They are brothers, one with health issues and a passion for outer space; the other naturally athletic and social-minded. One is always at odds with his fiercely determined mother. One grows up to be the president of the United States.
Their names are Jack and Bobby, the leading characters of a new dramatic series on the WB. They live in fictional Hart, Mo., not Hyannis Port, Mass. While the show's title may automatically summon memories of political brothers past, the boys have the surname McCallister, not Kennedy.
"Obviously we are not making a literal reference to the Kennedys," said Vanessa Taylor, one of the show's creators and co-executive producers. "We are trying to evoke a time when people were hopeful about democracy, about seeing better times. This is a show about a family that delves into the dynamics between brothers, and that is something you don't see much of on TV."
The show -- starring Matt Long as Jack, Logan Lerman as Bobby and Christine Lahti as their mother, Grace -- shuttles between events of the present day and those 40 years from now. Documentary-style interviews take watchers four decades into the future, where those who worked with or knew President McCallister reveal interesting tidbits about his administration and personality.
In the pilot espisode, interviewees include his former vice-president and the former first lady -- who also is seen in the present day as a new classmate of Jack's and a helpful friend to Bobby.
The seed of inspiration for the show is rooted in a political campaign -- that of Bill Clinton.
Steve Cohen, one of the show's creators, had worked on a Clinton campaign, and spent time driving around Hope, Ark., the former president's boyhood hometown.
"He thought, wouldn't it have been interesting if you could have been in Hope and watched [Clinton] grow up," said Taylor, who wrote the pilot episode. "My first reaction was that it is a brilliant concept and there are endless stories you can tell given the structure of this show."
In the first episode, Grace, a temperamental college professor who smokes pot, clashes with 17-year-old Jack over the purchase of a TV set that is to be a present for his brother. Later, when 12-year-old Bobby takes some of his mother's marijuana to school to impress a bully, Grace blames Jack for his brother's misdeed.
"We often see the teenage side of hurt and rejection, but Grace is just as hurt and rejected as Jack is," said Lahti, the real-life mother of a 16-year-old. "They are both so seemingly hurt and angry, and there's so much miscommunication. I think she is just incapable of taking the high road and being a grown-up."
Lahti called her character "obsessed by the Kennedys. She was so moved by those Kennedy brothers and what they stood for, and she wants not only others but her own boys to think of that. That is why she perpetuated the lie and tells her sons, and everyone, that they were named after the Kennedys."
Grace also lies to the boys about their absent father, who they believe is dead but is, in fact, in Mexico.
Jack and Bobby are seen in present-day situations as they struggle with school as well as with their mother, who is as overprotective of Bobby as she is at odds with Jack.
Their interactions with each other, and with other characters, do not hint at a political future for either boy.
Thomas Schlamme, one of the show's executive producers and Lahti's real-life husband, described "Jack & Bobby" to a summer gathering of television critics.
"To me, this show is really about watching this child become the visionary that he becomes through all of the things that either help him or hinder him," he said.
"The audience is way ahead of the characters, which is a fun thing," Schlamme added.
Taylor said that while the show will probably not "rip from the headlines," it may look at timely issues, such as gay marriage.
"We'll explore topics in the lives of teenagers," she said. "In a basic sense, we wanted it to be contemporary. Somewhere out there right now, there is a boy growing up who will become president."
Other characters from the McCallisters' early and later lives will appear in future episodes to reflect on events that shaped the way the brothers grew up, as well as a president's path to the White House. But President McCallister himself is unlikely to be seen.
"We may hear his voice, but at this point we do not have any intention to show him," Taylor said. "We'd rather hear from the people around him, leave a little more mystery."
By the pilot's end, some of the show's mysteries have been solved. The interviews reveal the fate of the brother who does not become president -- and name the one who does.
"The documentary is a complicated part of the series," Taylor said. "We tell compelling stories in the present and we are asking people to stop and think about the future. We try to do it delicately and sparingly, but it informs everything in the present, so if you are able to hang on and get used to it, you will be entertained."
Lahti said knowing the outcome of the McCallisters' lives gives the show more depth.
"I love the idea that this most thoughtful, brilliant president -- who restored hope to our country and the world -- has a challenging and dysfunctional upbringing. That in itself gives us hope."
Jack & Bobby
Sundays at 9 p.m. on the WB