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"Jonas": Volume 1 - Rockin' the House DVD Review

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Show & DVD Details

Creators/Executive Producers: Michael Curtis, Roger S.H. Schulman

Writers: Ivan Menchell, Heather MacGillvray, Linda Mathious, Kevin Kopelow, Heath Seifert / Directors: Paul Hoen, Jerry Levine, Linda Mendoza

Cast: Kevin Jonas (Kevin Lucas), Joe Jonas (Joe Lucas), Nick Jonas (Nick Lucas), Chelsea Staub (Stella Malone), Nicole Anderson (Macy Misa), John Ducey (Tom Lucas)

Recurring Characters: Frankie Jonas (Frankie Lucas), Rebecca Creskoff (Sandy Lucas), Bridgit Mendler (Penny) / Notable Guest Stars: Derek DuChesne (Jimmy), Scheana Marie (Maria), Nate Hartley (Carl), Rif Hutton (Malcolm Meckle)

Running Time: 113 minutes (5 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Originally aired May 2 - June 14, 2009
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / DVD Release Date: September 22, 2009
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By Aaron Wallace

Singers they sort of are, actors they are not. Still, in the three years since their debut album hit shelves, the Jonas Brothers have become the kind of pop sensations that attract multi-platform media attention. Accordingly, their fast-rising empire now includes a television series: "Jonas", the latest Disney Channel Original Series to put the spotlight on undertalented youth.

Like "Hannah Montana" before it, "Jonas" is a sitcom about a fictional music act with a barely distinguishable real world counterpart. Nick, Kevin, and Joe Jonas play Nick, Kevin, and Joe Lucas, three fictional -- and it's very important that you understand they are fictional -- brothers who comprise a world-famous band that inexplicably goes by the name of JONAS. Like all international rock stars, the Lucas/Jonases (henceforth referred to as the Lonases) attend regular school with the non-famous plebs and routinely perform local gigs for small crowds consisting of family and friends.

The opening title sequence for "Jonas" is basically a mini-music video featuring the Jonas Brothers' theme song, "Live to Party." Even when not wearing one, Kevin Jonas (left) is never very far away from a vest.

Through it all, the brothers flirt, date, and sing. Whereas "Hannah Montana" plays on preteen girls' fantasies of fame, "Jonas" plays on their fantasy of dating a Lonas. (Of course, if they really were Hannah Montana, they'd already have dated and been dumped by one, only to write a tell-all book and then reconcile via a mediocre duet on his next album).
In the style of "Flight of the Conchords" (or, in a more appropriate but less contemporary comparison, "The Monkees"), "Jonas" never hesitates to randomly break from story to song, many episodes serving up original entries into the timeless canon of Jonas Brothers masterpieces.

Surprisingly, "Jonas" hasn't been the hit Disney had hoped it would be. The series premiered to solid but unremarkable numbers, taking a sharp dive the next week. Even more surprising than the lukewarm reception, however, is the fact that the band members agreed to do the show in the first place. While Team Cyrus is clearly trying to move Miley away from "Hannah Montana" through a series of Top 40-friendly singles and implicitly incestuous photography, the Brothers Jonas seem to be stepping backwards with a cable show that will keep their current demographic thriving but do little to expand it. Then again, the Brothers also thought it was a good idea for Joe Jonas to strap on a black leotard and do the "Single Ladies" dance, so I think it's safe to say their judgment is questionable.

The show's most immediately observable trait is its use of the single-camera format. Gone -- at least for regularly scheduled half-hour stretches -- are the bright colors, cheap digital video, and out-of-control laugh tracks that have plagued Disney Channel for too long. With "Jonas", the network steps into the contemporary realm of TV comedy, where a more sleek and subdued style is all the rage. That's a shift in the right direction -- the only problem is that "Jonas" retains the flimsy, generic plots and the goofy, unimpressive acting that defines the majority of Disney Channel programming. The result is an uncomfortable contrast between style and tone.

Stella Malone (Chelsea Staub) is the band's schoolmate, friend, costume designer, and chief rival in metro fashion competitions. In what is likely an unintentional commentary on the Jonas Brothers' audience, their biggest fan in the show is Macy Misa (Nicole Anderson), an unstable and undiscerning young lass who will get her hands on as much Jonas output as she can.

As rock musicians, the Jonas Brothers have demonstrated real potential -- potential they frequently squash with yelping vocals and cookie cutter kiddie songs. There are exceptions to the rule, though, and several of the band's tunes have not only made it big in the mainstream, they've caught critical favor too. Those songs aren't bad. You won't find those songs in "Jonas". Instead, you'll find silly (and I'm assuming hastily written) songs about pizza and the like. Granted, these aren't intended for radio release and they're in keeping with the spirit of the show, but they're also pretty forgettable.

All that said, "Jonas" is still one of the better shows in production for Disney Channel. With "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" gone and replaced by the vastly inferior "The Suite Life on Deck", "Jonas" rises to the top of the pack almost by default. Ultimately, the show is both innocuous and diverting, despite the absurdity of its premise. Occasionally, it's even laugh-out-loud funny. If you want to check out one show from the network, this would be the one to try. Of course, new episodes air on Saturday nights, and if there's one night of the week you're eager to plop down in front of the Disney Channel for a half-hour, I'm betting Saturday isn't it.

If a less depressing weeknight viewing is more your style, and worth your money, then you might want to consider the series' debut DVD release: Volume 1 - Rockin' the House. The single disc contains five episodes (about a third of the show's current run, nearly in chronological order but strangely missing one in the middle) plus two currently unaired bonus episodes, all of which are profiled below.

Not only do the Jonases play guitar, sing, and act -- they cook too, and with pretty comparable results. Oh no! Nick's got the love bug! JoBros before JoHos, man. Don't worry, Kevin and Joe are on the way to interrupt his game.

1. Groovy Movies (22:33) (Originally aired May 9, 2009)
After a ridiculous attempt at cooking results in the Lonases melting their family's home movies (how many of this show's viewers will even recognize a VHS?),
Jonas Brothers band poster Jonas TV show poster Jonas Brothers: 3D Concert Experience
Jonas TV show horizontal posterJonas Brothers band horizontal poster
Kevin Jonas stares dreamily...in a pure way Joe Jonas hugs himself...in a pure way Nick Jonas looks off into the distance... in a pure way
Check out more Jonas Brothers posters and pics
they decide to reenact those memories and film them as a gift for their mom.

2. Wrong Song (22:33) (Originally aired May 2, 2009)
Nick falls hard for a girl at school named Penny (Bridgit Mendler). He writes her an original song, only to find her performing it in concert and dedicating it to another dude. Doesn't she know he has diabetes? That's just cold.

3. Pizza Girl (21:36) (Originally aired May 16, 2009)
The brothers are all crushing on the local pizza delivery girl (Schena Marie), an uncommonly attractive lady for her trade who is apparently open to a wide range of ages for potential boyfriends. This episode is sometimes referred to as "Slice of Life".

4. Band's Best Friend (22:04) (Originally aired June 7, 2009)
The Lonases' boyhood friend (Nate Hartley) returns for a visit, alarming the now-famous brothers with his lameness. He doesn't even wear tight jeans, vests, and skinny ties to class -- what a loser.

5. Chasing the Dream (22:20) (Originally aired June 14, 2009)
Kevin is put in an awkward position when he agrees to let a fan record guest vocals on the next JONAS track before realizing that she can't sing. If only it were possible to sell a lot of records despite subpar singing voices...

Don't put cheese on the camera lens, man! There's only one of them! Frankie Jonas, also known as the bonus Jonas, follows in his brothers' footsteps, playing Frankie Lucas. With his recurring role status, he's on the fast track to become the next Haylie Duff.


The five main episodes are presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, while the two bonus episodes (profiled below) appear in anamorphic widescreen. Undoubtedly, the show is filmed in widescreen and simultaneously framed for the fullscreen ratio in which it is broadcast.
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Either is arguably an appropriate presentation, though if forced to choose between them, the shift to hi-def 16:9 displays suggests that widescreen would have been better all around. Full or wide, the picture quality is generally satisfactory. "Jonas" looks much better than its Disney Channel counterparts. The bonus features are also presented in widescreen.

The packaging advertises both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and 2.0 Stereo, but the episodes are available only in the former. Audio quality is consistently pleasing, though sound emanates primarily from the front center channels. The surround channels offer little reinforcement, barely joining in the mix when music is playing. Of course, that kind of presentation is to be expected from a TV series intended for stereo broadcast.

Despite the fact that they're in school all day and never leave town, the Lucas Brothers (read: the Jonas Brothers) are international superstars, as evidenced by this foreign language ad seen in "Beauty and the Beat" (the first of two bonus episodes on the DVD). One of two bonus episodes on the DVD, "Cold Shoulder" hasn't aired yet, but something tells me it will in December.


The Bonus "Jonas" Features begin with two more episodes, classified as extras rather than part of the main feature because they haven't yet aired (though it's inevitably only a short matter of time before they do). Those episodes are:

Beauty and the Beat (22:34) (Not yet aired)
The band is asked to judge a beauty contest, a role that becomes more challenging when their good friend, Stella (Chelsea Staub), enters the competition.

Cold Shoulder (23:35) (Not yet aired)
When the president of JONAS' Scandinavian fan club just happens to be in town, she and Kevin start dating, and it seems like he's an even bigger fan of hers. This episode stands out as a bit better than the rest, perhaps promising some improvement in "Jonas"' future.

Chelsea Staub gets JoBro'd, which surprisingly does not involve a tight clothes makeover or an abrupt cell phone breakup. The DVD's main menu design features some cool animation and changing colors.

The bonus episodes are followed by a Backstage Disney featurette entitled "You've Just Been Jo Bro'd! - Surprising Chelsea Staub" (11:18). It turns out that getting Jo Bro'd is the band's equivalent of getting Punk'd, which is kind of weird, given that Ashton doesn't tell people they've just been Kutchered.
This is actually an extremely hilarious and entertaining prank, however, living up to Punk'd standards and also providing a cool glimpse at the cast's backstage interactions.

It's quite the stretch to call an elaborate sales pitch a bonus feature, but "Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-ray is Suite!" (4:45) is a fun and clever promo skit featuring both the Sprouse brothers and their TV mom, Kim Rhodes. The high production value, realistic home setting, and grounded humor reveal how much better the "Suite Life" shows could be if they weren't so pandering.

"Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go: DisneyFile Digital Copy" (1:00) isn't fun or clever at all. Instead, this is just a standard ad plugging DisneyFile, which is Disney's fancy term for digital copy, an increasingly annoying movie marketing fad. There's no justification for this being listed as a bonus feature rather than as part of the disc's Sneak Peeks.

Speaking of Sneak Peeks, the disc includes the following: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition, Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, Toy Story 3, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, Disney's "Friends for Change" campaign, the Disney Movie Rewards Program, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Up, "Jonas" on the Disney Channel, G-Force, Santa Buddies, and the Disney Blu-ray "Magic in Hi-Def" promo. All are accessible from the menu, where there is a Play All option.

The animated 16x9 main menu has a nice design to it, with various JoBro images sliding across the screen while score and nifty sound effects play. The sub-menus are motionless but accompanied by music.The disc is annoyingly designed with Disney's FastPlay, so you'll want to use the menu button right away.

Inside the standard white keepcase is an ad booklet, a (presumably collectible?) Nick Jonas picture card that features just one image and a "Volume 1 Card 1" label. (Nick has actually signed the card inside a few lucky copies.) There's also a Disney Movie Rewards Magic Code. The disc itself is given a lackluster plain gray print.

Kevin Jonas may not be the ladies' favorite JoBro, but he has the biggest guitar. The Brothers Jonas break into song. A fantasy sequence ensues.


Like most of the Jonas Brothers' work, "Jonas" isn't all that bad, it just needs to grow up in order to realize its full potential. Certainly, the more sophisticated, single-camera style lends the show a certain gravitas, and there are some solid nuggets of comedy to be found. There's just too much silliness and not enough substance in the show for it to be taken seriously. That said, the series is just off the ground and time can heal all wounds. Some retooling could probably heal ratings too.

The Rockin' the House DVD presents seven episodes in a mix of fullscreen and widescreen, either one acceptable in this case. Audio/video quality is good and the bonus features here, though few in number, are worthwhile. None of that justifies the poor value that a $20 DVD with only seven episodes provides. If you're a diehard Jonas fan (and kudos to you for making it through this review if you are), you'll want to pick this up. Otherwise, stick to a free sample on Disney Channel instead.

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Reviewed September 27, 2009.