Julie and The Phantoms: Kenny Ortega Does It Again

I am an almost-twenty-year-old college female who identifies as a maturing young adult. A young adult who normally passes on the trivial, childish pleasures offered by Disney and Nickelodeon cartoons, unless they are from my own era of childhood for the simple pleasure of something old and golden. 


There is one man that I make exceptions for, and his name is Kenny Ortega: star choreographer of Dirty Dancing and Newsies, and phenomenal director of the High School Musical trilogy and the Disney Descendants franchise. Kenny Ortega is a man of immense talent and vision for the next big adolescent, yet incredibly captivating, entertainment. With a sense of what makes the forever child within each of us smile, Ortega “finds the spark”, and then blows all of us out of the water. 


You might be asking yourself, “Taeghan, why in the h*ll did you decide to watch a Netflix Original TV show whose demographic was probably meant to be 12 to 16 year olds when you could be watching some profound documentary or artistic masterpiece whose intent is to educate?” 


A valid question that I have an answer to: My inner-child needs to be fed like the ravenous gremlin it becomes when no one is around. I am incredibly childish and find joy in innocently entertaining material – in summary, I revel in the good, and innocent childhood TV shows, movies, books, and music are the easiest and some of the most entertaining ways to curb this childish tendency of mine (though, I don’t think being a little childish is ever a bad thing). Additionally, quarantine has sucked and so much has happened socially and politically that it’s nice to remove myself from what might be a constant stream of disappointing and disheartening news that can take a serious toll on mental health if unchecked. 


So, anyways, here I am, scrolling through Netflix, when all of a sudden a new suggestion for a Netflix original pops up. An interesting and Halloween-y title draws me in: Julie and The Phantoms. Piqued by the cute name and the idea of “phantoms”, I dive right in after I also see Kenny O’s name positioned neatly next to “Director”. 


Picture this: Hot, musically-gifted, friendly, understanding, loveably-oblivious ghost men from the 90s grunge rock era that only a young girl named Julie with some serious pipes and emotional turmoil (and you, as an audience member) can see! That’s the whole premise of the story, with the addition of a super evil ghost club owner, a back-stabbing former band mate, an adorable gay skater ghost, some lax bro high school love interest that reminds me of Troy Bolton, and a bada*s rapping best friend, and seriously emotional scenes during some episodes (I cried. I never cry at TV shows).  Oh, and did I mention that the ghost hot-boy musicians can only be seen by everyone when they play with Julie? Yeah, so obviously they had to start a band — Wouldn’t everyone? Ghost band sounds like *the dream*. 


Either way, the story is extremely impossible, and yet so much fun! Definitely cheesy but hey, everyone loves cheese, even those who are lactose intolerant.  The cast is still young and obviously has a lot to learn about acting, but doesn’t every actor – except for maybe Meryl Streep? Plus, the camp that they bring almost adds to the adorableness of the show. The music is good, with a few real bangers, though definitely not an average of High School Musical caliber or higher. What I will say about the music, though, is that all of the actors play the instruments and actually sing – Ortega made it his point to actually assemble a band this time around, which shows in the passionate performance of instruments. But good luck paying attention to anything important when you can just watch the three boys absolutely shred their instruments— and their arms, oh god –— or Julie and Luke perform together longingly. Honestly, the musical performances of this show might take the cake for captivating and emotional imagery. 

Electric Guitar Hanging Near Wall Stephen Niemeier/Pexels


Fast forward to less than two days from when I started, and I had finished the entirety of the nine-episode season. Each episode is extremely easy to get through as they’re only about 20 minutes long a piece, so for all of my binge-watchers out there, beware. You will finish this quickly. Both sad to see the season end, and enthralled with the idea of a second season, I proceeded to listen to the whole soundtrack on repeat for a couple of days (I’d recommend “Unsaid Emily”, “Now or Never” and “Edge of Great”) and immerse myself within the social medias of all of the actors, crew members, and PR pages as well. As far as I can tell, everyone is squeaky clean and passionate about the project! I hope that this show picks up at least as much traction as High School Musical: The Musical did, because it was such a treat to immerse myself in. So much so that I am exposing myself and writing about how much I loved it as a college sophomore who goes to an academically rigorous school. To my admissions counselor from freshman year: If you see this, have no fear. I’m still doing well in classes despite my obsession with childish TV entertainment, please don’t regret admitting me. Watch the show and you’ll understand, pinky swear. 


Either way, I think that Kenny Ortega has done a wonderful little thing here with Julie and The Phantoms by allowing me to revel in the childish happiness the show brings to the table, giving me a few bangers to add to my throwbacks playlist, and new up-and-coming actors and musicians to follow! I would recommend it for anyone who is looking for something just a little spooky and has a plethora of innocent fun and dad jokes. 


Enjoy your childish revelry a little more often! I will be, and maybe I'll even rewatch before the next season comes out (though I do not know if it has been confirmed or not).