The N's first miniseries, "Miracle's Boys," bears some resemblance to "Party of Five," the Fox series about a family of five children orphaned when both their parents died in a car accident.
Starring: Pooch Hall, Sean Nelson, Julito McCullum.
"Miracle's Boys" features three half-Puerto Rican, half-African-American brothers in Harlem left to fend for themselves after their mother dies of a heart attack. (Their father had died long before.)
Comparisons aside, a bigger question for some viewers may be a lot simpler: What the heck is The N? It's a nighttime network for teens that airs on Noggin. (The best analogy would be Nick at Nite is to Nickelodeon as The N is to Noggin.)
Locally on cable, Noggin is available on Comcast's Channel 131, Adelphia's Channel 148 and Armstrong's Channel 400. On satellite, Noggin can be found on DirecTV's Channel 298 and Dish Network's Channel 169.
The N already has garnered some attention for airing the popular Canadian teen series "DeGrassi: The Next Generation." Now the upstart network, part of the Viacom network of channels that also includes Nickelodeon and MTV, wants to make some noise with "Miracle's Boys," six half-hour episodes based on the book of the same name by Jacqueline Woodson.
The story centers on the Bailey brothers. Ty'ree (Pooch Hall), 20, is barely an adult, but has taken on the role of caretaker. Lafayette (Julito McCullum), 14, plays sports and idolizes Charlie (Sean Nelson), 16, who returns home after a year in juvenile detention in Friday's first episode at 9 p.m. A second episode airs at 9:30 and the remaining segments air at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday. [Feb. 20.]
Acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee ("Malcolm X") directs the first and sixth episodes, while LeVar Burton ("Star Trek: The Next Generation") helms episode five and Ernest Dickerson ("The Wire") directs episode two.
Tom Aschiem, general manager of Nickelodeon digital television, said the goal of The N is to be "the authentic voice of teens." To that end, a teen advisory board was created to help ensure "Miracle's Boys" would be true to the modern teen experience.
"We had written an episode where one of the characters asked somebody to a dance," said Nikki Silver, president of On Screen Entertainment, which produced "Miracle's Boys" for The N. "The teens looked at us and laughed hysterically because we were so off-base. That's why it was great to have them."
Tonya Lewis Lee, wife of Spike Lee, executive produced "Miracle's Boys," and said one of the unique aspects of the project was the raw emotion that the Bailey brothers display.
"You don't see on television three men of color really dealing with issues and understanding their anger and what that anger is about," she said. "We get to the heart of what's really going on inside of them."
"Miracle's Boys" was shot on location in Harlem, a rarity for a cable series. But that also necessitated a short run of episodes.
"In order to film on location in Harlem, we could only do six," Silver said. "The material is endless and we hope [to do more]."
The six episodes that begin airing late this week have an arc, Silver said, "and we don't think any of the viewers at the end are going to not feel satisfied. But there's definitely a lot of room to grow."