Friday, November 2nd, 2007 11:13:03

It’s great to be a part of history, especially when it involves buttered popcorn

More than 17 million viewers tuned into the premiere of “High School Musical 2” on August 17, making it the most watch basic cable telecast on record. Our house included four of those viewers.

I heard about the debut from a friend whose daughter was having a premiere viewing party. This was not an isolated event — there were debut parties across the nation. The Disney Web site even offered party tips for the event.

Disney promoted the movie throughout the summer, providing fans with an interactive way to help create the new show through the Disney Web site. Fans’ choices among other things, what was written on Chad’s t-shirt and Sharpay’s golf cart accessories.

As with the original movie, Disney did a terrific job of combining talent and entertainment with a story that has a moral. The original “High School Musical” revolves around the ideas of working hard, taking a chance and being successful.

“High School Musical 2” focuses on being true to yourself and to your friends.

The movie begins as the last class of the year is ending and summer break is beginning. The plot revolves around Troy, the basketball team captain, and school heart throb; Gabriella his smart girlfriend; and Sharpay, the rich country club girl with the pink convertible, who decides winning Troy over will be her summer activity.

Troy, Gabriella and the majority of the basketball team are looking for summer jobs. Sharpay decides to assist Troy (without his knowing) by having the manager of her family’s country club offer Troy a job. Troy turns his good fortune into good fortune for his friends, securing jobs at the club for them as well.

In her quest to win Troy over, Sharpay orchestrates numerous tricks and twists, including Troy’s promotion to assistant golf pro, access to a golf cart, new Italian shoes, golf clothes and clubs, and an introduction via her father to the Redhawks college basketball team. Troy is faced with choosing between opportunities and old friends.

During one telling scene, Troy and the Redhawks are at a table, when Chad, Troy’s friend approaches to serve lunch. Troy interrupts his conversation with the Redhawks, Chad’s face lights up, thinking his friend is about to introduce him. Instead, Troy informs Chad that his order is wrong; he had asked for Swiss on his hamburger.

The drama continues: Sharpay kicks her brother Ryan out of her talent act, and enlists Troy by trapping him into a promise. Gabriella responds by enlisting Ryan into directing the team and friends for a separate entry in the contest. Sharpay retaliates by forcing the country club manager to exclude club employees from the contest.

After Gabriella has broken up with Troy, citing her need to move on, Troy is pictured lying in his bed contemplating what to do when his father walks into his room. After his father notes that Troy has not been himself recently, Troy tells his father that he is confused and does not know what to do or who he is anymore. Picking up a picture of Troy, his father expresses confidence that Troy will figure it out.

Troy does, in fact, figure it all out, requesting his friends’ forgiveness, and announcing to Sharpay he will not appear in the talent contest.

In the end, as would be expected, everything works out. Troy sings in the talent contest, Gabriella joins him in a duet that Ryan orchestrates. Sharpay receives the award for the talent show, turning it over to her brother Ryan. In the end Troy chooses friends, but is also able to take advantage of opportunity.

While this story line may appear simple on the surface, the program also contains scenes that provide viewers with a framework for understanding the characters’ actions. The basketball team members lounge around in Troy’s kitchen, obviously quite at home, indicating this is a normal event. Troy’s mother walks in the house after shopping, asks the team to unload the groceries and all the team members go outside to help. Troy and his father work together to rebuild a truck, which his father then gives to him. Gabriella’s parents pick her up after her shift ends at the club and Ryan’s father constantly adjusts his son’s cap.

These little details paint a picture of families providing structure and support for their children, with the expectation that the children will respond with good behavior, hard work and by doing their best.

The good news is that the time spent to create this framework is also what makes 13 to 24 year olds happy. A recent AP article, “Poll: Family Ties key to Youth Happiness” reports the results of an AP, MTV poll. “When asked what one thing makes them most happy, 20 percent mentioned spending time with family more than anything else. About three-quarters – 73 – percent said their relationship with their parents makes them happy.”

So the takeaway from watching “High School Musical 2,” is that adolescents will make the right choices as they grow up, based on what they have learned throughout their lives.

The good news is that spending time with their family, which will create this framework, will also make them happy, now that’s a happy ending.