Remember Summerland, the mid-’00s TV series that was supposed to make Jesse McCartney a star? If not, don’t worry. You’re not alone. The show ran for only 26 episodes on the WB from June of 2004 to July of 2005 before it was cancelled. If I hadn’t been working at Entertainment Weekly at the time, editing the TV reviews section, I might have overlooked it, too.
That’s why I’m at a complete loss to explain why, seven years later, it’s still running on the Sony channel in Thailand. I mean, is there really such a huge audience here for a nearly decade-old U.S. TV series that never made it past the two-season mark? Why not run Summerland heroine Lori Loughlin’s future series 90210, which I thoroughly enjoy, and I’m not ashamed to say it?
Or Ryan Kwanten’s True Blood, which I don’t enjoy, and I’m not ashamed to say it? And although I don’t care for Shawn Christian’s Days of Our Lives character Dr. Daniel Jonas, I’d kill to see Sami Brady and EJ DiMera bicker over love, family and their kids on one of the two 37-inch flat-screen TVs in my apartment instead of on YouTube.
Alas, I can’t say that I’ve seen much of McCartney in his post-Summerland years outside of the videos for his handful of modest pop hits, which is surprising because he seemed like everything a future young-adult sex symbol should be — blond, pretty, and he was playing a surfer, for God’s sake. But apparently, there’s only room for one massive teen idol from any given series at any given time, and as popular as McCartney may have been circa 2005, Zac Efron is the one who ended up being the Jennifer Aniston/Jason Segel/Jessica Biel of the Summerland cast.
If I had been a devoted viewer back then, I surely wouldn’t have seen it coming. Efron, who wasn’t a regular until well into its run, was pretty much an afterthought on the show, kind of awkward-looking with no discernible X factor. Who would have thought that we’d see so much more of him, or that he’d grow up to be so hot? That might be the most surprising — and disturbing — aspect of his ascent: He’s hot, and it feels so wrong to call Zac Efron “hot.”
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only grown-ass person of a certain age who feels that way. I’ve seen teen idols come and go, and never before have I given a second thought to the physical appeal of any of them. Not Justin Timberlake’s, not Kirk Cameron’s, not Scott Baio’s. (I didn’t understand all of the hoopla over Baio at the time, but when I recently saw him on Happy Days on Melbourne’s 11 channel, which airs nothing but old U.S. TV shows in the morning and afternoon, for the first time, I kind of got it.)
Unlike those others, it’s not like I even really watched Efron grow up. I’ve somehow managed to get away with never seeing a single High School Musical, despite being an editor at Teen People when it peaked. I can’t remember ever catching Efron in anything before Hairspray in 2007, and although by then he was a bona fide teen idol, he was only 20, not a boy, not yet a man.
What a big difference five years make. The first — and truthfully, only — time I watched the trailer for Efron’s upcoming film, The Lucky One, which is out on Friday, I had a hard time sitting through the entire thing. Not just because the movie looks unbelievably bad, but because of how unbelievably sexy Efron looks in it. I mean, was I committing some kind of crime?
It’s not like Efron is a kid anymore. He’s 24, one year and two months older than my last boyfriend. But I didn’t know my ex when he was 17. I didn’t know Efron either, but those Summerland reruns have ruined him for me. Looking at him in the preview for The Lucky One felt borderline pedophilic. I couldn’t even make it to the end!
Now I have two excellent reasons not to see the movie.