Essays · TV

One Direction Alum Zayn Malik’s New TV Show and the Untapped Potential of Boy Bands

By  · Published on September 9th, 2016

A look at ‘Boys’ and other possible boy band series from NKOTB to *NSYNC.

One Direction from L to R: Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan.

Singer-songwriter Zayn Malik is teaming with TV producer Dick Wolf to produce Boys, a drama series set up at NBC that will follow the formation of a boy band that achieves great success and the pressures that it puts on the individual members, as reported by Deadline. The show will be inspired by some of Malik’s real-life experiences as part of One Direction, arguably one of the most popular boy band of the aughts. Here’s a look at what Boys could be about and other ideas for potential boy band-themed series. Because you can never have too many boy bands. Ever.

First, let’s talk One Direction. You have most likely heard or encountered this boy band at one point or another, via your social media feeds or TV or whatnot. Morgan Spurlock even made a documentary about them. But for those who have been living under a rock over the last five years, here’s a primer: One Direction – or 1D for short – is an English-Irish pop boy band originally composed of five members: Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. They competed as individuals on Simon Cowell’s British television singing competition The X Factor in 2010, but when Cowell put them together as a group they skyrocketed in popularity and placed third in the season. The group signed with Cowell’s label Syco Records and were propelled to international success. They rose to the top of the pop charts with millennial hits such as “One Thing,” “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Live While You’re Young,” and “Story of My Life,” as well as albums such as “Up All Night” (2010), “Take Me Home” (2012), “Midnight Memories” (2013), “Four” (2014), and “Made in the A.M.” (2015).

Despite their fame and success as a group, Malik left One Direction in early 2015 and launched a solo career. The boys went through a lot of public drama over the course of their five years as a group so a TV show inspired by their experiences would prove to be a very juicy, interesting peek into their world. Although Cowell expressed disappointment in the show’s announcement, fans of 1D – also known as Directioners – as well as fans of the musical series genre and boy bands in general should be thrilled. The dramatic possibilities here are endless: backstage drama, wild partying, Twitter feuds, celebrity dating, alien encounters… the list goes on.

The show is not guaranteed to go to series but if it does, the creators can steer into some really interesting directions. They could take cues from the popular teen musical series Glee or better yet the juicier but still music-heavy style of Empire. Wolf is the creator and executive producer of the Law & Order franchise so he’s no stranger to drama. Noelle Wolf brought the project to NBC and they’ve got a big team team of writers and producers to help make the show come to life.

Now for the fun part. There has been a long history of boy bands that preceded 1D and their stories are teeming with potential for fictional adaptation. SyFy recently made a post-apocalyptic western zombie thriller with a whole bunch of real life boy band members, so there is definitely interest in having these guys back in the spotlight. The possibilities for TV are endless but here are five ideas for bands that could make it to the top of the charts.


Cast Members: Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass
Show Inspiration: Nashville meets The Mickey Mouse Show

In the ‘90s you were either an *NSYNC-er or BSB-er (see below). Your choice of boy band reflected a lot about you. *NSYNC (or NSYNC, depending on your asterisk preference) arrived on the scene a little after BSB, but they were yuuugely successful. After releasing hit singles “I Want You Back” and “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” the boys’ sophomore album “No Strings Attached” (2000) catapulted them into major mainstream success. The album sold over 9.9 million copies at the end of 2000, spawning hits such as “Bye, Bye, Bye” and “It’s Gonna Be Me,” and cementing *NSYNC as one of the GOAT boybands that ever rocked a stage.

Many of the members are still prominently in the spotlight so it’s uncertain if they would be up for a TV show about their lives. But if there were to be one, it could be a musical high drama a la Nashville, with influences from Justin Timberlake’s and JC Chasez’s humble beginnings on The Mickey Mouse Club. Some storylines could include: their public legal battle with former manager Lou Pearlman, Timberlake’s relationship with teen pop queen Britney Spears and solo stardom, boy band rivalry with the Backstreet Boys, their eventual break-up, and solo careers. And let’s not forget Joey Fatone’s movie career and the band’s famous MMC friends.

The Backstreet Boys

Cast Members: A.J. McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, Brian Litrell
Show Inspiration: Real Housewives Boy Band Style or mockumentary comedy a la The Office

Before *NYSNC, there were the Backstreet Boys. Formed in Orlando Florida, the group gained fame in 1996 with their self-titled international album, releasing their second album “Backstreet’s Back” the following year. With their dance-worthy pop songs, BSB (as they are fondly called) was a boy band tailor-made for the ’90s. They are the best-selling boy band of all time, selling over 130 million records worldwide, and they are the only boy band to have their first nine albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200. And, like, how many boy bands actually made it to nine albums? Exactly.

Unlike most boy bands of yore, the BSB lads continue to work with each other and are not afraid of poking fun at their boy band past, making a heavenly cameo in the 2013 film This Is The End as fictional versions of themselves. Because they’re still so much in the spotlight, a reality show could totally work or even a mockumentary comedy series. Potential plotlines could include: their rise to fame, the band’s troubled relationship with label JIVE Records and manager Lou Pearlman, rivalry with *NSYNC, Nick Carter’s teen idol status and his famous family members, and Kevin Richardson’s departure and return. After 23 years of working together, there are plenty of stories to tell about this group. And the show’s not over as they are currently working on yet another studio album. Backstreet’s back, all right.

98 Degrees

Cast Members: Jeff Timmons, Nick Lachey, Justin Jeffre, Drew Lachey
Show Inspiration: Scandal or Grey’s Anatomy – basically anything Shondaland

In a sea of pop bands, 98 Degrees stood out as a very R&B-inspired group. (Yes, BSB was R&B-ish in a way, but 98 Degrees leaned heavily toward it.) Their very name was in reference to the heat felt in their music. Taking cues from R&B groups such as Boyz II Men, Take 5 and Jodeci, 98 Degrees differentiated themselves from teen acts like the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys. They wrote most of their own material and infused a lot of R&B into their music, releasing memorable debut singles such as Invisible Man and True to Your Heart (a duet with labelmate Stevie Wonder for the movie Mulan). Their album “98 Degrees and Rising” went 4x platinum in 1998 and sealed their fate as one of the hottest boy bands of the ’90s and early aughts.

If there ever were to be a show about 98 Degrees, it would have to be something out of Shondaland. Think: Drama! Suspense! Heat! Sexy time! Song titles could sub in for episode titles: “Because of You,” “The Hardest Thing,” “Where You Are,” “The Love That You’ve Been Looking For,” “Thank God I Found You,” “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)”… you get the idea. Story ideas could include founding member Jeff Timmons’ quest to start the boy band, the group’s formation in Los Angeles, working with stars such as Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey, and Nick Lachey’s marriage and eventual divorce with teen pop star Jessica Simpson (which spawned the MTV reality show Newlyweds and the infamous Chicken-of-the-Sea debate).

New Kids On the Block

Cast Members: Jonathan Knight, Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood
Show Inspiration: Growing Pains meets Saved by the Bell

You can’t talk boy bands without the original modern day boy band New Kids On the Block, or NKOTB for short, who blazed the trail for the teen boy band trend of the following decade. Their self-titled debut album failed due to their bubblegum pop style so they went for a more urban contemporary pop feel in the next album. “Hangin’ Tough” (1988) was a huge success, spawning commercial singles such as “Please Don’t Go Girl,” “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “Hangin’ Tough,” and “Cover Girl.” They were the first “teen act” to garner five top ten hits from a single album. NKOTB, obviously, had The Right Stuff (pun so very much intended).

As a boy band of the ’80s, it feels only right that their TV show should follow the popular ’80s sitcom format. Think very ’80s production design: neon colors, leather jackets, acid denim, ripped denim, high tops… I could go on. Potential storylines could include: the band’s early struggles for success, touring with Tiffany, appearances on ’80s MTV, lip sync allegations, teen stardom, critical backlash and decline in popularity due to shifts in musical taste, their disbanding, and later reunion. And let’s not forget Donnie’s brother and original NKOTB member Marky Mark. He could make a cameo then spin off into his own show, just saying.

The Jackson 5

Cast Members: Jackie Jackson, Tito Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson
Show Inspiration: Empire

If we want to talk about famous boy bands and pop groups, we need to talk about The Jackson 5. Boy bands did not really exist when the group arrived on the scene in the 1960s, but they most definitely laid the groundwork for future pop and R&B groups to come. They were the first black group that crossed over to the mainstream, and there’s no denying that their blend of pop and R&B influenced the style of many modern boy bands and performers alike. The Jackson 5 released several memorable hits of the 1960s and 1970s including “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “I’ll Be There,” and the youngest member of the group, Michael Jackson, grew up to become one of the most successful musical artists of all-time.

The TV show inspiration that comes to mind here is Empire. The Jacksons are one of the most famous musical families ever, their history rife with speculation and intrigue, so their TV show would have to be just as dramatic and musically infused. Real-life stories that could inspire a TV show could include the family’s humble beginnings and rise to success, Michael’s solo career and eventual ascendance as the King of Pop, the family’s dark private and public struggles, comparison with similar family pop group The Osmonds, and of course little sister Janet’s rise to fame as the family’s breakout sensation (a perfect spin-off series).

Honorable Mentions: LFO, O-Town, Westlife, Take That, Boyz II Men, F4, Menudo, Jonas Brothers

Related Topics: , ,

Writer. Audio/Creative Producer. Columnist, Film School Rejects.