They are television’s latest “Odd Couple,” a teenage version of Oscar and Felix thrown together not by divorce, but by the marriage of their TV parents.
But the oddest thing, say the stars of Nickelodeon’s new hit series “Drake & Josh,” is that what you see on TV isn’t that much different from real life.
Josh Peck and Drake Bell, who play reluctant stepbrothers thrown together in a blended suburban family, don’t share a room in real life. But they do live just five minutes apart in the suburbs of Southern California.
And like their TV alter-egos, who are also named Drake and Josh, they didn’t exactly hit it off when they met four years ago on the set of a Nickelodeon game show called “Double Dare.”
“Our original meeting was a fiasco,” Josh says by phone from the show’s set, as Drake can be heard snickering in the background. “It wasn’t exactly love at first sight.”
He chalks it up now to both of them being too much like their “Drake & Josh” characters. (The show airs on Nick at 7 p.m. Saturdays and 7:30 p.m. Sundays.)
Josh, the bookish one, whose physique and rubbery face have inspired comparisons to John Candy and even Jackie Gleason, insists that just like his TV character he really is uptight and uncool. He says Drake, whose good looks have “teen idol” written all over them, is “the very cool Orange County kind of surfer-skateboarder dude. Good with the ladies.”
That isn’t such a bad combination for a friendship, on TV or in real life. “We’re kind of like the yin and yang. We’re totally different. But it works,” says Drake.
It was their ability to riff off one another that “Drake & Josh” producer Dan Schneider said inspired him to create a show for the two 17-year-olds.
He’d originally cast them as supporting players in “The Amanda Show,” the hit Nickelodeon vehicle for teen star Amanda Bynes. It was there that he noticed the talent they had for creating comic conflict, either in front of the camera or while cutting up by themselves.
“Josh reminds me of myself when I was a kid. He’s a funny kid who is sometimes a little awkward,” says Schneider, himself a former teen star on the 1980s ABC sitcom “Head of the Class.”
“Drake on the other hand ... he’s the kid every young kid wants to be,” says Schneider. “He’s really good looking, he plays guitar, he’s funny, he sings, he can act. He just has it all.”
On the show, his character takes advantage of his glibness and good looks to try to shortcut his way out of any troublesome situation, while Josh’s more cerebral character recognizes that attitude as a blueprint for disaster. Unfortunately, though, he’s never able to avoid being sucked into those disasters, whether they involve enraged boyfriends, bungled baby-sitting assignments or wrecked vehicles.