(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
Where You Can Stream It: Disney+
The Pitch: The students at East High School, where Disney filmed the wildly popular High School Musical movies, prepare to stage a production of High School Musical: The Musical for their winter theater show at the urging of their ambitious new drama teacher Miss Jenn (Kate Reinders), who had appeared in the original movie as a background dancer. In this mockumentary-style series, the drama club members navigate teenage love and drama, most of which centers around Olivia Rodrigo‘s protagonist, Nini Salazar-Roberts, who is cast as Gabrielle in the stage play.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: On May 21, Olivia Rodrigo released her debut album Sour, and I was one of the many geriatric millennials who listened and related far too deeply to it. How did this 18-year-old baby feel so much? And who was the white boy who broke Rodrigo’s heart? As someone who was now far too invested in this Disney teenybopper’s career (I just want good things for her!) and has fallen down the rabbit hole of previous Disney love triangles before, I had to find out. So I switched on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series to see where it all started.
Some background. Earlier this year, Olivia Rodrigo released her debut song “driver’s license,” a dreamy, atmospheric power ballad that was clearly about something. It was too specific to not be. Particularly these lines: “And you’re probably with that blonde girl/Who always made me doubt/She’s so much older than me/She’s everything I’m insecure about.”
All cards on the table – I was late to the “driver’s license” hype and didn’t get fully into it until I saw it trending on Twitter because the aforementioned “blonde girl” released her own song in response to Rodrigo’s viral hit. That blonde girl was Sabrina Carpenter, another young actress you also probably haven’t heard of (she starred in Girl Meets World and The Hate U Give). Carpenter had released a sassy synth-pop ballad called “Skin” just a few weeks after “driver’s license,” singing at one point, “Maybe you didn’t mean it/Maybe blonde was the only rhyme/The only rhyme.” Carpenter had recently begun dating Rodrigo’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett, whom Rodrigo had apparently dated before. Yes folks, it’s a full-on feud.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m so invested in a love triangle between Disney teenyboppers. Folks, I don’t know why either. But I was down the rabbit hole, and on Team Rodrigo. On her part, it’s a very astute marketing move to turn her personal life into fodder for her music — as many a successful and acclaimed musician has done before her — and make herself out to be the natural underdog: the heartbroken, insecure, younger girl. But as orchestrated as the whole love triangle may have been, there’s something about Rodrigo’s lyrics and her delivery, simmering with raw despair, that makes me want to believe her and protect her. Plus, she’s Filipino-American, so I could count listening to Sour, which is jam-packed with songs about this break-up with Bassett, as doing my part for AAPI month.
Anyways, that’s what led me to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which I flipped on out of curiosity as to where this drama all began. I just wanted to know which white boy broke her heart (I didn’t look up what Bassett looked like before I watched it). It took me about three episodes to finally figure it out, but by then, I was surprisingly invested in this sweet, funny show. The mockumentary structure allows the Disney+ comedy series to give itself a degree of self-awareness that isn’t afforded to Disney Channel shows or similarly muggy series like Glee, and the teen stars are all incredibly charming. The magnetic Rodrigo, who I am now fully a fan of, included.
The boys are all right. They’re not worth the heartbreak, Olivia.
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