It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
The Disney Channel
I started watching the Disney Channel six years ago when I was hearing about a musical called High School Musical. I thought I had kept tabs on Broadway and had never heard of it.
It turned out to be a Disney Channel made-for-tv movie. It cost about half a million dollars to make and made about 300 million dollars. An astounding return.
The musical is a flat-out stamped-out formula movie. You could say Romeo and Juliet is the pattern but really it is the rom-com formula. Like Pretty Woman, Grease, well any of those rom-coms it is sure fire to success.
I started watching the Disney Channel and found Hannah Montana. I can’t find the article now but Hannah Montana was the only musician in history to have two albums in the top 100 Billboard the same year at number one: ever. More than the Beatles or Mariah Carey.
I thought: these guys are genius! I knew Disney as making money but this is too darn easy.
If I can understand and recognize a successful formula, then I will have insight into what I am consuming.
Hannah Montana was great. She had a secret which I think is one of the most compelling plot-lines for an audience to watch: when we are in on the secret. Superman and Clark Kent, Twain’s the Prince and the Pauper, My Favorite Martian, anyone who has gone “undercover” on a television show, we love this stuff.
Disney Channel followed up with Wizards of Waverly Place and it was only so-so. They’d designed the concept well but did not exploit the “I’ve got a secret” part much at all.
It turns out that they are not geniuses. Horrible, painful-to-watch shows like Jessie, KC Undercover, Dog with a Blog, Austin and Alley … one after the other. Don’t they know what they are doing?
Two new shows have promise. Stuck in the Middle and Backstage. The reason that these shows “work” is that they are using the mockumenary style (that we’ve seen in Modern Family) which does a quick cut to the actor looking at the camera to reveal their true feelings.
Mockumentary Style works for these shows in the same “I’ve got a secret” manner in that we, as audience, get to see what are really the thoughts of the players. That voyeur in us that is drawn to reality shows and talent shows is piqued and satisfied.
Of course, Disney is over-doing it. It has become part of the pacing of the show as they have not been able to write interesting scenes. Still, with some finesse this might turn these two shows into fun family fare.