Like an updated version of The Monkees
Though this one doesn't hail from the hit-making factory of iCarly creator Dan Schneider, it's got impressive creative DNA nonetheless, with creator Scott Fellows (Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, The Fairly OddParents) and director Savage Steve Holland setting the tone in the first episode. And that tone should be instantly recognizable to anyone who's watched The Monkees (Fellows' stated inspiration), as it's cartoonish and over-the-top, never taking itself seriously. The four leads, playing a quartet of hockey players from Minnesota who fall into a chance at music stardom thanks to the ambitions of the group's pretty-boy, are updated versions of Davy Jones and company. In their neatly compartmentalized characters, they show themselves to be fun, all-out comic actors who put out just enough self-respect to make their pratfalls and failures funny, while being eminently likable, as well as heartthrobs to the young girls watching. The choice of making them hockey players from the heartland instantly gave them credibility as nice guys (with the added benefit of earning my interest.)
This set covers the show's first story arc, as the boys are discovered by music mogul Gustavo Roque, a big blowhard looking for his first hit in nearly a decade. Roque only really wants Kendall, the tall, low-key fellow with big eyebrows, but he makes including his pals as part of his deal, and the group is off to California for three months (with Kendall's mom and sister in tow) to record a demo. Along the way, they have to learn to be stars, acclimate to the world of wannabe celebrities and cope with their love for every up-and-coming starlet who crosses their path, as well as impress the record company's nutty leader, otherwise they are headed back to Minnesota. It's pretty impressive that the show managed to stretch out this storyline over 11 episodes without it getting old, and the sense of humor doesn't wallow in the realm of kiddie comedy, pulling out some genuinely absurd laughs.
With all the cartoonish sound effects, visual gags and outlandish schemes built around a life in music, the comparisons to the Monkees are easy, but the new guys hold their own (even in terms of the music, which though it's boy band pop, it's catchy boy band pop.) As the group's fame-hunting "face," James Maslow is excellent, delivering disbelief when his beauty doesn't get him what he wants, while dim-bulb Carlos (Carlos Pena) keeps his goofy character from becoming ridiculous (which is not easy when you're often wearing a hockey helmet.) Kendall Schmidt and Logan Henderson round out the crew as the tender one and the smart one, respectively, and they help ground the group as the most down-to-earth members. In addition to the band's talents, the acting is uniformly good all around, with Stephen Kramer Glickman's Gustavo being enjoyably loud, Matt Riedy as the loony boss of Roque Records and Camille, the resident drama queen, played by the adorable Erin Sanders.
Recreating the TV presentation well, the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks are clean and clear, delivering the dialogue and music equally well, but lack any dynamic mixing, putting everything out in a center-balanced manner.
The final extra, which isn't mentioned on the box, is a code for a digital copy of the TV movie (read: double episode) "Big Time Beach Party." Featuring guest appearances by Tom Kenny and Russell Brand, it's not a bad episode, but it does borrow from one of the episodes on this set ("Big Time Mansion".) Unfortunately it's only available for Windows computers. If you have one though, there's another 40 minutes of BTR to enjoy.
The Bottom Line