September 05, 2020

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK


NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
(ABC, September 8-December 14, 1990)

DiC Entertainment, Big Step Productions



MAIN CAST:
David Coburn – Donnie Wahlberg, Nikko the Dog
Donnie Wahlberg – Himself (live)
Brian Stokes Mitchell – Danny Wood
Danny Wood – Himself (live)
Loren Lester – Jordan Knight
Jordan Knight – Himself (live)
Scott Menville – Joey McIntyre
Joey McIntyre – Himself (live)
Matt E. Mixer – Jonathan Knight
Jonathan Knight – Himself (live)
J.D. Hall – Bizcut
Josh Keaton – Albert “Einstein”


            After discovering and late severing ties with R&B/pop quintet New Edition, Maurice Starr and his business partner, Mary Alford, set out to create a white counterpart act. 15-year-old Donnie Wahlberg became their first recruit, impressing them with his rapping and dancing abilities, as well as his showmanship. Donnie helped recruit the next members of the group, including his brother, Mark, best friends Danny Wood and Jamie Kelly, former schoolmate Jordan Knight, and Jordan’s brother, Jonathan. Eventually, Mark would leave and Starr would replace Kelly with 12-year-old Joey McIntyre; a move the other bandmembers initially resented.

The New Kids: Donnie, Danny, Jonathan, Jordan and Joey. 

            Dubbed Nynuk by Starr, he rehearsed the group after school and on weekends. He secured them a recording contract with Columbia Records, however under the demand that the group’s name be changed. Inspired by a rap Donnie wrote for their first album, Starr renamed the group New Kids on the Block. Their self-titled first album dropped in April of 1986, but failed to catch on around the country and only received minor airplay in the group’s native Boston. The group toured around New England wherever Starr could book them, and Starr managed to convince Columbia to give them a second album.

Member of the entourage: Biscuit.

            Unhappy with the bubblegum pop sound of the first album, the group pushed to have more creative control of their output and presentation. Their first new single, “Please Don’t Go Girl”, was released in the spring of 1988 and seemed to indicate a repeat of the group’s earlier failure. Columbia was set to drop them from the label until they learned that the song became the most requested at a radio station in Florida. Columbia decided to keep the group on and put more effort into their marketing, including shooting a music video for the single to send to radio stations and show the group’s appeal. “Please Don’t Go Girl” eventually reached #10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart. The second album, Hangin’ Tough, dropped in September, with Wahlberg, Wood and Knight receiving associate producer credit.

NKOTB and manager Dick Scott on a magazine cover.

            The group’s popularity began to rise, with the album’s second single, “You Got It (The Right Stuff”, reaching the top 5 in the charts. More singles released from the album also scored high, and such was their popularity that when Columbia released “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” from the previous album it not only reached #8 in the charts, but ignited a renewed interest in the album as a whole. By the end of 1989, Hangin’ Tough was #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and had been certified platinum 18 times. They were the first teen act to have five top-10 hits from a single album.

A sea of fans.

            By early 1990, New Kids on the Block was one of the most popular acts in the country. The title track from their next album, Step by Step, became their biggest-selling single. They were performing an estimated 200 concerts a year, with their The Magic Summer Tour making them the top-grossing touring act in the nation as well as being one of the highest-grossing concert tours of the decade. Their official fan club became one of the largest in the country, posting a membership of over 200,000. 100,000 calls a week were made to their official hotline. Further, the group became heavily merchandised with the performers’ likenesses put on everything from lunch boxes to dolls.

Promo image of the New Kids with their animated counterparts.


            The next logical step was to target the younger fans with an animated series. Starr turned to the Pangea Corporation, the entertainment development and creative services company responsible for bringing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the air, to help bring it to life. The series was developed by Kayte Kuch and Sheryl Scarborough for DiC Entertainment. The series focused on the band getting into wacky misadventures while on tour, always causing a headache for their management team as those adventures constantly threatened to make them late for an upcoming concert. Professional voice actors were used for the band: David Coburn as Donnie, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Danny, Loren Lester as Jordan, Scott Menville as Joey and Matt E. Mixer as Jonathan. Dave Fennoy portrayed their manager, Dick Scott, and Dorian Harewood was Starr. Joining them was another manager reimagined as a bodyguard, Biscuit (J.D. Hall), and their on-road tutor, Albert “Einstein” (Josh Keaton). Also included was Jonathan’s pet dog, Nikko (Coburn).


Jonathan and Joey getting funky.

            New Kids on the Block debuted on ABC on September 9, 1990. Each episode began with an interview with an actual member of the band interspersed with other footage relating to the theme of that episode’s story, and ended with a shot of them performing in concert with some added visual effects flare. Other shots of the real group with similar enhancements were peppered throughout the episodes. While they tried to disguise it as being invocative of music videos, in reality these were used to fill in any animation gaps left by frequent errors from Wang Film Productions Co., Ltd. The show was produced in such a tight timeframe that often they couldn’t have the animation fixed. It was written by John Besmehn, John Schulte, Mark McCorkle, Bob Schooley, Charles M. Howell IV, Gordon Bressack, Janis Diamond, Bruce Faulk, Phil Harnage, Kevin O’Donnell, Mario Piluso, Chris Weber and Karen Wilson. The music was provided by Murray McFadden and Timothy Mulholland, although each episode made liberal use of the New Kids’ catalog.

An issue of the comics by Harvey.

            The series only lasted one season, but managed to generate some of its own merchandise in the glut of regular New Kids’. Primarily, there was a Colorforms playset and a lunch box from Thermos. Between 1990 and 1992, Harvey Comics published several series of comics utilizing the New Kids designs. They even had crossovers with their regular characters Richie Rich and Wendy, the Good Little Witch. Sony Music released six episodes onto VHS, which were released as a box set with two bonus music CDs overseas.

Some of the "music video" style seen in an episode.

            What goes up must always come down. In 1992, Gregory McPherson, who worked on Step by Step, made a claim that Starr actually sang vocals for the group and that they lip-synched to pre-recorded tracks on stage. This was while the Milli Vanilli scandal was still fresh on everyone’s minds. The group admitted that Starr sometimes sang harmony on background vocals and that they used backing tracks for live performances, but still performed themselves. Critics latched onto this, as well as the fact the group often branded themselves as an “urban act”. Musical tastes also began to shift as grunge and gangsta rap became popular genres with former New Kids fans.

The final album of the original run.

            The group split from Starr in 1993 and shortened their name to simply NKOTB. They released their fifth album, Face the Music, the following year and toured to promote it in much smaller venues. The album, a departure from their previous sound, failed to match commercial expectations and its single didn’t chart very high. Suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, Jonathan left the group. The remaining members decided to disband shortly after.

The present-day not-quite New not-quite Kids on the Block.

Wood went into a quiet existence out of the public eye before taking up occasional acting in 2001. Wahlberg followed his brother into acting. McIntyre and Jordan both recorded solo albums in 1999. Numerous attempts were made to bring the group back together, but none were successful. In 2008, the group themselves decided to reunite and recorded their sixth album, The Block, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart and #2 on the Billboard 200. Their seventh album, 10, dropped in 2013 while the group continued to tour.
           


EPISODE GUIDE:
“The New Kids in the Class” (9/8/90) – Joey gets his wish of being a normal high school student for a day, but it ends up being during the middle of “Crazy Concert Day”.

“Sheik of My Dreams” (9/15/90) – Just when Jordan meets a girl that likes him for him, their relationship could end up in an international incident.

“In Step...Out of Time!” (9/22/90) – The New Kids try to help a pair of dancing siblings win the big talent competition while making it to their own concert on time.

“Cowa-BONK-a” (9/29/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Kissed, Missed, and Double D’ist” (10/6/90) – Danny, Jonathan and Nikko end up left behind at a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

“D’ist Dream Date” (10/13/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Hot Dog!” (10/20/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Overnight Success” (10/27/90) – The Kids end up having various misadventures while camping.

“The Legend of the Sandman” (11/3/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Homeboys on the Range” (11/10/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“New Heroes on the Block” (11/17/90) – A long bus ride leads to the Kids having strange fantasies.

“The New Kids on the Old Block” (11/24/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The New Kids off the Wall” (12/1/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Rewind Time” (12/8/90) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Christmas Special” (12/14/90) – Donnie finds a homeless kid that leads the Kids to spread some Christmas joy while Biscuit hunts for the group to get them home to Boston.

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