Friday's New York Times advised readers to skip the TV premiere of High School Musical 2 and wait for the soundtrack. But you know how impatient eight-year-olds can be...

Disney Channel's HSM2 was simply huge, averaging 17.2 million Zac Efron-worshipping viewers, preliminary Nielsen Media Research ratings showed, per the network Saturday.

The TV movie set records for all-time biggest basic-cable audience(besting, of all things, a 1993 NAFTA debate on CNN) and all-time biggest made-for-basic-cable telepic (besting TNT's 2001 western Crossfire Trail), the Disney Channel said.

Overall, HSM was easily TV's most watched show on broadcast or cable since the final week of 2006-07 season, topping the summertime likes of The Sopranos finale on HBO (11.9 million) and the season premiere of NBC's America's Got Talent (12.9 million). And according to the Disney Channel, it was the most watched TV movie anywhere since the 2005 premiere of the Keri Russell-Skeet Ulrich period drama The Magic of Ordinary Days (18.7 million) on CBS.

On broadcast networks, TV-movie audiences skew old. On the Disney Channel, the viewers skew young—and, apparently in the case of HSM2, big.

The sequel drew more children age 6-11 than any TV telecast in modern Nielsen history (since 1991), the Disney Channel said.

Predictably, HSM2 also did well among the high school-aspiring set age 9-14, attracting more  tween viewers than any TV show ever, save 2004's Super Bowl.

It was not clear what impact the mobilization of such large numbers of children had on the greater society on Friday night. Historically, or at least anecdotally, big TV events, such as the Beatles' debut on Ed Sullivan, have been linked to drops in crime. There was no word if HSM2 could be credited with bringing calm to the nation's pizza parlors and summer camps.

There was also, according to the Disney Channel, no way of gauging exactly how many youngsters watched HSM2 owing to an untold number of HSM2 viewing parties. (Nielsen doesn't count heads at such events. Ditto for slumber parties.)

Airing after HSM2, a 15-minute preview of the upcoming animated series Phineas & Ferb (10.8 million) and an all-new Hannah Montana (10.7 million) likewise scored big. In fact, per the Disney Channel, Friday's Hannah Montana now ranks as basic cable's most watched series episode ever.

For the uninitiated, HSM2 is the follow-up to High School Musical, the 2006 TV movie phenomenon that spawned last year's top-selling album, concert tour, ice show and book line, among other tie-in products.

The original movie remains one of cable's biggest draws, despite airing more than 20 times since its premiere averaged a then Disney Channel record 7.8 million in January 2006.

The new movie starred Hairspray's Efron and duet partner Vanessa Hudgens, both of the old movie, in a tale seemingly borrowed from the third season of Saved by the Bell—high school friends take summer jobs, en masse, at a country club.

In its review, the New York Times said there was "much to admire" in the sequel but also "so much to hate," including, for its taste, too much cast use of bronzer.

The Los Angeles Times was, however, charmed. "To answer your question," its review said Friday, "it's even better than the first one."

Maybe eight-year-olds only get the L.A. papers.

 

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