Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

100 Things to do Before High School

100 Things to do Before High School

Spring 2015 Television
Ages: 8 & Up
Producer: Nickelodeon
Rating: TV G

C.J. Parker (played by Cleveland teen Isabela Moner) is starting seventh grade, but she's already fearing high school. So she calls on her two best friends - nerdy Fenwick (Jaheem Toombs) and suddenly-cool Crispo (Owen Joyner) to help her make the most of their middle school years before, as she fears, everything changes and they go their separate ways.

Could this new Nickelodeon show become The Wonder Years for a new generation? Probably not. But it does have a similar approach to that classic TV series. C.J. narrates as crazy things happen, just as Kevin narrated in The Wonder Years. We followed the adventures of his daily life as he met challenges in school, with friends and with family. And we follow all that here, too.

But one of the biggest differences between The Wonder Years and this tween-targeted Nick offering is its tone. This series has a silly, slapstick, "uh-oh" feel to each episode as the kids get into sitcom-type jams and wind up in what should really be serious trouble - such as wrecking the principal's new office with heavy machinery and letting loose a caged raccoon.

The Wonder Years set in 1968, had the backdrop of our country during the Vietnam War. Society's cultural upheaval played into the plots.

Here, it's not so serious. The plots are cartoonish and goofy. The characters tend to be stereotypes - mean girl Wendy, imperious principal Mrs. Hader, hip and helpful guidance counselor Mr. Matthews.

But you do want to root for the three main friends. When stripped of their wacky sides, they are sweet and seem to represent real kids' feelings. They're trying. They're growing. And in the meantime, you're laughing.

Ann Oldenburg   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Ann Oldenburg, assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, began her career at The Washington Post and went on to spend more than two decades with USA Today, where she covered pop culture topics. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

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