In five short years, Corin (Corky) Nemec has gone from television commercials to a starring role in a network series, Fox's "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" (Sundays at 7:30).

In between, he has worked for director Francis Ford Coppola -- in "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" -- and has been nominated for an Emmy for best supporting dramatic actor in "I Know My First Name Is Steven."

But for all his success, Nemec, about-to-be-19, still walks into a breakfast interview at the Ritz-Carlton's Jockey Club and asks a universal teenager-type question: "Aw, do I have to wear a tie?"

It turns out he didn't -- the tie rule at the Jockey Club is for dinner only. But unlike most teenagers, Nemec does have to worry about things such as Nielsen ratings, publicity tours and ratings sweeps periods. On Wednesday, February sweeps begin and run through Feb. 27.

This particular morning he's got two newspaper interviews before heading off to a convention of college journalists where he'll answer questions about "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," a series about the comic misadventures of an irreverent high schooler and his quirky cohort. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. And it might as well be someone like Nemec, who takes this busy-stuff all in stride.

"What I figure is, all the time I spend right now working at 18 and 19 is worth it, because there's not a whole lot else you can do," he says. It's a very un-teenager-like theory of short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.

"I can work really hard now, and when I get in my 20s, that's when I'm going to play. I think that from age 21 and up is when you have the most fun in your life."

Sitting across the table from Nemec, 41-year-old Clyde Phillips looks up from his omelet very fast.

"Oh, but the fun doesn't end in your 20s," Nemec hastily adds with a laugh. "It doesn't end."

It's a topic that particularly concerns Phillips, executive producer of "Parker Lewis." The product he puts out each week had better be fun, the type of fun that teenagers can identify with. Wacky stuff. Irreverent school kids bending rules to tweak the noses of parents, principals and other authority figures.

Sound a lot like a fellow named Ferris Bueller? Say that to Phillips and you know he's heard this somewhere before, probably more than a few times.

"If you're going to do a high school show, how else do you do it?" says Phillips, slightly irritated. "You've got a leading man, and if he gets along wonderfully with his principal and everyone, and there's no conflict, no drama, no comedy, then there's no series."

Phillips says "it's not a coincidence" that his show resembles NBC's now-shelved version of the hit Matthew Broderick movie ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off").

"I'm aware 'Ferris Bueller' exists. I saw the movie. I liked the movie a lot. But when you're putting together a high school show, there's a natural order of things and ours falls into it."

But there are a few things about "Parker Lewis" that don't fit the natural order: ultra-bright primary colors, whiz-bang sound effects, and skewed camera angles. And these characteristics are definitely not a coincidence.

"Everything you see is thought out carefully," says Phillips. "We have two mottos: In production meetings it's, 'Everything has to be dynamic,' and at the writing table our motto is, 'If you can think of it, we can shoot it.' We'll do anything."

"Anything" includes camera techniques and equipment more likely to be seen on the set of a feature movie than used on a weekly television series.

In one episode, Parker Lewis' best friend, Mikey, fantasizes about playing over-amplified guitar on the roof of the school while hordes of classmates/fans scream below. As a finale, Mikey throws his guitar down to the adoring masses as the camera tracks the descent from the instrument's point of view. That particular shot involved the use of crane normally used in bigger-budget feature films.

Next week, the series offers a fresh episode -- one reportedly so good it's been saved for the sweeps period -- called "Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie." The story features Barbara Billingsley and Jerry Mathers, who played June and Beaver Cleaver on "Leave It to Beaver," as a mother-son duo again -- she's the mother of the school principal, Ms. Musso, and he's Ms. Musso's brother, Theodore.

"Parker Lewis" also digs deep into the sound effects bag for each episode. A door doesn't just burst open, it explodes open with a bang that could break fine china. The actors' hand motions, especially when emphasizing a point or direction, zip, zing and zoink aloud in the fine tradition of Batman's "POWS!"

And check out those groovy hallways in Lewis' high school. The lockers are bright yellow, orange or red. Posters touting literacy and conservationism deck the halls. And of course, a hipster like Parker Lewis wouldn't be caught dead in bland clothes. His shirts, always buttoned to the top, are real eye-catchers.

As for story lines and character development (each high school denizen tends to be stereotyped and caricatured, ie., the dumb jock, brainy nerd, autocratic principal, conniving sibling), it's more than standard fare. In fact, it's downright cloned, not only from the Bueller show/movie, but also from "Risky Business," which Phillips readily acknowledges as an "influence," and other teen-oriented goo such as the defunct "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" television series (not to be confused with the excellent movie on which it was based) and ABC's "Head of the Class."

As Phillips said, the protagonist in every high school comedy requires "natural adversaries" to make things move.

But sameness aside, the series nevertheless stands out because it could establish Nemec as a versatile actor who can play it goofy or straight in both television and feature films. Whereas you want to slap other TV-teen wiseacres -- the words "military school" come to mind whenever they mug -- Nemec gives his character a reasonableness that tempers the know-it-all attitude.

Fox ordered enough episodes to finish out this season, and Phillips is confident it will be renewed for next year. If it takes off, Nemec will probably be able to play comic teenager roles well into his 20s, much like Michael J. Fox and Matthew Broderick. At the same time, he has that Emmy nomination for dramatic acting on his resume', which could turn a few heads.

Much of his versatility has to do with his physical traits. He's very tall and very thin, with that graceful awkwardness that made Jimmy Stewart so endearing. His face is both boyish and handsome.

And then there's that All-American Boy personality. On the responsibilities of being a recognizable and therefore influential public figure: "I haven't really changed what I do when I go to places because I don't do bad things."

Then there's Nemec, veteran actor. On working in the entertainment industry: "I think with a lot of people in this business, they're nice to the people they have to be nice to. The people they don't have to be nice to, they don't care about."

And finally, there's Nemec, the average teen who digs rap music: "Oh man, Vanilla Ice is horrible!"

His ability to mesh these personalities into a likable entity both on and off the screen probably is the result of his fairly conventional upbringing. He was born in Little Rock, Ark., and raised in Atlanta with his sister Stacia until they moved to Los Angeles with their mother, Janis Nemec, in 1984. His parents were divorced when he was an infant.

Nemec took acting lessons at the age of 13, and began working in commercials for sponsors such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola. He secured guest spots on "Webster" and "Sidekicks," and a starring role on the Eddie Murphy-produced television movie, "What's Alan Watching?"

Successes seemed to come easily -- the Emmy nomination and the "Tucker" role followed -- but with success comes temptation. When Janis Nemec saw how easily some other child actors were skirting school work and hanging out in bars with fake ID's, she quit her job at a record company to manage her son's rising career. It was a move that her son appreciates.

"I don't think I'd want my kid to act until he's at least in his teens," he says, "because a lot of times, {acting at a young age} will take away from a childhood, not being in school. Another thing is that I'd never want to raise a kid in the big city because ... cities are just concrete jungles basically."

It's a philosophy borne out of living a fairly normal childhood, going to public school until 11th grade (he was graduated from a school for young entertainers last year) and living with his mother and sister before tackling his career full-time.

"When you're working with adults your whole life, it matures you," he says.

Phillips adds: "It matures him, and we have to remember from our side, we're working with kids. We get frustrated when they're goofing off and whatever. Then we have to stop and remember that ... they should be allowed to do that."

But goofing off is not Nemec's idea of fun. He admits to few hobbies besides drawing and listening to rap music ("I tried surfing once, but I was horrible at it. I don't own a skateboard"). More likely, he'll be found reading scripts and planning his career. He's got a science-fiction film called "Solar Crisis" to be released and a TV movie, "For the Very First Time" ("a coming-of-age drama set in the 1960s"), to be telecast on NBC this spring.

In the meantime, he waits for news on whether "Parker Lewis" will be renewed for next season. If it isn't, apparently that's okay with Nemec. He's seen this aspect of the business before; he won't brood about a cancelled series or lost roles:

"For me, it will be there again. There's always a reason why I didn't get to do something. But I've been lucky so far."