Last night, Nickelodeon premiered its new version of the hit kids' game show Figure It Out. While the Victorious-era Nick fans may have been thrilled, '90s kids who grew up watching the original Summer Sanders-hosted show have reason to be skeptical. After tuning in to the reboot, it seems to me that the magic that was Figure It Out has been lost for the new iteration.
The Host Stinks
As any former fan of Figure It Out will tell you, Sanders was half the reason to watch the show. As a '90s kid myself, I had no idea that she was more famous for her Olympic swimming than game show hosting. She fit right in with the contestants and kept the flow going with her natural presence and energy. And while I knew that no new Figure It Out host could ever fully replace Sanders, I expected Nickelodeon to put someone equally likeable in her old gig. I was wrong. Instead, we got Jeffrey Sutphen, the twentysomething former host of BrainSurge, who can't even be bothered to remember if playing the bongos would involve making a sound or not. While Sanders could form a friendly repertoire with even the most awkward of contestants (and with the weird secrets necessary to appear on the show, you can bet that there were a few), Sutphen makes the contestants even more uncomfortable by providing them with inaccurate information and poorly scripted jokes. I'll chalk his performance up to poor prep work, for now -- mainly because I'd love to see him slimed.
The '90s Called -- They Want Their Prizes Back
While the whole point of bringing back Figure It Out is for the nostalgic feel of the original game show to peek through, no modern-day kid wants to win a "triangle backpack." Oh, and remember when water guns were super popular? Kids today don't want to win a water gun, either. It's the first episode -- give away an iPad. Or at least a decent set of Rugrats DVDs.
The Celebrities Aren't As Fun
The '90s were known for having some really bizarre kids shows -- seriously, watch an episode of The Amanda Show and tell me that there's something like it branded for kids in today's world. While it's hard to recapture that time in Nickelodeon history, Figure It Out could have used some of the spunk that people like All That cast members Lori Beth Denberg and Danny Tamberelli brought to it back in the day. While I admit that I'm totally a fan of iCarly and Victorious (mainly because the characters are so out-there on their respective shows), we saw none of that on last night's episode. The players also lacked the competitive spirit that always existed in the original. Please stop complimenting your competitor on their awesome skill set, Victoria -- this isn't a hosting gig on America's Got Talent.
The Element of Surprise (Slime)
As fans know, the best part of Figure It Out was the "secret slime action" -- basically, an action that the players could inadvertently perform that would activate the slime buckets. (Nickelodeon was a network built on dyed vanilla pudding, but whatever -- it was great.) Mainly, the secret slime action worked because the players were always so surprised when the slime finally did fall that their reactions were priceless. Sure, sometimes the slime action was something as mundane as "breathing," but that's what made the whole thing even better. On the first episode, one of the slime actions was saying "wind instrument" -- which Victorious star Victoria Justice said within a minute of being announced -- and the slime dropped on a totally aware group of players. The players were obviously informed of the drop and it ruined what could have been a really fun moment.
Talented Kids You Got There...
While this is more of a flaw of this particular episode, Figure It Out really needs to work on balancing out the two contestants (a.k.a. the kids showing off their talent and/or secret) so one of them doesn't look remarkably lame next to the other. The first contestant on the show played bongos while jumping on a pogo stick. After showing off this already pretty impressive display, he continued to do back flips, high jumps and other pogo-tastic feats. So imagine my disappointment when the next contestant's talent was that she made syrup from tree sap. You know... the normal way. By tapping a tree. Naturally, when she got a chance to display her own talent she didn't have a tree to tap, and had to awkwardly mime the steps with an empty set of pots and pans. Victoria-and-Co. had to try spoonfuls of the syrup and make overzealous comments like, "Wow, this is SOOOOO sweet!" Ever helpful Jeff even made a comment about how the maple syrup is "totally organic." Organic food vs. back flips on a pogo stick? Yeah, no contest there.
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