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Series / Figure It Out

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1997-1999 version
2012-2013 version

Figure It Out is a Nickelodeon Game Show that aired in the late 1990s and was hosted by former Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders, revolving around four panelists guessing contestants' secret talent, ranging from collecting items to performing cool and unique stunts.

The panel was given three one-minute rounds to guess that talent in the form of asking yes-or-no questions; hints were given through props, charades, a giant game board called "Billy the Answer Head" (which listed the player's talent, with words revealed if the panel said them), and a "clue monitor" that would be read off just before Rounds 2 and 3. The contestant received a nice prize for each round the panel was stumped, and a grand prize if they stumped through Round 3.

But unlike I've Got a Secret, What's My Line?, and most other panel shows, Figure added the Secret Slime Action, in which any panelists that performed it would be Covered in Gunge in true Nickelodeon fashion... although very rarely, there was no Secret Slime Action (as in 'rarely', if they weren't teased by Summer to perform it).

The show ran for four seasons from 1997 through 1999. For the third season in fall 1998, the show went Family Style, with families as the contestants; for the final season in fall 1999, the show theme was altered again to Wild Style, with the abilities being limited to animal themes. Reruns then started airing on Nick GAS until its disestablishment in 2007.

A revival of the show premiered in June 2012, hosted by Jeff Sutphen. It ran for two seasons, following the original formula, with the panelists now including stars of then-current Nick shows (like iCarly and Victorious). However, two major changes done were the replacement of "Billy the Answer Head" with "The IT Board", which serves the same purpose (and makes the show's title quite literal in the present), and the added potential for the contestant to get slimed, too (see Covered in Gunge below).

This show provides examples of the following:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Zigzagged with the Clue Recap Board. It either displays answers the panel got to their questions, tries to help them figure out the meaning of that round's clue, or makes fun of them.
  • The Announcer: Jeffrey "J" Dumas, who was only known by his initialnote  (1997-1999) and Elle Young (2012-2013).
  • Audience Participation: Invoked. Viewers at home were encouraged to play along with the panel by closing their eyes and ears when the contestant revealed their talent.
  • Big "NO!": Summer, if a final guess is wrong. She saves the biggest one after the fourth incorrect final guess. Jeff sometimes does this as well.
  • Bonus Round: Should a game end quickly enough that there's still time left afterwards, a small game would be played with an audience member or the contestant.
    • "Name That Thingy" involves a strange object being given to the panelists and each of them had to explain to the audience member what it was. Only one of them is telling the truth and if the audience member picks the panelist who told the truth, they get a small prize.
    • "Drench Bench"/"Last Laugh" has the contestant be given a chance to randomly slime one of the panelists. This is usually done if the panel successfully guesses the contestant's secret.
    • "Little Billy", exclusive to Family Style, had a smaller version of Billy that would contain one final aspect of the contestant's hidden talent that the panelists had one chance to guess; usually played when the panelists correctly guessed the contestant's talent for a chance to get an extra prize.
    • "Name That Critter", which was exclusive to Wild Style, played similarly to "Name That Thingy", but instead of a strange object, it was an uncommon animal.
  • Bonus Space: The Secret Slime Action, which awarded a prize to a member of the audience if at least one panelist was slimed by performing said action. Such actions included...
    • "Looking to your left", which is where some clues appeared (through a tunnel on a set of tracks); invariably, one clue in that round would be given in that method.
    • "Looking behind you", where part of the audience sat (and occasionally gave clues); again, one clue would invariably be presented that way.
    • "Being [name]", who would be slimed at some point during the round.
      • In at least one episode, "Being a panelist".note 
    • Having a certain color hair, or clothes.
    • "Thinking about [bizarre thing]", which was of course impossible to validate and was just an excuse to slime a random panelist; which would usually occur when a panelist appeared deep in thought.
    • Saying certain words. Asking silly questions. Or even receiving a No or a Yes answer.
    • One episode had the action be "sitting in front of The Dog Pound" (the name for the area behind the panel where the audience sat), ensuring that all the members of the panel were slimed.
    • "Judges' choice", which true to its name, let the show's judges choose who would get slimed.
    • Sometimes the action would be activated by who the panelists themselves were or what they do like, "Being on All That", "Being on iCarly", "Being on Victorious", "Wearing a red leotard to work", etc.
    • If a special guest was on the panel (CatDog, Cousin Skeeter, Colin Mochrie, Chris Jericho, Coolio, etc.), the Secret Slime Action will usually be specified towards them. ("Liking kibble and catnip", "Having a shiny head", etc.)
    • Meanwhile Summer Sanders liked to tease the panelists to do a certain Secret Slime Action (with Danny Tamberelli or any of the adult guests usually falling over it), Jeff Sutphen will ensure that at least one panelist will perform the SSA. In one episode when the SSA was "do a high five," he ran to the panel and gave Lulu Antariska a high-five. And yes, she actually was aware it was the SSA (the entire panel actually figured it out long before).
  • Butt-Monkey: Danny, natch. To the point that every time he felt he was on the verge of being slimed, he either hammed it up or went along with Summer's urging to get slimed.
  • The Cameo: A silhouette of Billy the Answer Head appears during the revival's intro.
  • Catchphrase: Danny's over-the-top "I DON'T KNOW!!"
  • Company Cross References: CatDog appeared as guest panelists in two episodes of Wild Style.
  • Covered in Gunge:
    • The Nickelodeon staple, used in the Secret Slime Action. Also, some of the clues that were thrown at the panel, especially coming from above.
    • In the original series, there were moments that, if one of the panelists were slimed thanks to the SSA, well... one of the others would get slimed too out of pure revenge and/or annoyance. The same happened when they played with some of the clues with the other panelists.
    • The original series didn't have the contestant nor the audience get slimed... if it wasn't for Danny (and sometimes Lori Beth), when he flipped his hair (once covered in slime) to the audience. Something that changed in the 2012 revival, where almost all panelists tossed slime to the crowd.
    • Incorporated in part of the first and part of the second season, there would be some segments were the contestant would have the pleasure to slime one of the panelists at Summer's choice (if the panelist guessed the final word of the secret talent) or at random ("The Last Laugh" segment).
    • Now, the whole trope was taken up to eleven in the 2012 revival, where most of the clues leave the panelists completely covered, either being dropped on their head or squirted out of the box in front of them.
    • Not to mention that, in the revival, practically the slime came out from everywhere rather than from above as in the original series, the panelist wouldn't leave the panel clean.
    • Also differing from the original, the 2012 revival, the word on the IT Board that deemed most critical to guess the contestant's secret is designated as the "Word of Honor"; if guessed during normal gameplay, the contestant is slimed.
    • Occasionally, the slimings get so intense Jeff Sutphen himself can be collaterally slimed (in the case of the contestant being slimed) or even the studio audience (as mentioned above).
  • A Day in the Limelight: Summer and Lori Beth swapped roles for part of a Season 2 episode. Summer correctly anticipated that the SSA was rigged to get her slimed, but probably didn't expect it to happen three times in a row. She was also covered in slime once as the host as a gag by the producers in the last episode of Season 1.
  • Denser and Wackier: The reboot was even more absurd and random than the original.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: From the original series, Season 1 is very different from Seasons 2-4. Some examples include the following:
    • On early taped episodes, the judges were more lax as to guesses for words on Billy the Answer Head. After the second listed instance, the exact word had to be guessed in order to be revealed.
      • On the first taped episode, the second contestant's secret was "Burps a Christmas Song". With the final word unrevealed, Lori Beth asked, "Do you burp a Christmas carol?" which was accepted.
      • On the fourth taped episode, the second contestant's secret was "Popped World's Largest Box of Popcorn". At the start or Round 2, only the words "Of" and "Popcorn" were showing. Irene Ng asked if she popped the world's largest bag of popcorn, and the judges gave credit for "Box" in place of "Bag".
    • Also, the panelists of the first few taped episodes, before the recurrent regular ones. Most notably, Jenna Leigh Green sat in Lori Beth's seat for some tapings.
    • Billy the Answer Head was originally green in the first taped episodes before becoming his more familiar light-purple color.
    • J originally did the Secret Slime Action prize plug before revealing the Secret Slime Action itself. After the first few taped shows, this changed to him doing the plug after a panelist got slimed.
    • Any time that Danny Tamberelli put on the slime helmet or did something else to protect himself when getting slimed in Season 1 was viewed as this, since, in subsequent seasons, he became so famous for the different, crazy slimings he took to such a degree that he became known, both In-Universe and out, as the "Slime King".
    • Before settling on the signature green that slime is usually known for (and that Nick itself has been known for before and after the show), there were many episodes in Season 1 where the slime was orange, pink, yellow, or even chocolate syrup.
    • There was significantly less slime used in Season 1, which would barely cover the panelists, even if there were multiple slimings. In subsequent seasons, just one sliming, or at most two, would be enough to completely cover the panelists.
    • The use of the side games such as "The Last Laugh", "Drench Bench", "Lightning Letters" and "Name That Thingy", although the latter was then continuously used and changed for Wild Style to "Name That Critter". The first of those incorporated a yellow slime instead of green and the second used a green that had a much thicker consistency.
  • Exact Words: For the first half of a Season 2 episode, Lori Beth and Summer swapped duties, with the former hosting and the latter being a panelist. That game's Secret Slime Action was "Sitting in Lori Beth's seat". Since Summer was the one occupying that seat and not Lori Beth, Summer was the one who got slimed.
  • Flanderization: The original series got slightly wackier as time went on. In Season 1, the Secret Slime Actions were a little more complicated, and the panelists were given somewhat-helpful pith helmets to use. However, once they remembered they were on Nickelodeon, the Secret Slime Actions got much easier and even sillier in Seasons 2-4 (hence, the "Being a panelist" type events), and the slime helmets were replaced with borderline useless plastic party hats. They were doing this because of the kids, of course.
  • Foregone Victory: Some of the Secret Slime Actions, including such trivial things as "Sitting in your chair." In one episode, the Secret Slime Action was "Being a panelist." This led to multiple slimings, including all four panelists being slimed at once.
  • Freak Out: Every panelist got a helmet to put on to protect themselves from the green slime. Probably due to all the times he got slimed, the Secret Slime warning made Danny Tamberelli go through one of these as he scrambled to get his helmet on.
  • Game Show Host: Summer Sanders (1997-1999) and Jeff Sutphen (2012-2013).
  • Gender Flip: The announcer and the host between both versions. In the revival, the host is a guy, and the announcer is a girl.
  • Home Game: One was released in 1998.
  • Large Ham:
    • In the original series, Danny could, and often would, get very loud and animated while asking questions, especially if he ended up getting flustered by a series of unexpected "Yes" answers to questions for which he had no follow-up and ended up screaming "I DON'T KNOW!!" before passing - and as often as not, if he performed the SSA, he wouldn't bother putting his helmet on and would stand up to get more thoroughly slimed. He was accordingly nicknamed by J as the 'King of Slime' in one of the Season 2 intros.
    • From the cycling panelists of the original series, we also have Josh Server, who shared Danny's tendency to shout his questions while gesticulating hyperactively. Unsurprisingly, when one episode had "Overacting" as the SSA, Josh was the one who got slimed (and, like Danny, he often welcomed getting slimed).
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Non-Video Game example. On some Wild Style episodes, the clock would disappear from the screen during some rounds and reappear with less time remaining, making some one-minute rounds last only 45-50 seconds.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • An impending sliming was indicated by a loud alarm, which lead to panelists scrambling to put on their slime helmets before the slime came down. Way too often, the panelists were too late.
    • This is applied to the regulars and the guest panelists of the original series, from when the hint alarm went off, some were confused if they did the SSA or, well, if the clue was coming from above, so they had to cover their heads on (especially from Season 2 onward), given that Summer wouldn't tell them anymore to put their helmets on.
    • And in the revival, too. As stated above, some clues would leave the panel Covered in Gunge much more than the original series. If Jeff would subtly tell the panel to put on their safety goggles before a round, this was their common reaction.
  • Panel Show
  • Pilot: Filmed sometime in the mid-90's, Figure it Out's pilot contained many differences. The set was smaller and had a puzzle piece motif while Kevin Seal hosted instead of Summer Sanders. The full pilot has never been aired, and the only reason its existence is known is thanks to a compilation of shows filmed at Nickelodeon Studios made by a former crew member for the place's 10th anniversary.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: The titular duo from CatDog appeared (in CGI form) in two episodes of Wild Style as a panelist, and even got slimed.
  • Sequel Escalation: Compare some slimings from the 1990s original to the 2010s revival. Yes, that's slime being spurted out in front of the panelists, as well as coming down from above. Not to mention some of the clues leave the contests being Covered in Gunge and the contestant themselves being slimed.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Danny's Catchphrase was "I don't know!" During a Season 2 episode, it was used as the Secret Slime Action. Danny kept his mouth shut once he started suspecting he was getting baited to say it. When that specific SSA was revived on a Season 4 episode, Danny was, unfortunately, not so lucky, as this time, he took the bait.
    • One revival contestant's secret was that he'd created a monster-catching machine. The monster he caught during the demonstration? Krumm.
    • A contestant's secret from Season 1 of the original series was "Double Crowned Karate Champion." With the word "Crowned" concealed, Danny guessed "Double Dare Karate Champion."
    • Also, some of the shout-outs of the original show were relevant to what the panelists were doing (in the past and at the time), since it wasn't constantly reminded of, such as several mentions to Danny's Little Pete role in The Adventures of Pete & Pete, or the several personifications of some of the other All That cast members that were often regular or cycling panelists.
  • Show the Folks at Home: The contestant's special talent and the Secret Slime Action.
  • Spiritual Successor: As explained above, it's I've Got A Secret for kids. So close, it's probably why the Oxygen version didn't begin until after Nickelodeon had canned Figure it Out.
  • Straight Man:
    • From the first three seasons, Lori Beth was the only panelist who took it seriously. Nine times out of ten, she would be the one to guess the secret correctly.
    • Any time Steve Burns was a guest panelist in Wild Style, he would take it seriously, in contrast to the usual adults on the panel, such as Kevin Kopelow or Mike O'Malley, who almost always asked facetious questions. It helps that he was on a show all about looking for clues.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In the original show during Season 1, when Amanda Bynes is slimed for rubbing her nose, Marc Weiner and Danny Tamberelli test whether or not they’ll get slimed by constantly rubbing their own noses shortly after and bringing attention to it. One can only guess what happens next...
    • In one revival episode with Ciara, Chris, Lulu, and Carlos, one of the slime actions was "not being a girl". Almost instantly, Chris and Carlos got slimed. When the action was revealed, Lulu said that she felt it wasn’t fair. Well, needless to say Jeff didn't want to disappoint her...
    • In another example from the 2012 revival, after everyone has gotten slimed, including the contestant, Jeff notes he is the only one right now who hasn't gotten slimed. He does as well, also getting a second dose for the contestant.
  • Time Keeps On Ticking: Zig-Zagged. The only in-game event that stops the clock is a panelist or a "Word of Honor" sliming. The clock continues to count down while the host reads off the board after a word is guessed and while the panelists are presented with a clue.
  • Title Drop: If the panel reveals every word of the contestant's secret, Summer or Jeff remarks that the panel "figured it out".
  • Two Decades Behind: In conjunction with Totally Radical. The neon-colored set designs were obsolete by the time the original show premiered in 1997. The revival's set is somewhere in between intentionally Retraux of The '90s and actually contemporary.
  • Undesirable Prize:
    • Inverted in Season 1, in that prizes for Round 1 were props from other (no longer in production) Nickelodeon shows that were based and filmed in Nickelodeon Studios, including Legends of the Hidden Temple, Nickelodeon GUTS and even All That. Played straight with the other prizes that weren't the Grand Prize, though. Averted completely in the 2012 revival.
    • In Season 1 of the original, the Secret Slime Action prize was a merchandise item. That prize starting in the second season and continuing into the revival became a Figure it Out article of clothing, a far cry from say a $100 Toys"R"Us gift card or a mountain bike.