High school kids from different social circles spontaneously breaking into song? Sounds familiar…
It was recently announced that the forthcoming Disney streaming service would include a brand new High School Musical TV series, among other things. The news has us wondering, could the series fill the gaping hole left behind by another beloved musical series?
It’s been almost three years since Glee aired its series finale and despite all of the amazing content being created now, its absence is still felt. Sure, there are plenty of other great series’ incorporating music, like Nashville, Craxy Ex-Girlfriend, and even Riverdale, to an extent, but the way that Glee blended today’s hits with the high school experience was unique.
In its prime, Glee adeptly portrayed the complex issues that go hand in hand with high school, along with the emotions behind them, in a way that was unrivaled by any other series, before or since. Its diverse cast of characters, while often exaggerated, helped to create a world in which every viewer could see themselves. The show was so much more than the jokes and the soundtracks. It was important.
At first glance, the concepts of Glee and High School Musical are quite similar. High school kids? Check. The popular and…less popular groups brought together by their love of musical theatre? Check. Teen romance? Double check. Sporadic singing to enhance emotional (and even sometimes unemotional) moments? Super check. Obviously, many of the same ingredients were used to bake these wildly successful teen musical flavored pies.
One major difference would be that Glee relied on covering songs, almost exclusively, while the High School Musical movies used original music, created just for the film. As of yet, we have no idea which route the new High School Musical series will take.
Writing original music for a TV series is definitely a taller order than doing the same for a film, simply because of the increase in screen time. Instead of creating music for a 90 minute movie, every few years, they’d need to fill hours of story at once, or 60 minutes each week, depending on the format of the new streaming service.
There are pros and cons to both options. With Glee, it was so fun to see and hear new versions of our favorite songs, performed by a group of extremely talented people. It was also cool to experience the songs, that perhaps we’d just heard in passing, applied to a “real life” situation. However, the songs often felt like they didn’t quite match what the character was actually going through.
High School Musical’s original song approach takes care of that issue. Because the songs are written specifically for the situation in which they’re performed, they’re usually a pretty perfect match. Another pro is that we get brand new songs to add to our playlists! That being said, a con would be that the songs are often too specific and not translatable to mainstream play. Another concern is that with the volume required, the quality of the music could be lacking.
Aside from the musical approach, there is one major difference between Glee and High School Musical that could keep the upcoming series from matching the significance of its predecessor.
While Glee dove headfirst into the daunting high school experience from all angles, covering many diverse points of view, High School Musical stuck to the surface-level problems. They skimmed over the “I don’t have to stay in the box that I’ve been put in” issue and eventually evolved that idea into the “now that I have so many options, what the hell am I going to do after high school?” conundrum.
High School Musical had a decently diverse cast of characters, but the main story was always saved for Troy and Gabriella, or the white, straight, elite duo of Sharpay and Ryan. Other characters played a background role, at best. If the series hopes to achieve success, today, it will need to broaden its scope from the Troys and Gabriellas of East High, and work toward a strong ensemble cast, such as Glee’s.
The new High School Musical series will also need to tackle a wider variety of issues. Hopefully, they’ll use the extra time that comes along with a series to do just that. Maybe we’ll even get to move beyond the choir room, to see how students who aren’t interested in musical theater view the high school experience.
If High School Musical does become the next Glee, we’re hoping it doesn’t make Glee’s mistake, and keeps the show set in high school. The quality of Glee suffered when the original characters graduated and the show began spreading itself too thin.
Besides, with the title of High School Musical they kind of have to stay in high school, right? …Right?!