Judy, he's back! Well, technically, he never went away. Fred, aka Lucas Cruikshank, has been a relentless presence on the viral video circuit for years now, and he was among the only figures in that group to make the leap across platforms. He landed a Nickelodeon film last year. The youngish motormouth is something akin to YouTube's first child actor, a kind of Mason Reese figure who was bound for challenges as he aged and lost some of that kiddie charm. YouTube stardom seems to require a certain level of frantic, obsessive energy on the part of the pro-amateur hosts. Fred, forever speaking to his pal Judy on the other end of the camera, is the poster child for hyperactivity.
And Fred is back. He is somewhat grown up but not grown out of his earlier self in a new talk show called Figgle Chat that premieres this week. The Fred figure has moved to Hollywood, hired a reluctant crew of techies who produce the show from a basement, and still maintains his light-speed persona. In the first of this six episode series he interviews a President Obama impersonator initially under the impression he is the real thing. When it turns out the guy is just trading the gig for an online mention and in order to pitch an energy drink, Fred has a taste. Hilarity ensues.Love him or hate him, Fred is a phenom that maintains interest. Hundreds of thousands of viewers have already tested the Figgle Chat promo and first episode. The faux amateur feel is belied by a fair amount of quick editing and some decent pacing. I am not sure one actually can warm to the Fred character, and it surely isn't pitched to a fifty-something critic who is still trying to understand the allure of SpongeBob Squarepants. But Fred and his production partners have been wise enough to keep the series brief in episode length and run. Somehow they manage to offer a fair story and energy arc to the first episode that is appealing even if the tired asides to his own backstage crew are, well, tiresome.