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'High School Musical 2' is a cable ratings phenomenon

Rick Kushman
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Told you this would be big. That peppy little monster, "High School Musical 2," exploded in the ratings last week and became the most-watched show on cable ever.

There you go, a major record and no steroids involved. The sequel to Disney Channel's uber-popular "High School Musical" drew 17.2 million viewers and showed just what can happen when there's a beat you can dance to.

"HSM2," which is what you call it, by the way, was also the most-watched show on all television all summer, going all the way back to the final week of the TV season in May. And there's more.

It was the most-watched TV show in history by kids ages 6 to 11 - an important demographic if you sell toys or breakfast cereal - and it was the most-watched entertainment TV show in history for `tweens, ages 9 to 14. The only TV event ever to draw more `tweens was the 2004 Super Bowl.

So what are the lessons here? First, there is still such a thing as a G-rated blockbuster; and second, when you make shows for the younger parts of the youth culture, they still have to be good. And it also never hurts if the music is zippy enough to sell piles of DVDs.

But there is something else that looms for broadcast networks, the current rulers of television: The old distinctions between broadcast and cable don't matter to younger viewers, who are wired and multifaceted in their tastes, and who are used to searching wherever they need to for shows and video they like.

Unlike their parents, they don't start with CBS or Fox, then move to the higher-numbered channels. Younger viewers just go find their shows, because it's all about the shows. And in the case of "HSM2," it's about the show and the so-cute-I could-die stars singing their upbeat and energetic hearts out.

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We've got lots going on today with "What'd They Do to My Show?" - and it starts with some happy news.

HBO renewed its brilliantly odd comedy "Flight of the Conchords" for a second season, meaning we'll get more of New Zealanders Bret and Jemaine and their strange little folk-rock songs.

"Conchords" isn't generating huge numbers for HBO - viewership is just over 1 million - but the boys have reached critical mass on the cult meter. Their songs get big hits on YouTube, and they have an album coming in January.

HBO also announced it is renewing "Entourage" for a fourth season, which is no surprise since the series is HBO's top-drawing half-hour at more than 3 million viewers a week.

But not everything is sunshine and perfect waves for HBO, which canceled the surf drama "John From Cincinnati" after its only season.

HBO said it will continue developing shows with "John" creator David Milch, and already, Daily Variety has reported that Milch and HBO will team up for a cop show set in the 1970s that's loosely based on Milch's friend and collaborator Bill Clark.

And what about those "Deadwood" movies HBO once promised from Milch? Still no word, which is not a good sign.

There have been a bunch of renewals among the hot new dramas on basic cable, so here's a rundown of what we know so far:

TNT picked up another season of "The Closer" - no surprise, since it's cable highest-rated series – plus it ordered a second season for Holly Hunter's new drama, "Saving Grace."

USA picked up its witty spy-detective drama "Burn Notice" for a second season, and Lifetime has ordered a Season 2 for "Army Wives."

Some good news for fans of the canceled summer comedy "Creature Comforts." Although CBS bailed on the underappreciated little show after only a few weeks, a DVD with the completed seven episodes, titled "Creature Comforts America," will be released on Oct. 9.

ABC suddenly yanked "The Nine" and "The Knights of Prosperity" off the air a second time. Fans who want to see what's left can find the remaining episodes of "The Nine" on ABC.com.

And speaking of online viewing, anyone dying to find out what happened to those landlubbers on CBS' "Pirate Master" can find the concluding episodes on CBS.com.

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70. The Horrors - "Machine"

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