.a. mom), who is best known for her turn as Ellyn Warren in the popular television series "thirtysomething." She produces, writes, frequently directs . . . and makes sure the homework still gets done. Dad, an accomplished jazz musician named Michael Wolff, produces the music and plays against type as the boys' musically inept single father, who is constantly begging to sit in with the band. (And also makes sure the homework gets done).

But in the end, it's all about the boys, who are cute and funny and, to quote Ascheim, "obscenely charismatic." They're also not afraid to be filmed in their boxer shorts. (No, they're never actually naked, of course. The band's name comes from a moment years ago when the two got out of the bathtub and decided on the nickname.)

"The doing of this was very haphazard," Draper says by phone from the family's Manhattan apartment. "It was all 'Let's all do a play in the barn' kind of thing. . . . The boys have definitely always been amazing performers, in reality and in fantasy. They've performed in the I-don't-want-to-do-my-homework-because-I'm-sick arena, and they've performed in the music arena."

Nickelodeon execs fell in love with the boys -- and the feedback Nickelodeon got when it market-tested the film. (To set the stage for the series, which debuts tonight, the cable network aired the "documentary" four times last weekend, garnering a total audience of 14 million viewers.)

"Naked Brothers" gets part of its appeal from swirling a reality-television feel into a totally scripted show. The boys, Draper says, are exactly like themselves, and scenes come from things she observed in her household.

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