What do you call a musical about kids putting on a musical? Why, "High School Musical" (7 p.m., Disney), of course. But this feature-length teen film takes a few potshots at the cliches of the backstage world, and throws in a Romeo and Juliet plot, to boot.
Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) meet on vacation at a ski lodge. He's a basketball-obsessed jock and she's a straight-A type who'd rather have her lovely nose buried in a book. Their mothers insist they attend a New Year's Eve teen party. Once there, the DJ pushes them onto a karaoke stage. Within seconds, they are making beautiful, or at least passably "American Idol"-worthy, music together.
Once back home, Troy is delighted to discover that his mysterious singing partner has transferred to his high school. But the magic may be gone. He's the star of the basketball team and the coach's son, and the expectations of jock-dom weigh heavily on his shoulders. Gabriella is pounced upon by the brainy types and drafted into the academic decathlon team.
These two wouldn't dare try out for the school musical, would they?
This being a Disney movie, the lesson is simple and repeated regularly. In short: Be yourself and don't let others define you. The story of two star-crossed warblers and the obstacles they face is a tad thin to sustain a two-hour spectacle. This "Musical" is shy a subplot or two.
l So far, the biggest question on "Dancing with the Stars" (7 p.m., ABC) is, how does Master P survive? He had an excuse the first week, since he came in late, with little time for practice. Compared to his diligent competitors, P "performs" with spectacular indifference. How long will he survive? Can he win? Last season, John O'Hurley wowed an audience with his Herculean effort. You sensed he would win or die trying. Is this the year of the blase champion?
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A visit to wine country becomes a messy, talky voyage of discovery for two old friends (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church) in the 2004 drama/comedy "Sideways" (6:45 p.m., Cinemax).
¢ Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere and Queen Latifah star in the 2002 film adaptation of the musical "Chicago" (8 p.m., Bravo).