Jonas Career Makeover: Can Reality TV Reboot the Bros? (ANALYSIS)

By Celebrity News Wire on August 13, 2012

Nick Jonas‘ potential new gig as a judge on American Idol may just be the tip of the iceberg for a new phase in the careers of the Jonas Brothers. All three of the singing siblings may find their showbiz sell-by dates extended by their ventures into reality TV.

Besides Nick’s possible job on TV’s biggest reality competition, there was also Joe Jonas recent stint as a celebrity bachelor on Fox’s The Choice. And there’s E!’s new celebreality series Married to Jonas (debuting Aug. 19), which will focus mostly on Kevin and Danielle Jonas‘ marriage but will also feature all three brothers as they create new music for the trio’s reunion.

Could moving into reality TV be a smart move for a group who, as they age out of the boy-band sweet spot (replaced by younger stars like One Direction and Wanted), may want to reach a new audience and reconnect with the initial fans who may have outgrown them? More broadly, could they be creating a template for career longevity for tween icons whose stardom usually has a built-in expiration date?

See how the experts rate the Jonas brothers’ TV prospects.

Mind you, this is assuming Nick Jonas even gets the Idol job, which is by no means a done deal. In fact, Jonas’ enthusiastic Twitter touting of his candidacy probably means he’s a long shot, said Senior Editor and Idol expert Michael Slezak. “When you’ve tweeted it, you’re probably less in the running than you think you are,” Slezak told Celebuzz, noting that Jonas may be running afoul of the Fox network and the show’s creators, who prefer to release such information on their own timetable. “It’s a savvy move to get himself free publicity, but not if he actually wants the job.”

Still, even if Nick doesn’t end up telling Idol contestants how pitchy they are, the brothers will still have ties to Idol host and reality mini-mogul Ryan Seacrest, who’s producing Married to Jonas. “An association with Ryan Seacrest is never a bad thing,” Slezak said. “If you’re good to Ryan, hopefully he’ll be good to you.”

Actually, there is an earlier model of success for tween-music heartthrobs to transition into non-musical fame via reality TV: Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. “They showed that the celebreality route can be the best path to a second career,” Slezak said.

But reality TV could take the Jonases away from their first career, as it did Simpson. “The risk for the Jonas Brothers is that these commitments take them further and further away from what drew fans to them in the first place: music,” said Hollywood Reporter music editor Shirley Halperin. “Look at Jessica Simpson, who was a singer, then turned reality star (on a very similarly-themed reality show) — she was never able to regain her music following. Although she found a new calling in fashion.” Then again, Simpson and Lachey seem to have found the trade-off worthwhile, Slezak said. “They’re not on the Billboard charts anymore, but they’re still making pretty good money, and they’re still very present. So for Kevin, that makes sense.”

On the other hand, if the Jonases make a point of using reality TV as a way to return to music stardom (as seems to be the case with Married to Jonas), that can be a smart strategy, experts say. In an age of declining radio and MTV exposure for musicians, reality TV may prove an ideal platform, at least for pop singers. “The traditional objection to music stars going on realty TV is a loss of credibility,” said Michael Hirschorn, founder of Ish Entertainment and a veteran creator of celebreality shows. “For stars who are pop or boy-band whose sell was commercial from the beginning, reality TV is just and extension of that. it is a good way to extend your brand or to sell records. It is arguably the only effective way now to break thru the clutter.”

“Reality TV is a great way to extend your 15 minutes in that it keeps you in the public eye and presents the star in a different context,” agreed Halperin. “It’s increasingly tough for acts to market their music. If you can find an audience of 6 or 7 million, or even 3 or 4 million, that’s not such a bad gig,” Slezak said. Besides, the Jonases are not Wilson Phillips, trying to revive a long-dormant musical brand.”They’re not that far removed from their heyday,” he said.
Plus, if Nick gets on Idol, he could emulate other judges who’ve made musical comebacks. “Idol really turned it around for J. Lo,” Slezak said. “Her career was resuscitated overnight,” agreed Hirschorn.

Ultimately, whether reality TV helps or hurts the brothers depends on execution, Slezak said. It’s OK for celebreality stars to be funny or even weird as long as they don’t come off as “desperate.” That’s the word Slezak used to describe Joe’s stint on The Choice. Of the three brothers’ attempts at TV fame, “that was the most ill-advised,” Slezak said.

Whatever happens, the group’s initial die-hard fanbase will probably stick with them, as fans have for another brotherly trio, Hanson, “that has held onto its core audience and kept the fans satisfied even through changes in popular music, marriages, kids, and various label deals,” Halperin said. But that group of early adopters can’t increase; it can only shrink. “A  teen audience can grow with you, but in age, not necessarily in size,” she said.

The difficulty for the Jonas Brothers may be in developing distinct identities for audiences who don’t know the trio. “One challenge for them is differentiating themselves from each other,” Slezak said. Can all three of them find success? “It’s always hard for everybody to have the same level of post-teen heartthrob success.”


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