The last time the Disney Channel bet on a 13-year-old Southern starlet, it was Miley Cyrus. So now that Miley is all grown up (turning 18 in 2 weeks), I hear that The Powers That Be are putting the Southern starlet Bella Thorne on the same fast-track teen career path. Tennessee native Miley shared the sitcom spotlight with her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. The brass are counting on Floridian Bella to be the breakout star of the new Disney Channel buddy comedy series Shake It Up which premieres tonight at 8:30 PM in a no-lose slot after the one-hour Hannah Montana Forever special “I’ll Always Remember You”. Miley’s character lived her dream singing while navigating school. In Shake It Up, Bella (who was cast when she was 13) is living her dream dancing while navigating school. Hey, no one ever accused TV execs of having original ideas even though  Carolina Lightcap replaced Rich Ross who moved up to movies… And while Miley is repped by CAA, Bella just signed with WME agent Thor Bradwell. (Her manager Adam Griffin is at Kritzer Levine Wilkins Griffins Entertainment.)  Bella was last seen on the HBO series Big Love playing ”Teeny” Henrickson, replacing Jolean Wejbe in the 4th season as polygamists Bill’s and Barb’s younger daughter. Thorne’s first film appearance was an uncredited role as a sidelines fan in the 2003 film Stuck on You and has appeared on Entourage, The O.C., October RoadDirty Sexy Money, My Own Worst Enemy, and the Disney Channel’s own Wizards of Waverly Place. Cyrus, of course, became a worldwide brand as Hannah Montana released in 150 countries and 26 languages. Can the Disney Channel get hit by lightning twice?

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.