LOS ANGELES -- There's no middle ground in Nickelodeon's two new sitcoms set in middle school.
Airing back-to-back on Sundays, beginning at 7:30 p.m., "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" and "Unfabulous" each portray a kid making the jump from grade school -- only each have diametrically opposed expectations.
Ned Bigby (Devon Werkheiser) knows he will ace this new environment, armed with a survival guide he's spent all summer preparing, while the "Unfabulous" Addie Singer (Emma Roberts) is as terminally klutzy and insecure as she is cute.
Although it's hard to imagine the poised and pretty actress, who's the daughter of actor Eric Roberts and niece of Julia Roberts, tumbling face-first into a back-to-school party punchbowl, the 13-year-old insists she really isn't all that much different from Addie.
"I can relate to how she goes through typical teen stuff, has to deal with school and, you know, crushes and family and friends," she said recently on the set of the show.
And what 13-year-old Werkheiser particularly likes about his show is "it's so related to real-life school -- except it's exaggerated maybe 15,000 times."
Exaggerated but not unreal, said Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon Television.
"We do a lot of research, and we made certain before we made the pilots for these shows that we did a lot of talking to kids," Zarghami said. "What we're trying to get at was what are the things they are feeling really strongly about, what are the things they think they need. One of those was, `How do I survive the situations I'm in when I get to this stage of school?' "
It's in the "Nick tradition," she said, to try to pass that information along, leavened with a little humor.
Or in the case of Ned and Addie a good deal of slapstick humor.
"Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" sprang from the mind of Scott Fellows, a staff writer on the animated children's show "Fairly Odd Parents." So, not surprisingly, one of its specialties is fast, cartoony scenes, including one in which Ned's buddy must rig up a rocket-propelled device to get him to gym class on time.
Another is having Werkheiser talk directly to the camera.
Addie, when not tumbling into punchbowls or setting off lawn sprinklers, releases her angst by slashing at her acoustic guitar and singing songs about the travails of teen life.
She's not that great at it (think of Phoebe in "Friends" singing "Smelly Cat"). And that's fine with Roberts, who's just learning the guitar.
"Actually, I kind of wanted to start taking lessons before, but my mom was always, `When you're older,' " she said. "So this was a big plus."
Indeed, the best insight the two believe they can bring to such shows is a teen's point of view.
A straight-A student "because my parents won't let me get a B," Werkheiser still finds time for video games, visiting the mall, and maintaining a minor crush on teen actress Keira Knightley.
"She's a great actress and she's pretty good-looking too," he explains.
As for Roberts: "I hang out with my friends, family, play volleyball, go to the movies. Just normal kid stuff."
Baldwin joins `Nip/Tuck' finaleOscar and Emmy nominee Alec Baldwin will join the cast of "Nip/Tuck" for the show's season finale next month.
He'll play Dr. Barrett Moore, the ex-husband of "life coach" Ava Moore (Famke Janssen), who has succeeded mostly in disrupting the lives of the show's lead characters. The episode is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Baldwin will be joined in the finale by Joan Rivers, who will come to Drs. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) for an unusual plastic-surgery consultation.
Globe on NECN
Here's what's happening on "Around the Globe" today on NECN:
9:30 a.m.: "Talk of New England"
12:30 p.m.: "Globe at Home" -- Movie critics Wesley Morris and Ty Burr on what's hot on the big screen this weekend.
4 p.m.: "Around the Globe"
6:30 p.m.: "New England Business Day"
8 p.m.: "NewsNight"
Schedule is subject to change.
Talk of the dial
11 a.m. WBIX-AM (1060) -- "MoneyLife." Guest: Marlys Harris, finance editor of Consumer Reports.
7 p.m. WBZ-AM (1030) -- "David Brudnoy Show." Guest: Al Piacente, author of "Complete the American Revolution."
Other radio highlights
9 a.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- Mozart's Clarinet Concerto; Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1; Haydn's Symphony No. 29.