This week’s episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series should immediately enter into the TV Hall of Fame. I never knew I needed a crossover between High School Musical and The Real Housewives, but now that the world has been graced with its presence, there’s no looking back.
While I am a dedicated fan of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (a campy mockumentary series always delights—plus, this season, they go to an extra-campy summer camp), I would not call myself a devoted Housewives viewer. Clips posted to Twitter amuse me. Our publication, The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, has some of the best Bravo coverage around. But up until this day, I’ve yet to find a reason to throw myself into hours and hours of the franchise’s back catalog.
But watching High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ most recent episode, “The Real Campers of Shallow Lake,” I found myself evolving into a complete Bravo-head. If these folks are going to be at BravoCon, take my money. I need to know all about the gossip that went into creating the fake Housewives spin-off within the High School Musical universe.
If you’re the reverse version of me (you watch Real Housewives shows but haven’t seen a minute of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series), a little background: The series takes place at East High, the school where the OG Disney Channel movie was shot. In the first season, a new set of Gen-Z students stage High School Musical; Olivia Rodrigo plays the role of Gabriella. In the second season, they put on Beauty and the Beast. It’s hilarious. It’s goofy. It’s heartwarming.
Now, in the third season, the kids head to summer camp, where they’re greeted by none other than High School Musical star Corbin Bleu (!!!). Bleu is putting together a new reality show about musically-talented campers, and the East High kids are in the running to be his first cast of characters. But as the campers put together their version of Frozen, there’s one big problem: They all like each other too much. There’s no drama. Who wants to watch that?
Afraid they’ll lose their big chance to star on TV, the show’s funniest teen, Carlos (Frankie A. Rodriguez) plots out some fake spectacles. He uses his bible, The Real Housewives franchise, to stage a production within a production—someone will be the cryer, another the jilted ex; Carlos will, obviously, be the instigator.
“Watch what happens, fam!” he shouts, revealing a “R.C.O.S.L” (see the above episode title) logo to the group in perfect Real Housewives-style font. “The key to any good reality show is the three B’s: bombshells, betrayals, and bitchslaps.”
Somehow, Disney approved this line in their family-friendly(ish) TV show. I still don’t know if High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is for middle schoolers, teenagers, or adults—but I do know that it’s for me, and now, it’s for Bravo fans, too.
That’s not all. Along with their new roles, the cast will have four goals for the day to impress the reality show producers. Carlos demands the following: Someone must cry, a camper must slap their peer, a drink must be thrown, and, to top the whole thing off, someone’s going to get caught on a hot mic. Hopefully it’s not a spoiler alert to say that Carlos is successful in meeting all of his demands.
The episode continues in this manner, with Carlos in the producer role (let’s not forget there’s an actual reality producer recording all of this for Corbin’s show), instructing his friends on how to self-destruct. The slap must be perfect. Someone needs to have a kitschy catchphrase: “Don’t get me started!” And, at the end of the day, hopefully, everyone will still be friends.
If you have any interest in either of these two franchises—Real Housewives or High School Musical—I highly suggest you drop what you’re doing and watch this episode on Disney+. Watching theater geeks parade around as Teresa Giudice, Dorit Kemsley, and Sutton Stracke is the best mash-up of TV you’ll see all year.