Howdy, kids! Back with you after going MIA last week (sorry!) due to the exhausting commitment that was Comic-Con, but I have a confession to make: I’m still not loving High School Musical: Get in the Picture as much as I thought I would be. Maybe it’s because after five episodes, it seems like the show hasn’t really started. The first four installments gathered our wannabe-star contestants; last night’s outing brought them to the brightly colored, cartoon-come-to-life High School Musical “campus,” where they got the HSM equivalent of new student orientation, full of getting-to-know-you games and on-the-town events. It was exactly as dull as my prose sounds.

The first half of the show saw acting coach Ron Adler conduct an exercise in which the contestants all offered “first impressions” of each other. My favorite was this observation of Stan the Football Stud by Shayna the Hippie Chick: “You’re the jock who has lots of girls who want you, but you actually don’t want them–you want a ‘secret girl’ that nobody knows about.” How specific! And from the way Shayna flashed her eyes at him, I’m guessing she was campaigning to become his down-low showmance. Beyond re-establishing our characters for those just joining, the exercise sought to make some one-to-grow-on after-school-special statement about the shallowness of judging by appearances, how we tend to sort others and ourselves according to types (the jock, the nerd, the funny fat guy), blah blah blah. Never mind the fact that the show probably cast each of these kids because they easily (and willingly) conform to Breakfast Club clichés. There’s a guy on this show named Ether. He wears a nerdy sweater and a nerdy haircut and nerdy disposition, and so everyone deems him “the nerd,” although the show seems to want to make you feel vaguely guilty for basically agreeing with that assessment, even though it provides Ether with no other opportunity to be anything else except “the nerd.” All right, HSM: GITP! Stop trying to be American Teen already! You’re not a documentary–a faux-reality reality show! Pull the Disney stick out of your ass and be the ridiculously cheesy guilty pleasure you’re supposed to be!

Other thoughts (after the jump):

addCredit(“High School Musical contestants: Kevin Foley”)

1. The sight of Nick Lachey and “the faculty” lavishing “thestudents” with gift bags from K-Mart—and hearing Nick Lachey trymightily to make the word “K-Mart” sound exciting– made me scoff-snortso hard that snot flew out of my nose.
2. How about High School Musicalimpresario Kenny Ortega wiggling out that funky dance move! On thesurface, the dude looks old enough to be… well, old. Who knew there wasSolid Gold inside that guy?
3. The impromptu music jam, withOrtega dancing about like a snake charmer, beckoning the contestants tosing/dance for him? So creepy-awkward. I would have paid 20 bucks tohear what Lachey was thinking as he gamely smiled and snapped hisfingers as he watched the spectacle unfold. My guess? Either “I usedto be cool once—right?” or “Remember the paycheck, remember thepaycheck, remember the paycheck…”
4. The whole Almost Famous/”Tiny Dancer” sing-along at the end: painfully contrived…. but at least we’re one step closer to total cheese-o-rama.

Still no Vanessa Hudgens. Should I abandon hope?

High School Musical: Get In the Picture
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