'Naked' Truth

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW, and wondering: Are your kids getting "Naked"?

I'm talking about The Naked Brothers Band, which, if you're not the parent of a youngster of a certain age, I'm here to acquaint you with. I do it in my compound capacity as a TV critic, a parent and, of all things, a fringe member of the band's entourage.

The Naked Brothers Band is a comedy about a group of tuneful tweeners trilling bubble-gum riffs that have won them a following that rivals Beatlemania.

Airing Saturdays on Nickelodeon, the series is a blend of This is Spinal Tap and It's a Hard Day's Night, with, come to think of it, a dollop of Wild in the Streets, that 1960's indie film where youngsters seize control of the United States.

But here, it's a bloodless coup. The basic concept of this show is, kids always know better than grownups, and grownups are totally cool with it.

Bottom line: Kids rule, grownups drool, as the show chronicles the fondest dreams of its young audience: to be famous, adored and in control, with adults your willing servants.

What a glorious fairy tale! And yet, oddly enough, the show is somewhat rooted in reality.

On the show, the band is fronted by 12 year-old keyboardist-lead singer Nat Woolf, with his 9 year-old brother Alex on drums. Well, Nat Wolff really did form a band, way back in preschool. And he really writes the songs the band plays.

Now, by virtue of the brothers' wherewithal -- and that of their mom, actress-turned-filmmaker Polly Draper -- they are starring as themselves on TV.

Even though this is a family affair, Draper (who's best known from the drama thirtysomething long before Nat and Alex were born) stays behind the camera with her writing, producing and directing chores. Onscreen, Nat and Alex are conveniently motherless.

Their dad, Michael Woolf, who in real life is an acclaimed jazz musician, plays their TV dad -- albeit as comic relief, often foolishly wielding an accordion.

Meanwhile, most of the Naked Band-mates -- who, by the way, are all fully clad -- go by their real given names. This includes Thomas Batuello, who indeed was in a group with his longtime friends Nat and Alex, way back when.

Now it so happens that Tom is my real-life link to this budding Naked craze. He's a pal of my 12 year-old son from their toddler days, and his parents are a couple of my best friends.

So I was witness two summers ago when Tom was dashing off to Brooklyn for a wonderful sort of day camp complete with cameras and scripts, as well as a trampoline, basketball hoop and video games for all that production down-time. The Naked Brothers Band movie was the result.

Then, last summer vacation, Tom has back at it, playing "Thomas" for the series' first season.

With the series now on the air and a big hit, my kid hangs out with Tom like always, and he watches the show every week. And not completely out of friendship -- he just thinks it's cool.

Sometimes I watch, too. But I have to admit I'm bemused by what I see. I keep wondering just what is fantasy here, and what's truth, and what, conceivably, could be both. In light of my proximity to it all, these are things I ought to know. But, on the other hand, I'm just a grownup.

Watching television for KCRW, this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.