The Disney Channel has certainly demonstrated the commercial potential in the arranged marriage of teenagers, music and pretty lame comedy in the service of corralling the coveted training-bra demo, and Nickelodeon appears determined not to be outdone. Designed to promote a Sony Music boy band, “Big Time Rush” is equal parts “The Monkees” and “The Three Stooges,” built around four Minnesota pals living the high life in L.A. — the Jonas brothers plus one. It’s a slick but sloppy affair, one whose popularity (after encouraging ratings for a November preview) will pivot on the dreamy quotient of its fat-headed four.
The premiere picks up after the boys have been discovered, as they lobby to attend a school for performing artists. Unfortunately, the tyrannical head of their record label, Mr. Rocque (Stephen Kramer Glickman), insists on tutoring them within the office, depriving them access to comely teenage girls and a perky teacher. Oh, the humanity.
So the gang — played, eponymously, by Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Logan Henderson and Carlos Pena — scheme to get kicked out of the class, sending one instructor after another (among them, in the one amusing riff, a professional wrestler) screaming for the exits.
Director Savage Steve Holland and creator-exec producer Scott Fellows (“Ned’s DeClassified School Survival Guide”) opt not to use a laugh track, but they do the next worst thing — punctuating each groaning joke with cartoon-like sound cues. About all that’s missing, in terms of comedic ambitions, are the two-fingered pokes to the eyes.
In spite of that, “Big Time Rush” possesses elements of goofy energy, though there’s another seeming miscalculation in this episode, anyway, in that beyond the opening and closing credits, the group never sings. More music, if nothing else, means less dialogue, which would be a blessing.
Anticipating the tastes of “tweens” (the Disney-created 9-14 age bracket) is a thankless task, but the benefits associated with finding a project that appeals to them are certainly worth the effort.
In the press release, Nickelodeon describes the show as being about “what happens the day after you win ‘American Idol,'” which is a clever premise. To an adult, though, watching “Rush” rush by felt more like what happens the day after a night of heavy drinking.