Stripped to its core, “Jonas,” the Disney Channel’s new sitcom starring the Jonas brothers, is an efficient delivery system to expand the singing trio’s exposure among barely pubescent girls, thus separating that prized demographic (and their parents) from hard-earned dollars. Those who do not swoon and emit piercing squeals at the sight of Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas will still find some amiable charm within this slick packaging, even if it’s nothing that couldn’t be mistaken for “The Monkees” four decades ago.
The series doesn’t really require the brothers to act much, essentially playing slightly tweaked versions of themselves while engaging in a lot of fraternal teasing. That said, they handle their limited chores deftly enough, and each episode will allow them to do what they do best — or are at least known for — namely, adding to their playlist.
The surrounding cast includes their dad/manager (a safely bland John Ducey); a perky gal pal (Chelsea Staub) determined to cash in on their professional popularity at school with grand ideas like tear-away Velcro sleeves; and Macy (Nicole Anderson), a wide-eyed fan/fellow classmate who positively swoons in any of the brothers’ presence. She is, of course, utterly adorable, providing a likable surrogate for those girls whose closest connection to Jonasville will come through a screen or crushing toward a stage.
In the premiere, serious-minded, dreamily intense Nick gets a crush on a girl (guest Bridgit Mendler), which prompts him to write her a song. His brothers join in singing this ditty with him (while she appears, mock musicvideo-like, in angel’s wings), even though they worry about Nick’s tendency to fall too hard, too fast in these situations.
Silliness ensues, from the brothers sliding down bat-poles into their studio (clever) to donning disguises so they can go to a club and watch her sing without disrupting things by attracting undue attention (not so clever).
Basically, “Jonas” reminds us that Disney can still work off the basic template of the Frankie and Annette movies, plugging in fresh talent — crooning slightly different pop tunes — to new generations of girls, whose mothers and grandmothers went through the same hormonal process with the Beatles and Elvis.
By that measure, the Jonas brothers are an inoffensive permutation on the theme, and — unlike plenty of tween-oriented fare — no reason for adults to adopt their own chastity pledge, as the Jonases have famously done. Indeed, watching the show might provide inspiration to immediately try breeding a trio of telegenic boys, if only to establish a nest egg for one’s old age.