Do You Remember The Naked Brothers Band

Leon Hunt provides a very detailed explanation of the variations of cult British TV comedy and alternative comedy of the 80s and 90s. My favorite parts of this chapter were the moments where Hunt used the words “niche” and “cultural” several times to explain the humor of many of the shows he spoke about (these adjectives being explicitly characteristic of cult films) (Hunt 2013). It made me feel only slightly more justified in the tragic fact that I have never, ever, ever seen a single example of cult British film in my life (apart from Monty Python and The Inbetweeners). I could chalk it up to cultural exposure, but if I’m being really honest I’ve hardly watched any US cult TV shows either. Arrested Development was bad (oops I said it), Freaks and Geeks makes me sad since it was taken from us way too soon, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia arguably might be too mainstream at this point in its success to hold on to its cult status much longer.

However, that begs me to ask the question what is the line that takes something from cult status to mainstream and vice versa? Hunt suggests that the broad definition of cult comedy, which he summarizes as edgy, nostalgic, niche, and subcultural means something. He suggests that it is not a catch-all phrase, but he does not suggest that a film or show must fit all of these characteristics, but rather it can fit some more than others (Hunt 2013). I find that perhaps the ebb and flow of when something is defined as cult and when it is not can be found by observing when the subcultural becomes the cultural and when the cultural becomes the subcultural. In this way, culture acts as a pendulum, swinging back and forth between what is mainstream and what is edgy.

What suggested this to me is the Google search engine classifying the 2007 adolescent sitcom The Naked Brothers Band as a cult TV show. Whether or not this was a search engine mistake, the idea that The Naked Brothers Band is a cult TV show is preposterous to me; but perhaps that is what makes it make sense. In 2007, The Naked Brothers Band was just another Nickelodeon sitcom attempting to make two brothers famous by having them perform in a fake band. It was cheeky, it was cute, but it was also a Nickelodeon adolescent sitcom from the mid-2000s. Now, however, The Naked Brothers Band is niche – nobody remembers that the Wolff brothers used to be in a band. It’s nostalgic, and at the present moment, it is most definitely not mainstream. But does that make watching The Naked Brother’s Band edgy? And does that make it a cult sitcom? Google seems to think so, but perhaps the definition of what is cult is indeed too broad, unlike what Hunt suggests. I’ll let you decide.

Bibliography:

 

Leon Hunt (2013), ‘From alternative to cult: Mapping post-alternative comedy’, in Cult British TV Comedy: From Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville, Manchester: Manchester UP, 1-35

The Naked Brothers Band – If That’s Not Love (Video). YouTube. YouTube, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2RhJE4gtoI.

4 comments

  1. Honestly, it’s a massive relief to know I’m not the only one with no experience with British cult TV! I am familiar with some American cult TV shows though, and I wasn’t sure if I agreed completely with Jones and Person’s definition of cult, since I know that cult shows like Firefly are nostalgic but not quite ‘edgy’. Cult is quite hard to define though, and I do concede that it works well with most other cult programs.

  2. The Naked Brothers Band is a fantastic example of a non-traditional cult object! I’ve always found it interesting when trying to define something as ‘cult’ because there is always that element of audience rebellion against the mainstream, and often if a definition is provided of what ‘cult’ is then it seems like audiences will find a way to rebel against this definition and create a cult around something new – hence the fantastic ‘cult’ status of The Naked Brothers Band.

  3. Thank you, I now have Crazy Car and the rest of their songs stuck in my head! I agree with everything you have written. It seems preposterous to categorise this as a cult show and this makes me think of the relation between time and cult status. This also harks back to what Leon Hunt discusses about “rock credentials” and the formatting of a show like a concert, he reiterates Double’s remark that acts are, “‘received with the kind of rapturous excitement that you might expect to see at a concert by teenybopper bands like Take That’, and maybe this is the cookie cutter child-friendly version of cult acts.

  4. I really like how you link memory to a film’s status as cult; it demonstrates how important active viewership is in ensuring legacy. Nostalgia certainly plays a large role in the reinvention of movies in a contemporary context, and even though Naked Brothers Band didn’t feel like a cult classic at the time, perhaps as the years go on it settles into that territory more and more.

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