I’ll say this about ABC's High School Musical: Get In The Picture
: it's certainly no American Idol
, and intentionally so.
The tone was set immediately with the very first contestant hopeful, beauty pageant winner Amy Hooker, a “please” and “thank you” gal who at least earned this praise from judge Tiana Brown: “Your manners are adorable!” Hooker, who warbled through her rendition of “Part Of Your World” from The Little Mermaid
(Had to look that up. Honest!), didn’t make it to the next round, but she did get a critique that aspired to be genuinely constructive. “Let in come organically,” beseeched Brown, as if determined to change some lives here. “Believe…
” With that parting gift of wisdom, Hooker was released into the warm Orlando sunshine, still not famous but made slightly better by the experience. And she smiled.
Welcome to the Disneyfication of the prime-time talent show, a world where niceness reigns and mean people aren’t allowed. The judges (“faculty members” in the HSM:GITP
parlance) are uniformly upbeat—all Paulas, not a Simon in the bunch—who attentively assess each contestant and dutifully take notes in their leather journals. They seem to think they’re on a hanky-lite, talent-show version of Extreme Makeover
or even Three Wishes
(“We’re going to make somebody’s life!” gushed judge Jen Malenke), though the reward is surprisingly meager: the winner gets…a part in a music video promoting the forthcoming High School Musical 3
, the next installment in a billion dollar franchise with 400 million fans around the world. (I know these facts because the show told me.)