In terms of execution, ABC’s latest audition show is no better than — and actually has much in common with — NBC’s soon-forgotten reality program finding stars for the “Grease” stage revival. What distinguishes “High School Musical: Get in the Picture” is its breathtaking cross-platform promotion of Disney properties, from the upcoming movie to the studio’s themeparks to the animated Disney movies (please, no more “A Whole New World”) whose songs are belted out as calling cards. Tepid opening ratings suggest the exercise might have better been left to the Disney Channel than the flagship broadcast network.
Hosted by the suddenly ubiquitous Nick Lachey, the first hour centered on Orlando auditions. As an added bonus, the half-dozen judges (a pretty nondescript bunch) also made house calls, visiting candidates in their home towns. Think of it as “American Idol” meets Publisher’s Clearinghouse.
Mostly between the ages of 16 and 21, the contenders dutifully marched in to strut their stuff, with roughly equal emphasis placed on the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
For all the success of “High School Musical,” though — including boffo ratings for the sequel’s recent Disney Channel debut — the concept still hews toward an awfully young audience, blunting its potential appeal. That said, it’s surprising at least more teens didn’t turn out for this first sock hop, which may be a testimonial to how glutted the summer marketplace is with such competitions.
Unimpressively produced for the most part, the premiere did yield one genuinely human moment, in which Lachey consoled a young girl by telling her that auditioning is “an uncomfortable process” that even seasoned pros dread. It was an economical, sober look at all the rejection that tends to precede stardom — rejection being an experience that “Get in the Picture” apparently shares with most of those that yearned to get in the picture.