Figure It Out
|Figure It Out|
|Created by||Kevin Kay
|Presented by||Summer Sanders (1997–2000)
Jeff Sutphen (2012–13)
|Narrated by||Jeffrey "J" Dumas (1997–2000)
Elle Young (2012–13)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||218|
|Location(s)||Nickelodeon Studios, Universal Studios
Orlando, Florida (1997–2000)
Los Angeles, California (2012–13)
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV) (Seasons 1-4)
1080i (HDTV) (Seasons 5-6)
|Original release||Original Series
July 7, 1997 – January 12, 2000
June 11, 2012 – July 16, 2013
Figure It Out is an American children's panel game show that airs on Nickelodeon. The original series, hosted by Summer Sanders, ran for four seasons from July 7, 1997 to January 12, 2000. The show, then hosted by Jeff Sutphen, was revived in 2012, and aired from June 11, 2012 to July 16, 2013. The series was originally recorded at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. The revival episodes are filmed on stage 19 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.
Children with special skills or unique achievements compete as contestants on the show while a panel of four Nickelodeon celebrities try to guess the predetermined phrase that describes the contestant's talent. The series is a loose adaptation of What's My Line? and I've Got a Secret, both established panel shows created by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman.
Shortly after the series aired its last first-run episode, Figure It Out began airing repeats on Nick GAS until the network ceased at the end of 2007 (2009 on Dish Network). Several episodes of the Sanders-hosted series have also aired as part of The '90s Are All That, a 1990s-oriented rerun block that airs on TeenNick, in 2012.
In 2013, Sutphen confirmed via Twitter that no new episodes of the revival of Figure It Out will be produced.
Each episode has two sets of three timed rounds (originally all 60 seconds in length; currently, rounds two and three are played for 45 seconds), in which the panel takes turns asking yes-or-no questions to try to guess the contestant's talent. Each time a panelist mentions a word that is part of the phrase that describes the secret talent, the word is turned over on a game board displaying the puzzle. This game board was referred to as Billy the Answer Head during the original series run and is known simply as the "It" Board in the show's current adaptation.
This game board shows which words of the phrase are guessed, along with blanks denoting words that the panel didn't solve. Prepositions and articles, such as "of" and "an," are provided automatically. During the very early episodes of the show, synonyms of words that were on the board were accepted by the judges (e.g.: A panelist revealing the word "song" by saying the word "carol" and another episode featured a panelist revealing the word "box" by saying the word "bag"). This was quickly changed with panelist having to say the exact word in a contestant's talent in order for that word to be revealed on the board.
The contestant wins a prize after each round that their talent remains unguessed. The prize for winning the third round is a trip. In Season 1 prizes consisted mainly of leftover props from then-defunct Nickelodeon shows such as All That, Legends of the Hidden Temple and Global Guts. Merchandise prizes (such as a Nintendo 64) and gift cards for stores including Kids Foot Locker, Toys 'R' Us, and Loew's began to appear as prizes during later seasons. If Round 3 ends with at least one word left unrevealed, each panelist takes one final guess as to what the contestant's talent is (any correct words given during the final guess are revealed, as during the game). The game ends when a panelist guesses the secret talent or if no panelist guesses the secret talent correctly after the "last guess" stage.
During each Round, the panelists receive one clue as a hint to one of the words of the secret phrase. The clue usually takes the form of physical objects – such as dates to indicate a clue about calendars – sounds (rarely used), the clue-cano (seasons 4-6), featured messy clues erupting out of the clue boxes all over the panel, making them just as messy as a sliming, especially in the Sutphen era which made the panel cautious when opening the clue boxes) or pantomime (the "Charade Brigade" (Season 1-4), "Clue Force 3" (Seasons 5-6), usually two or three cast members that act out a word from the phrase during Round 3) with "Clue Force 3" pictionary was sometimes used instead of pantomime.
At the end of the game, after the secret talent is revealed, the contestant demonstrates or displays their skill and discusses it with the host and panel.
Secret Slime Action
In each game, from the start of round 2, a randomly selected member of the studio audience plays for a prize (a merchandise prize, such as a Nintendo 64 or a mountain bike in season 1 or a Figure It Out-branded article of clothing in seasons 2-6). If at least one or more panelists perform the action, those panelists will be slimed by the end of round 3 (during season 1, the secret slime action could be triggered anytime after the end of round 1, including between rounds and when the contestant is performing their secret).
The action designated as the Secret Slime Action is typically simple and almost guaranteed: touching a clue, looking to the left (which was reflexive, as clues were commonly wheeled out on a small track from a tunnel to the panel's left), using the phrase "Are you..." or "Is it...," looking to the audience behind the panel (who was sometimes used for clues), saying "I don't know," which panelist Danny Tamberelli was notable for saying at the top of his lungs on this show, having a certain name and even being a panelist were all used as actions. For example, Steve Burns (from Blue's Clues) was slimed because the Secret Slime Action was "having a blue dog," Alex Heartman (from Power Rangers Samurai) was slimed because the Secret Slime Action was "wearing a red unitard to work" and Jade Ramsey (from House of Anubis) was slimed because the Secret Slime Action was "having an identical twin sister." Despite this, and contrary to popular belief, the Secret Slime Action was not always performed in the original series. In the new version, Secret Slime Actions are almost impossible to miss and so far, there has not been a single show in which it was not performed during both halves of gameplay. In episode 14 of season six, however, there was finally an instance where it was not performed. The Secret Slime Action in that episode was "saying 'wait'" for the first segment.
Some Actions are logically not able to be forced, such as "thinking about coconuts" or "thinking about mushroom soup." Especially in the latter seasons, a successful Action has mostly been a foregone conclusion – the variables have only been when it will be triggered, and by whom (not necessarily a panelist).
When the Secret Slime Action is triggered, all play stops (including the clock) while the panelist is slimed and the action revealed, after which gameplay resumes. The host knows of the action and sometimes tricks the panelists into performing it by making them say or touch something (in one episode, the action was "touching your head." Sanders touched her head and said, "Have you done something with your hair?," which caused the panel to touch their heads in reaction).
Word of Honor
In the 2012 revival, prior to each game, one word of either the first or second contestant's secrets may be designated as the "Word of Honor." Should the panel guess this word, the contestant is slimed. As the contestant is slimed, gameplay and the clock are paused. If the Word of Honor was unguessed, it would be out of play for the rest of the show (e.g. if it was unguessed in game 1, it would not carry over to game 2). The Word of Honor is also shown on a green background instead of the white background. Also, if a player got slimed by the Word of Honor, Elle would tell the player that they got slimed when she recaps the prizes that player won. One notable occurrence of the Word of Honor in season 5 featured the contestant running off the set when the word was guessed, resulting in Jeff having to chase him off set to bring him back and held him down to ensure he got slimed.
Either three or all four panelists are taken from Nickelodeon shows airing at the time. Regulars during the original run included All That cast members Amanda Bynes, Lori Beth Denberg (who left after Season 4), Kevin Kopelow and Danny Tamberelli (who also starred in the Nickelodeon program The Adventures of Pete and Pete).
The first seat on the panel was usually reserved for an adult panelist, either an adult actor from a Nickelodeon program (usually Kevin Kopelow of All That) or a non-Nickelodeon celebrity (such as Taran Noah Smith of Home Improvement). In several episodes, Cat and Dog from CatDog, rendered in CGI, and Cousin Skeeter, a puppet character, were panelists, but never at the same time. In Seasons 5 & 6, the first seat was not reserved for an adult, but Matt Bennett from Victorious and Ciara Bravo regularly appeared in the first position.
Other guest panelists included Coolio, Mike O'Malley (host of Nick's Get the Picture and GUTS from 1991–95), Colin Mochrie (regular on Whose Line Is It Anyway?), and professional wrestlers Chris Jericho, Paul Wight and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.
- Season 3 (Fall 1998) — The series became Figure It Out: Family Style, featuring two or three contestants who were related, typically parent-child or siblings. Sometimes on the 2nd half, the panel can have a family member of the contestant. Sometimes, the Charade Brigade can have family members of the panelists and the host. Figure It Out: Family Style also features Little Billy. If the panelists figured out the contestants' secret, then Little Billy (a miniature version of Billy the Answer Head with hair and on wheels) would come out. Summer reads a question about the family's talent and then each panelist will try to guess one (almost impossible) answer. If they can't figure it out (no panel ever did since they simply treated it as a free-for-all most times by guessing answers intended for comedic response), then the answer in Little Billy would reveal and which gives the family another chance to win a prize (usually the Figure It Out apparel used for the Secret Slime Action Rounds).
- Season 4 (Fall 1999) — The show was retitled Figure It Out: Wild Style and focused solely on talents involving animals; in addition, Billy the Answer Head was reshaped into various animals. During these episodes, the panelists went wild with hair, wigs and make-up, sporting a different, distinctive look. This is the only Figure It Out season without Lori Beth Denberg. The reason why is because she left both All That and Nickelodeon and went on to The Steve Harvey Show. During these episodes, seven different panelists such as Steve Burns, Shane Sweet, Erin J. Dean, Christy Knowings, Irene Ng, Kevin Kopelow and Kareem Blackwell permanently replaced Lori Beth in the chair that she always sits.
- Season 5 (Summer 2012) — The show was retitled once more to "Figure It Out" and Jeff Sutphen took over as host. The set, host, panelists, theme music and logo were all modified to serve Nickelodeon's contemporary audience. Gameplay was also slightly modified to include the Word of Honor component and to shorten the lengths of rounds two and three (originally, all rounds were 60 seconds; in the newer version, rounds two and three are 45 seconds). Also, Billy the Answer Head was changed to the "It Board," the Clue Express was renamed the "Clue Coaster" and the Charade Brigade was changed to "Clue Force III" featuring Lorenz Arnell, Gevorg Manoukian and Julia Srednicki.
- Season 6 (Fall 2012 & Summer 2013) — The show was brought back after the long gap in the summer. The style of the show stays the same, but with some changes, such as a fifth seat and slime spewer added to the panel desk for the kid panelist who won a summer contest to appear for one whole episode (the fifth panel desk is gone before and after the winning kid's episode).
Sam Roberts, host of After Opie and Anthony Live on Sirius/XM appeared on an episode in Season 2. His talent was flipping quarters off of his ankle.
- Lesley Goldberg (March 7, 2012). "Nickelodeon Revives 1990s Game Show 'Figure It Out'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
- "Nickelodeon Figure It Out: Figure This Out". cattlecallauditions.com. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- Jeff Sutphen [thousand3eighty] (October 1, 2013). "@jeffreydobson unless your secrete talent is bringing canceled shows back we will not be shooting any more episodes of #FIO #sadface" (Tweet). Retrieved 2016-01-23.
- "Ready, Set, Slime! Nickelodeon Premieres Figure It Out on Monday, June 11, at 7 P.M. (ET/PT)" (Press release). Nickelodeon. May 18, 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-23 – via The Futon Critic.
- Video on YouTube
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