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Lucas Cruikshank tries to translate YouTube superstardom translate to TV as Fred Figglehorn

Lucas Cruikshank will star as his alter ego, Fred Figglehorn, in a TV-movie version of the hit videos the young comedian has created on YouTube.
Lucas Cruikshank will star as his alter ego, Fred Figglehorn, in a TV-movie version of the hit videos the young comedian has created on YouTube. (Warren Zev Feldman)

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"That's pretty much it."


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But laissez-faire, juvenile production is exactly what works in the upper echelons of YouTube. "The work has to look like regular people made it," says Alexandra Juhasz, a media studies professor at Pitzer College.

In direct contradiction to early predictions - that one day YouTube's content would be as polished as anything on network TV - the kings of the site today retain a shaky, living-room quality about them, no matter how big they get.

It's a paradox: In order to remain popular, "they have to keep their talent in check," says Juhasz. Otherwise they look like mediocre TV, rather than excellent YouTube.

In "Fred: the Movie," the production values are better, of course, and the world of Fred is bigger. Previously offscreen characters are now flesh and blood, from Judy to the evil bully, Kevin.

There are other changes, too. Fred's mother is softer, portrayed more as exhausted than angry. Fred's voice is also toned down - a good half octave, at least - to lessen the offense on adult ears. Cohn characterizes movie Fred as "very quirky and appealing."

Mass appealing, even. There's a costume montage near the end. Judy and Fred walk off into the sunset. It's all very scrubbed. This is a Fred that parents could love. Is it a Fred that the world beyond YouTube will embrace?

Other kings of YouTube have tried to make forays into television or movies. Higa made "Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure," which played in some theaters in California and Hawaii before going to DVD. Last month, Dawson announced that he would be working on his own pilot.

Cruikshank has also signed with Nickelodeon to do another pilot - one that has nothing to do with Fred. Titled "Marvin, Marvin," the show is about a boy who doesn't fit in because he is, in fact, from another planet.

For Cruikshank, it's a tremendous break - and a little sad.

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