EXCLUSIVE: Call it High School Musical: the series. Or Glee with original music. Disney Channel is fast-tracking what is described as its most ambitious series yet. Tentatively titled Madison High, the single-camera comedy is still in development but preliminary casting has already begun and a formal pilot order is expected to follow. Just like HSM, Madison High employs the break-into-song-and-dance format to tell the stories about 11-16 year-olds navigating the school social hierarchy. It is set at Madison High, which is trying to build a revolutionary theatre program, and follows a pool of students who, by the end of the year, will have produced an original piece based on their lives. The Office alum Lester Lewis, who worked with Disney Channel on another music-driven single-camera comedy, Jonas L.A., is writing Madison High, which he is executive producing with Paul Hoen. Hoen, who has directed about a dozen Disney Channel original movies, most recently Camp Rock 2, as well as episodes for that many series, is set to direct the pilot when it is greenlit. Disney Channel introduced the contemporary musical genre to a new generation of kids and tweens with the 2006 smash High School Musical, which spawned two sequels, one on TV and one on the big screen. HSM4 is in the works, and next year, spinoff Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure starring and executive produced by Ashley Tisdale, will premiere on the channel. Fox’s Glee applied the break-into-song contemporary musical concept to the series format to huge success. Now Madison High is taking it one step further. Unlike Glee, which only features cover songs, it will stick to the HSM model with all-original music. The show will commission new songs while also featuring artists from Disney’s music label. Disney Channel has already found success with music-themed comedies, including multi-camera hit Hannah Montana and the channel’s promising new addition Shake It Up.
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