Figure It Out

Throwback Thursday: Summer, Slime and Lori Beth

Figure It Out

Photo Credit: Nickelodeon

In the late ’90s, Nickelodeon hatched what is one of the most brilliant cross-promotional schemes in modern history: Figure It Out. The game show starred panelists guessing the special talent of one particular kid, but in a twist, all the panelists were Nickelodeon personalities. The whole thing was entertaining on its own, but was also a half-hour advertisement for all the network’s other properties. In many ways, it was one of the first innovators of product placement.

Less cynically and post-childhood, I’d have said that Figure It Out was awesome. Hosted by former sports commentator and Olympic gold medalist (?!) Summer Sanders, the premise was simple and fun. There were lots of opportunities for slime, and almost every episode featured either future DUI magnet Amanda Bynes or the absolutely brilliant Lori Beth Denberg on the panel.

Denberg, if you recall, was the face of the “Vital Information” sketch on All That, and in that role, she defined much of my early childhood. The deadpan delivery, quick one-liners, absurdist premise: all of it was hilarious to me. I was the kind of kid that didn’t laugh too much at gross-out humor (I was a bit of a priss back then), but that was the exact kind of comic style I could appreciate.

On Figure It Out, Denberg was no less hilarious, and she was always a highlight, even when her panel was weighed down by losers like Danny Tamberelli. (Tamberelli was also Denberg’s absolutely miscast replacement on “Vital Information” – whoever thought that was a masterstroke of genius deserves the firing they inevitably received.) She had repartee with the other panelists and with Sanders, and she managed to make every joke land.

The Figure It Out era marked the end of Nick’s ability to really innovate with its programming. Nowadays, everything’s simply a spinoff of everything else, mirroring the Disney Channel formula. However, they’ve brought Figure It Out back, and while it’s not as amusing without the old panelists, the format is exactly the same, right down to the noise they play when someone gets an answer right. In this age of ’90s nostalgia and remakes that’s still winding down, it’s nice to see a rehash that really pays tribute to the original series.

Now, if only we could get Denberg and Sanders back on there. Below, check out one of the best Lori Beth Denberg episodes of Figure It Out.

Give It To Me

Throwback Thursday: The “Timbo” Era

Give It To Me

Photo Credit: YouTube | TimbalandVEVO

The year is 2007. Britney Spears had yet to shave her head in the midst of her breakdown. Gossip Girl was set to debut that coming fall. And music producer Timbaland was the hottest thing in pop music.

Timbaland had been riding a wave of hype for the past year or so following the smash successes of Nelly Furtado’s album Loose and Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. That February, he released the first single off his album Shock Value: “Give It To Me.”

A beat-heavy track with guest vocals from Timberlake and Furtado, “Give It To Me” isn’t any of their personal best (especially not Timberlake’s), but in a lot of ways, it’s a perfect musical time capsule for the “Timbo” era.

Starting with “Promiscuous” in 2006, Timbaland took almost full control of the pop music scene, molding Nelly Furtado into a sexy songstress. Furtado left the “I’m Like a Bird” girl behind and embraced her identity as a desirable woman with the #1 hits “Promiscuous” and “Say It Right.” While she thrived, Timbaland also produced what many consider a pop masterpiece, Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. Alone, these two achievements propelled Timbaland into the spotlight in a big way – his championing of OneRepublic and future hit single “Apologize” was just the icing on top.

“Give It To Me” was Timbaland’s first solo single since his weak efforts in the late 90’s – “solo” of course being a curious word when he has at least one featured artist on almost every single one of his tracks, and two in this one in particular. Timbaland and his pet projects each have one verse in the song. Furtado describes changing her artistic vibe on Loose. Timbaland describes his successes in production. Timberlake has perhaps the best verse, a kiss-off to anyone who made the “But sexy never left!” joke about his hit single “SexyBack.” “If sexy never left, then why’s everybody on my shi-i-i-t?” he sings. “Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it.”

In many ways, “Give It To Me” acts as an oral history of the Timbo era, and ironically, the era ended almost directly after the song faded from radio. Furtado has yet to enjoy a hit single or album after Loose and “Say It Right.” Even more disappointingly, Timberlake still has yet to record a follow-up to one of the most successful pop albums of all time, instead choosing to focus on his own career.

As for the hit producer himself, while Timbaland enjoyed minor success with “The Way I Are” and “Carry Out,” he became less and less the chief songwriter and producer of pop music.The man who replaced him? Interestingly, it was Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic – a project Timbaland himself fostered.

The Tedder era is another story for another Throwback Thursday. For now, enjoy reminiscing about the man and his artistic benefactors who, for a moment, ruled the world of pop.