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High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

HSMTMTS season 4





Kennedy Unthank
Kristin Smith

TV Series Review

Ever heard of a little thing called High School Musical? Sure, you have, with Vanessa Hudgens as the academically gifted Gabriella Montez and Zac Efron as the athletic Troy Bolton. They both try out for a musical. They both get the leading roles. They both fall in love with each other.

It used to be a pretty big deal, and it made both Hudgens and Efron big-time stars. But students at East High School, the birthplace of High School Musical, have long forgotten about the whole thing. Until they’re reminded by a new, quirky, slightly crazy drama teacher, Miss Jenn, who comes along with her aspiring assistant, Carlos, and a masterplan to revive the beloved musical.

The musical was a success, naturally. But high school theater programs can’t rest on their laurels. For the spring show, Miss Jenn has bigger fish to fry—in some ways literally.

See, Jenn’s old boyfriend, Zack, is back in town, directing the theater program for rival North High School. And given that he played a starfish in the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid, he’s bringing the production to North in search of a prestigious state theater award. “The high school musical Canon is not going to get us the gold,” she grumbles, and she dives into a production of Beauty and the Beast instead.

Just like Jenn’s production of High School Musical, there’s a few hiccups and more than enough drama to fill the stage, but Beauty and the Beast was a general success. But the theater grind doesn’t stop there, because Season Three brings our crew out to Camp Shallow Lake, the camp Disney has chosen to premiere the first camp production of Frozen! What’s more, Disney’s going to film the creation of the show for a reality show they plan to release on … Disney+!

And, well, as reality shows as tend to do, they misrepresent the teens for the sake of drama. And original High School Musical star Corbin Bleu feels bad about how the kiddos were treated. Which is why, in Season Four, he’s gotten permission to make the drama students extras in an upcoming new movie: High School Musical 4: The Reunion, a movie they hope will be both “woke” and “a throwback” at the same time.

But with some students facing their final years of high school and fame ever creeping closer on their doorsteps, they’ll be forced to grapple with plenty of changes—in college and in romantic relationships.

76 Problems led the big parade

I imagine that when Disney+ unraveled High School Musical: The Musical: The Series they thought themselves quite clever. And if they didn’t, they should have.

This high-school focused series is like a mix between the mockumentary style of The Office, the vocal talents of Glee and the drama-filled moments of Riverdale, all without the hyper-salacious content. But though the content is nowhere near Riverdale status, it still exists in this PG-rated show.

We discover, for instance, that Nina has two lesbian mothers, and many of the main characters in this series are LGBT. Olivia Rodrigo, who plays Nina, after commenting that her moms’ relationship was “portrayed as completely normal and natural, which … that’s just real life,” also reminded us of why parents may want to be cautious of the message the series sends.

“TV [can] transform how you see the world,” Rodrigo said in an interview with Hollywood Life. “It’s a really important thing, especially for…younger viewers to see. I’m really excited for that.”

And younger viewers will see and hear other questionable elements, too. It isn’t uncommon to hear God’s name being misused, “h—” and “d–n.” We even hear the s-word bleeped out, though it’s clear what’s being said. High school relationships exist, as does flirting, kissing and general moments of affection. Carlos, Miss Jenn’s drama assistant, is gay and in a relationship with a guy named Seb (who was also cast as a female character in the first season). Outfits can be somewhat revealing. Drama abounds in adult relationships as well as those of teens, and some marriages are a little rocky. (One couple legally separated in Season 1.)

The show is closer to Glee than it is to the original squeaky clean High School Musical, which will dismay many a fan. There’s no murder, no overtly risqué behavior on screen (yet), and no overarching darkness pulling at the plot. However, parents should take Rodrigo’s comments to heart: TV offers a wide variety of subjective opinions on morality which may sway unprepared and susceptible young minds into thinking that objective moral wrongs are right. It’ll be up to parents to help guide their children in that objective way.

Episode Reviews

Jul. 27, 2023 – S4, Ep1: “High School Musical 4”

On the first day of school, the drama kids are given many surprises—including the news that a new High School Musical movie will be filmed on campus.

Two men kiss. We also see many other heterosexual couples kiss. Gina wears a shirt that displays cleavage. One character is seen in his boxers, and we later see a photo of him shirtless on a beach. A cheerleader outfit reveals her midriff. Ricky’s father tells him to practice safe sex. We hear plenty of talk about both homo and heterosexual relationship drama. We’re told that a character from the original High School Musical is “happily partnered” in the new movie. Someone describes Hollywood as a “tempting mistress.”

Someone pretends to meditate. The same person tells a teen that he needs to “manifest what you want.”

God’s name is taken in vain four times.

Jul. 27, 2022 – S3, Ep1: “Happy Campers”

With summer vacation started, the crew heads to Camp Shallow Lake for two weeks of fun. However, they soon learn momentous news which could change their experience. Ricky discovers who sabotaged his Beauty and the Beast performance.

EJ and Gina share a kiss on the cheek and lips. We hear multiple references to Nini’s two moms. Carlos says he urinated “a little bit” in response to a scare, and he jokes about the camp performing a “blood sacrifice.”

A girl idolizes and personifies her phone. Another girl mentions accidently knocking out some of her teeth. A male camper breaks a picture frame with a football.

God’s name is used in vain once. “D–n” is heard once.

May 14, 2021 – S2, Ep1: “New Year’s Eve”

As Ricky glories in his rejuvenated relationship with Nini, she ponders how to tell Ricky that she’s leaving Salt Lake City and East High School for a prestigious program in Denver. Meanwhile, Miss Jenn is set on producing High School Musical 2 for the school’s spring production. But when she encounters an old flame—one who’s leading the drama department of a rival school—she changes her mind.

Three couples take center stage for the episode: Ricky and Nini, who kiss on occasion; Ashlyn and Red, who exchange their first official kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve; and gay couple Carlos and Seb, who don’t kiss but who are wildly affectionate with each other. (Carlos also sniffs at the thought of “straight guys in theater”.)

Given that it’s the Christmas season, we see several ugly sweaters and secular Christmas displays. One character wears a Chanukah sweater, graced with a menorah, that contains the phrase, “Get lit.” Students gather for a New Year’s party but—in a welcome departure from form regarding most teen parties on TV—there’s no booze present; a latecomer even totes in a case of Shasta soda. One character says that she’s “screwed,” but that’s the only thing even close to profanity here.

Nov. 12, 2019 – S1, Ep1: “The Auditions”

Juniors Nini and Ricky break up at the start of a new school year. Ricky plans to get Nini back by auditioning for the part of Troy in High School Musical. Nini auditions to be Gabriella but hopes that her new boyfriend, E.J., will get the part of Troy instead of her ex.

In a flashback, Nini flirts with and kisses Ricky. Later, she kisses her new boyfriend and looks at his shirtless picture. Ricky makes a joke about guys who willingly wear tights. Carlos, a gay drama assistant, wishes to be noticed by a fellow male student. A female teacher flirts with a young male student. A few girls wear slightly revealing tops.

Ricky’s dad hints at divorce with Ricky’s mom. Nini gets mad when her boyfriend doesn’t say “I love you.” Other moments of drama ensue. Nini’s best friend, Kourtney, gives a speech about fighting for feminism. Ricky jokes about his stinky feet.

The s-word is bleeped out and “h—” is used once.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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