Scott Fellows, who a decade ago created the "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" for Nickelodeon, has a new series made very much in its excellent image, "100 Things to Do Before High School." It premieres Saturday, also on Nickelodeon. (Like many kid-network series, its official bow has been preceded by "preview" episodes.)
As was "Ned's," "100 Things" is a single-camera comedy that focuses on three middle-schoolers, two boys and a girl, this time with the girl, CJ (Isabela Monder, who also sings the pop-punk theme song), as the narrating central character; Crispo Powers (Owen Joyner) and Fenwick Frazier (Jaheem King Toombs), a pressed-shirt tie-wearer some will recognize as a descendant of "Ned's" nerdish Cookie, are her complementary best friends. They're the cool uncool kids, characters to identify with rather than merely to adore. Smart in some respects, dopey in others, they are both learning and teaching -- they get things wrong, so that you might get them right.
The organizing premise here is a sort of evolving junior-division bucket list. In a previous preview episode, CJ and friends start a garage band. ("I was in a band," CJ's mother tells her, conspiratorially. "It was called Spit, and we even had groupies, called the Loogies. Your dad was a Loogie.") In the Saturday official premiere, "Run with the Bears," they face their fears; CJ's is "gorgeous eighth-grade boy fear." (""Fear is our friend," says Fenwick, loathe to face his. "Stops our brains from doing dumb things, like petting lions, using public bathrooms.")
Fellows works in the tradition of Nick's early-'90s classic period, which produced "The Adventures of Pete & Pete," "Clarissa Explains It All For You," and "The Secret World of Alex Mack" and mixed the daily and familiar with the mythic and weird. But his live-action-cartoon aesthetic, which features sound effects and dialog-specific music cues, may be rooted most firmly in "The Monkees"; indeed, between launching his two school series, Fellows created the Monkees-as-boy-band "Big Time Rush," also for Nickelodeon, and an actual cartoon, "Johnny Test," currently on Cartoon Network. His sensibility is slapstick, screwball and surreal.
Recommended, to adolescents of all ages.