Remember back in the day when buying tickets for your high school musical was just above volunteering for detention on your list of things not cool to do? Now you’d be lucky if you could get a ticket.
The phenomena that is the Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” and “High School Musical 2,” have been so embraced by kids and adults alike, that it has quickly become the next big thing in pop culture.
How huge is it?
“HSM 2” premiered on Aug. 10 and attracted a whopping 17.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched basic cable TV program of all time. Additionally it was the most-watched show of all time among kids 6-11 (6.1 million); the most-watched entertainment telecast ever (only behind the 2004 Super Bowl) among tweens 9-14 (5.9 million).
“HSM 2’s” young stars — Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman — are collectively more popular than Paris, Nicole, Britney and LiLo and so far they’ve managed to remain squeaky clean.
The sold-out premiere at Disneyland brought out some of biggest celebrities in Hollywood as well as a plethora of kiss-me-Zac-or-I’ll-die fans, including a girl who got too close and had to be rushed to the hospital after nearly being trampled.
The things they do for that hottie Zac.
Additionally, the soundtrack debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, there’s a “High School Musical” video game, it won best film at Sunday’s Teen Choice Awards and Disney is also taking the show on the road internationally. The cast is currently in London and there are also scheduled stops in India and the Philippines. And next month, the stars of “HSM 2” will reunite and retrace their steps so viewers can groove along in a dance-a-thon telecast on Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
And “High School Musical 3” will be coming to a multiplex in your ‘hood in the very near future.
But probably the most significant thing about this humongous little cable movie is its mass appeal. Kids may swoon over the pretty stars, but adults can appreciate the film’s positive messages.
“Adults are watching it because their kids are watching,” says Melanie McFarland, TV critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “And little kids are watching it over and over again.”
She’s right. A quick poll of my friends with kids supports that claim. Los Angeles native Janet Moon, a 29-year-old mother of three kids aged 10, 7 and 5, rues the day when the film comes out on DVD.
“Don’t even tell them that might be a possibility,” she warned. “They would never stop watching it.”
And Sharon Nokes, mother of a high school senior in Orange County, says her daughter and her friends plan their lives around the replays.
“They get together and re-enact the scenes while they’re watching it on TV,” said Nokes. “She watches a lot of TV — too much — but I’ve never seen her do that with any other show. She even wants to try out for the school play now. It’s fun. I like it, too.”
In case you’re one of the three people in the country who haven’t heard of this franchise or seen it on the Disney Channel, allow me to break it down for you. Basically, it’s a throwback to the old “Andy Hardy” films starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Like the “HSM 2” kids, Mickey and Judy’s characters were good and squeaky and had this innate need to sing and dance.
Efron, who won the Teen Choice “Hottie” award, plays Troy Bolton, the ultra-popular captain of the Wildcats basketball team. He’s got two girls — Gabriella (Hudgens) and Sharpay (Tisdale) — vying for his affections but he’s really down with Gabriella. Sharpay, however, does everything she can to keep them apart — including getting Troy a gig at her family’s country club where she’ll be spending the summer. The next thing you know Troy has been talked into singing a duet with Gabriella at the club talent show and having a swell old time.
It’s so totally old school Disney.
“‘High School Musical’ is doing for this generation what ‘West Side Story’ did for older generations,” McFarland said. “The difference is that ‘West Side Story’ was Romeo and Juliet, it was about race relations and really sparked discussion because it tackled some serious issues. There is romance in this one, but basically it’s about fitting in and cliques. It has all the things that are inherent in being a teen-ager.”
Now that audiences can’t get enough of the gang from East High, Disney will probably be popping out “HSM” sequels at a furious pace. The cast will eventually age, ask for more money or become huge stars who will move on because they don’t want to become pigeonholed.
But even if that happens, it’s probably safe to assume that kids on screen and off will be singing and dancing their way through adolescence for years to come.
Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com who was never in her high school musical. She welcomes your comments at