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ABC Eyes High School Musical Reality Show

Bad Idea of the Week: High School Musical With Real People

I can understand how the people in charge of the making-money part of show business are blinded by dollar signs when anyone says the words "High School Musical." The Disney Channel's made-for-TV movie starring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens is a goliath that quickly moved from a massive ratings success to a global franchise phenomenon. It's not surprising that the powers that be are eager ride this tween wave for all it's worth. However: a reality show? Really?


There's already plenty of HSM to go around with the original and HSM 2 on TV, HSM3: Senior Year in the works for Fall 2008, and the live stage production and ice tour currently making their way across America. Plus, actual high schools can now license the musical for performances, and Showtime is working on a documentary about the "cutthroat world" of musicals at Southern Indiana high schools. Might this proposed reality show — which would show young singers competing for a still-mysterious grand prize — be the point when even the most die-hard HSM fan just says no?

For more details about the show and why I think this is where the folks in charge should practice some restraint in the brainstorming room, read more.

Variety reports that while the deal is not finalized, some aspects of how the show would work are known and include:

  • A nationwide talent hunt followed by a group of contestants studying at a music conservatory to hone their skills
  • A summer airdate on ABC
  • Weekly eliminations of contestants
  • A grand prize — though the prize itself is still confidential.
  • Appearances by franchise stars (does that include the ice skaters?)

I'm probably not the demographic ABC is targeting for a show like this, and I realize there are others who could be entertained by this concept. However, I've generally come to believe that giving the reality tretament to popular musicals should be avoided (thanks to Grease: You're the One That I Want for that lesson). Issues of HSM overload aside, I think people are attracted to these musicals because it allows them to escape to a sincere and earnest world where most problems can be solved with spontaneous bursts of song and dance. Reality show competitions are rooted in the exact opposite: a cynical place in which there are always winners and losers (and boatloads of drama), and no matter how hard you try, sometimes the cards just don't fall your way. The two just don't mix well, and I can't imagine millions of Americans lining up to watch young hopefuls Buffalo-two-step their way into oblivion.

Then again, maybe the HSM gravy train truly knows no bounds. I think this is one very bad idea, but what's your take?

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