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If all goes according to plan, Lucas Cruikshank will return from California this spring to graduate with his Columbus Lakeview High School classmates.

But only if this whole TV thing doesn't get in the way.

Cruikshank is spending his last semester of high school filming the new Nickelodeon comedy series, "Fred: The Show," which features his wildly successful Internet character Fred Figglehorn, the squeaky-voiced 6-year-old with anger-management issues.

"I can't miss (graduation)," Cruikshank, 18, said in a phone interview from the set. "I won't be working that much in May, so I should be able to have those days off."

Cruikshank, who is finishing up his coursework online, headed to Los Angeles in mid-December to begin work on the new live-action series, which debuts with back-to-back 11-minute episodes at 7 p.m. Monday.

After the premiere, the show will regularly air on Nickelodeon (Time Warner Cable channels 32, 103, 1103) at 7 p.m. Fridays, beginning this week.

Cruikshank's success with Fred is well-documented. He created the character for a Halloween video and uploaded it to a YouTube channel that he had started with two cousins. Fred was an immediate success, which prompted Cruikshank to start a video series and set up the Fred channel in April 2008.

By the next year, the channel had more than 1 million subscribers, making it the first YouTube channel to do so, and was the most-subscribed channel at the time.

Cruikshank introduced Fred to TV audiences through appearances on Nickelodeon's "iCarly" series. Those led to two movies on the network, "Fred: The Movie" (September 2010) and "Fred: Night of the Living Fred" (October 2011).

"I didn't know really what would happen with the movies," he said. "The fans online have been so good and stuff, but I wasn't sure if they would leave the computer for a different kind of format. They did."

The new, short-form series builds on the movies, chronicling Fred's latest adventures at home and in school.

In the first half of the premiere, "Evil Fred Part 1," several of Fred's neighbors confront him after seeing him destroy their property. Fred declares his innocence but no one believes him.

For Fred, there can only be one explanation: A portal to another dimension has opened and an "evil" version of him is now creating havoc in the neighborhood. The second episode wraps up the storyline.

Cruikshank, who also serves as creator and executive producer on the series, said he hadn't thought about a series until Nickelodeon approached him. He was working on other projects, including the filming of a different pilot for the network.

"This was a good opportunity," he said in revisiting Fred again. "I know the fans will really enjoy it."

Nickelodeon has ordered 22 episodes, and a third movie also is in the works. After that, Cruikshank said he's not sure. College remains a possibility.

"I want to move out to L.A. to start pursuing my career," he said. "I want to write for movies and TV and do more producing. It would be cool to eventually write, produce and star in something. I wouldn't mind trying out directing."

Of course, the high school diploma comes first.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/LJSjeffkorbelik.

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