High School Musical The Series. Photo Credit: Wikimedia commons
By Justin Capera
One of the launch titles of Disney’s streaming service Disney + is the highly anticipated “High School Musical: The Musical-The Series” . To say it is flawed would be an understatement.
Apart from the name being a mouthful, it is important to note that the show is not a musical. Instead, the plot of the series is about how the high school, East High School, where the original “High School Musical” film was shot, is hosting their first production of the original film. This means that the series does not take place in the “High School Musical” film universe.
Yes, there are musical performances but, thus far, not one of the original “High School Musical” songs, that fans have grown to love, are performed in their entirety.
The series stars Olivia Rodrigo from Disney Channel’s “Bizaardvark” as Nini, Joshua Basset as Ricky, Matt Cornett as EJ, and Sofia Wylie from Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” as Gina. The series has a typical high school love triangle everyone is tired of watching, an over-competitive broadway star wannabe, and a director whose obsession with the original “High School Musical” film leads to unnecessary changes made to the play.
The characters have constant moments where they are confessing their feelings to the camera between scenes, a technique recognized from NBC’s “The Office”. However, here it feels unnecessary since the characters talk about their feelings about situations that the audience can interpret for themselves.
This series should practice more showing than telling. Maybe if they used this concept, the series would feel more fresh rather than trying to be something it’s not.
Although it has a TV-PG rating, it is still a Disney series so it cannot have the lovable edge that other high school singing shows, like Fox’s “Glee” had. It tries to get serious but the Disney restrictions hurt its chances of making that real impact. It cannot even make the risky but rewarding jokes that Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” use to pull off, as the jokes in this series fall flat.
The teenagers of the series speak the way adult writers think teenagers speak. The main characters sometimes look to the camera to make side comments to the audience – because they think they are Zack Morris from NBC’s “Saved By The Bell” for some reason- and the adults are way too ridiculous to be taken seriously. There are attempts to make the film relevant to modern times with the director’s changes to the play, which does not go unnoticed, but they are not needed.
The film was loved by audiences, but the changes made to address modern ideals were pointless. They might as well have made a brand new film, instead, this is a problem that will definitely alienate fans of the original “High School Musical”. The series is missing elements that made “High School Musical” beloved by audiences for years – it tries to be too serious and drops the ball from the first episode.
Another issue with the series is that despite the fact it is available for streaming on Disney +, the episodes have a 30 minute run time, each which with no ads go by too quickly. Also, the episodes are released on a weekly basis, not all at once like the binge-watch model Netflix has, and it feels as if there is not enough content to keep the audience invested. Even if you are enjoying the series, you have to wait a week for a new installment so maybe Disney + should extend the episode lengths or drop the whole season in a day a la Netflix.
The trend of high school ‘musicals’ has died out years ago so this series feels like it was dropped tens years too late. Maybe if the show was released a year after “High School Musical 3:Senior Year”, it would have had the original fans for the 2019 release.
The fans from the original films are now adults, who most likely would not be interested in a Disney series anymore. While you can argue this show is for the newer generation, this generation did now grow up with the “High School Musical” films, and it is clear that since the series has such a strong connection with the original film, that the intent was to win over the original fans but the series will not do that.
Overall, the series may make new fans who did not grow up with the original films happy, but fans of the films are better off just streaming the trilogy on Disney + since they would be on the platform anyways. “High School Musical: The Musical-The Series” is now streaming only on Disney + with new episodes every Friday.