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Lingo (U.S. game show)

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Title: Lingo (U.S. game show)  
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Subject: List of game show hosts, Ralph Andrews, Lingo (Dutch game show), Lingo (Quebec game show), Bingo
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Lingo (U.S. game show)

Genre Game show
Created by Harry de Winter
Presented by Michael Reagan (1987–88)
Ralph Andrews (1988)
Chuck Woolery (2002–07)
Bill Engvall (2011)
Starring Dusty Martell (1987–88)
Margaux MacKenzie (1988)
Stacey Hayes (2003–04)
Shandi Finnessey (2005–07)
Narrated by Randi Thomas (2002–03)
Stacey Hayes (2004)
Country of origin Canada
United States
No. of episodes 130 (1987–88)
345 (2002–07)
40 (2011)[1]
Running time 22–26 minutes
Production company(s) Ralph Andrews Productions (1987–88)
Bernstein-Hovis Productions (1987–88)
Laurelwood Entertainment (2002–07)
IDTV International (2002–04)
ZOO Productions (2011)
Distributor ABR Entertainment Company (1987–88)
Original channel Syndicated (1987–88)
Game Show Network (2002–07, 2011)
Original release September 28, 1987 (1987-09-28)–March 25, 1988 (1988-03-25)
August 5, 2002 (2002-08-05)–June 29, 2007 (2007-06-29)
June 6, 2011 (2011-06-06)–August 1, 2011 (2011-08-01)
Related shows Lingo (UK version)
External links

Lingo is an American television game show with multiple international adaptations. Three Lingo series have aired in the United States. The first was aired in daily syndication from September 28, 1987 until March 25, 1988, and taped at BCTV in Burnaby, British Columbia. A revival/reboot of the series debuted on Game Show Network (GSN) on August 5, 2002 and ran for a total of six seasons, ending in 2007. A slightly reworked version of the 2002 series debuted on GSN on June 6, 2011 and ended its run on August 1 of the same year.[1]

The show's format combined the structure of the game of chance known as bingo with a word guessing game; contestants took turns guessing words and tried to guess enough of them to fill in enough spaces on a five-by-five card to form a line.


  • 1987 version 1
    • Main game 1.1
    • No Lingo bonus round 1.2
  • GSN versions 2
    • 2002–2007 2.1
      • Main game 2.1.1
      • Bonus Lingo 2.1.2
        • Season two changes
      • Tournaments and special episodes 2.1.3
    • 2011 2.2
  • Broadcast history 3
    • Episode status 3.1
    • International versions 3.2
  • References 4
  • External links 5

1987 version

Main game

Two teams of two contestants, one of them usually returning champions, competed. One team's Lingo card had even numbers and blue markers, and the other had odd numbers and red markers. Seven of the twenty-five spaces on each card were covered to start the game.

Play began with the red team and a five letter word was randomly selected by an Amiga computer for them to guess with the first letter displayed. The object was to both correctly guess and spell the word, and both contestants took turns until they either did so or lost control. Guessing any mystery word on the first try won the team $1,000.

If any of the team's guesses contained letters that were in the mystery word the computer let them know in two ways. If a letter was in its proper place, a red square was placed around it. If it was out of place, a yellow circle was placed around it.

A team could lose control if any of the following things happened:

  • Failing to guess the word correctly within five tries. The five tries are cumulative and carry over if control passes to the other team.
  • Giving an invalid word, whether it be misspelled, not in the dictionary, or not five letters in length. If a word is longer than five letters but the first five spell a valid word in the dictionary, the team retains control.
  • Failing to come up with a guess within five seconds.

If more than one letter in the word had not yet been revealed, one would be given to the other team before they took control. If only one last letter in the word had not yet been revealed, the team would not get to see it but were allowed five seconds to confer.

The team that correctly guessed the mystery word drew two Lingo balls out of a hopper in front of them. There were four different kinds of Lingo balls in play.

  • Eighteen of the balls in the hopper corresponded with the remaining uncovered numbers on the Lingo card.
  • Each hopper had what were referred to as "prize balls". Initially there were three in each hopper, each worth a different prize that could only be claimed if the team won the game. If the team drew a prize ball it was placed on their podium and the contestant who drew it got another pull. Pulling one ball was worth $250 in traveler's cheques. Pulling two added a vacation, and if all three were pulled the team added a cash jackpot that started out at $1,000 and increased by $500 each time it went unclaimed. Eventually the first ball was taken out, and later still the vacation was done away with meaning the team could only win the jackpot.
  • Three red balls were also in the hopper. Drawing one of these cost the team control.

Provided that they did not draw a red ball, the team that guessed the word received the first chance to guess the next.

Play continued until one team formed a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line with their Lingo balls. The first to do this won the game and $250, with a chance to win thousands more in the bonus round.

Later on, the winning teams were paid based on the type of line. Horizontal and vertical Lingos paid $500 and diagonal Lingos $1,000. If a team managed to complete two lines with a winning Lingo ball, referred to as a Double Lingo, they won $2,000.

Under the original game format, teams could win a maximum of three matches before retiring. When the second format was introduced, a team stayed on the show until losing two matches or winning four matches.

No Lingo bonus round

The No Lingo board used the same pattern of marked numbers for each game.
  32   06  
28       38
74       70
  16   52  

The bonus round had the exact opposite objective of the front game, with teams working to avoid completing a line, giving the round its name of "No Lingo". Before the round started, the team was shown a Lingo card with all even numbers on it. Sixteen of them were covered to start the round, with the pattern forming a star shape and the center space left open. The champions were staked with $500 to start and could elect to quit at any time.

For each mystery word, the first letter and another of the four remaining ones were displayed. As before, the team was given five guesses at the word, and each unsuccessful guess forced the team to draw a Lingo ball. Failing to guess the word after five tries forced the team to draw two additional balls, for a total of seven.

Every even number from 2 to 74 was in the hopper, regardless of whether or not it was covered on the Lingo card. A gold ball was also placed in the hopper and, if pulled, the team was allowed to stop drawing balls. If the team survived the required number of draws or drew the gold ball, their money doubled. The gold ball was also replaced in the hopper if drawn, giving the team the chance to draw it again after playing the next word. A maximum of five words were played.

If the team formed a Lingo, which became more likely as the round progressed, they lost whatever was earned and the round ended. Playing through all five words without forming a Lingo won the team $16,000. Each time the team returned to the No Lingo round, the team's initial stake was doubled; this meant that they played for a potential $32,000 after winning a second game, and a potential $64,000 for winning a third game.

When the front game payout structure changed based upon the type of Lingo formed to win the game, the amount of money won became the initial stake for the No Lingo round. While the team could still win $64,000 under this format, it could only be done by first completing a Double Lingo in the main game.

GSN versions


Main game

While the game mechanic of the revived Lingo was the same as the original series, the goal was changed. Instead of trying to become the first team to complete a line, the teams competed for points.

Ten numbers are marked off on both teams' Lingo cards to start and the team at the left podium begins the game. Teams again have five chances to guess the mystery word, but there are no rules against conferring and the team is not required to take turns guessing. As before, running out of time, exhausting the allotted five guesses, or giving an illegal or misspelled word costs the team control and a bonus unrevealed letter is shown for the other team provided that it is not the last letter in the word.

The team who correctly guesses the mystery word receives 25 points and draws two balls from the hopper in front of them. This time the hopper is loaded with the numbers corresponding to the unmarked spaces on the card, with no prize balls, and three red balls which cost the team control as before. If they failed to complete a Lingo, the team keeps control. Forming a Lingo was worth 50 points, after which the team received a new card with ten different numbers marked off and fifteen new balls in the hopper.

Play in the first round continued until time was called.

In the second round, play continued from where the first round left off. Control went to the trailing team, or to the team in the right podium. This time a correct word was worth 50 points with Lingos worth 100. In addition, three balls with question marks on them were added to each team's hopper. If drawn, the team could cover any open space on their Lingo card.

The team with the higher score at the end of the second round wins the game and moves on to Bonus Lingo. If teams are tied at the end of the second round, a tiebreaking word with seven letters was played. The first and last letter of the word were revealed, and one at a time the remaining spaces were filled. In order to take a guess, the team had to press a buzzer on their podium. If a team guessed incorrectly, they were locked out and the other team was given a free letter. If that team did not guess correctly, play resumed as normal. The team that correctly guessed the word won the game.

Bonus Lingo

The Bonus Lingo board used in August 2002.
04   32   52
  22   44  
02       54
  24   46  
08   34   68

The winning team is given two minutes and tries to guess as many mystery words as possible within the time limit. In each mystery word, two letters are initially revealed: the first letter and one of the remaining four letters, similar to the original version's endgame. If the team fails to guess a word in five tries, the word is revealed and the team moves on to the next word. The team wins $100 for each correctly guessed word.

A Lingo card is then revealed with thirteen numbers marked off. The hopper contains twelve balls, one for each uncovered space on the board, and the team draws a ball for each mystery word successfully guessed in the first half of Bonus Lingo. Forming a Lingo wins the team a $4,000 prize package consisting of an Argus digital camera, a Borders gift card, a Croton watch and a Cassiopeia EM-500 Pocket PC plus the money earned in the first half of Bonus Lingo.[2]

Season two changes
An example of the Bonus Lingo board layout in season two. On this board, the 16 is required to win.
04   36    
  16 32 54 72
02       64
06     48 70
08       68

The team received one bonus letter for winning the game and an additional bonus letter for each Lingo completed in the main game. At any point, even if the word only had one unrevealed letter, the team could call for a bonus letter providing they still had them left.

Additionally, the layout of the Bonus Lingo card changed so that a team could complete a Lingo with just one ball. Twelve spaces (instead of thirteen) were marked off the Lingo board, and the twelve pre-marked spaces were chosen so that there would always be exactly one row, column or diagonal with four spaces marked off. If the team successfully completed a Lingo, the team won $5,000; otherwise they received $100 for each word solved in the first half of the round.

With the change to Bonus Lingo also came new prize levels for completing a Lingo on the first draw. In season two, the team won a Jamaican vacation and the $5,000 bonus, with the total value of the package over $15,000. In season three, the team won another vacation package, this one to Harrah's Lake Tahoe. For the last three seasons, the top prize was simply more cash. In season four a first-ball Lingo paid $10,000, and in season five a progressive jackpot was introduced that saw $1,000 added to it each time a team was unsuccessful at making a first-ball Lingo.

Tournaments and special episodes

GSN held a tournament of champions with particularly successful contestants from its second and third seasons. Instead of playing Bonus Lingo in the final tournament episode, a third round was played in which teams earned 75 for a completed word and 150 for a Lingo. The question mark balls from the second round carried over to the third round. At the end of the show, the team with the most points won a Suzuki Verona for each teammate.

A special episode that aired on April Fool's Day in 2003 had the entire roster of GSN's six original show hosts together playing for charity. While Woolery hosted, Mark Walberg (Russian Roulette) and Marc Summers (WinTuition) played against Kennedy (Friend or Foe?) and Graham Elwood (Cram), with Walberg and Summers shutting them out 500–0. The sixth host to take part was Todd Newton (Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck), who served as the show's announcer.

Lingo occasionally featured theme weeks where the set was decorated, the host, hostess, and contestants wore costumes, and the theme music redone in the theme's style.

The prize for winning Bonus Lingo varied for episodes in which celebrity contestants competed. In one episode teams received $25,000 for their charity for a first-draw Lingo, where in another the team received $30,000 for completing a Lingo even after the first draw. The prize ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 for celebrity teams who were unable to complete a Lingo in the bonus round. Beginning in the fourth season, celebrity teams received an additional bonus letter.


Each team begins the game with nine numbers marked off on their own board. At the start of the show, a member of each team draws a Lingo ball, and the team with the highest number gets to play first. If the ball is a number ball, it is also marked off as the tenth number on the team's board. If the ball is a stopper or a prize ball, no number is marked off.

Teams receive a clue to the word and attempt to guess the five-letter word after being shown the first letter, as before. Correctly identifying the word also lets a team draw two Lingo balls. Number balls drawn are marked off on the team's card. Drawing a stopper ball forfeits their turn and control goes to the opposing team. If a team draws a mystery prize ball, the team wins a bonus prize, theirs to keep regardless of the game's outcome. In addition, certain episodes feature a sponsor and a wild-card ball on the teams' racks in place of, or in addition to, the prize ball. If a team draws a wild card ball, they can use it to cover any number on their card, similar to the question mark ball from the earlier GSN-produced version.

Correctly identifying words in round one earn $100, $200 in round two and $500 in round three. Completing a five-number Lingo awards the same payouts as correct words in each round. When a new board is issued to a team, nine numbers are pre-marked. Three words each are played in rounds one and three, while four words are played in round two. The team with the most money after round three keeps it and plays Bonus Lingo. If a team is mathematically unable to catch up, the game ends once the balls have been drawn for the last word. If there is a tie after the third round, the seven-letter tiebreaker that was introduced in 2002 is played (see above).

In Bonus Lingo, the winning team has 90 seconds to correctly guess 5 five-letter words, receiving two letters in each word; however, no clues are given in Bonus Lingo. In certain sponsored episodes, the team may be issued a bonus letter on the first word. The team wins the identical amount earned in the main game for the first correct word and that amount is then doubled for each additional correct word until the fifth one, which earns the team $100,000. The amount earned in Bonus Lingo is added to the team's total winnings.

Broadcast history

The first version premiered on September 28, 1987 with Michael Reagan, son of then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, as host and Dusty Martell as co-host. Beginning on February 22, 1988, executive producer Ralph Andrews took over as host, and Margaux MacKenzie replaced Martell as co-host. New episodes aired until March 25, 1988, with repeats airing until September of that year. The show was produced by Ralph Andrews (in association with Bernstein/Hovis Productions) in Canada for syndication by ABR Entertainment in the United States.

On August 5, 2002, Game Show Network revived the program with Chuck Woolery as host. Woolery's co-host was Stacey Hayes in season three. Hayes later had Paula Cobb as another co-host near the end of the season. Both were later replaced by Shandi Finnessey for the remainder of the series. Randi Thomas, known for her work in Hooked on Phonics ads, was the offstage announcer in season two, with Hayes acting as announcer in season three. For the remainder of the series, contestants introduced themselves in the show's open and after the second commercial break, Shandi offered the "welcome back" before the beginning of round two.

The first 20 episodes were recorded in the Netherlands on the set of the program's Dutch counterpart; subsequent episodes were produced in the United States. Five more seasons, filmed in Los Angeles and each consisting of 65 episodes, began in December 2002, December 2003, August 2005, April 2006 and April 2007. GSN held back five unaired Hawaiian-themed episodes from season four, and these episodes later aired beginning January 1, 2007.

In 2011, GSN announced the show would restart production after a four-year hiatus, with Bill Engvall as the new host. One season of forty episodes premiered on June 6, 2011.[1] The last first-run show aired on August 1, 2011.

GSN has aired reruns of both versions at various times. Engvall's version aired until June 9, 2014, when it was replaced on the schedule by Shop 'til You Drop. Woolery's version aired until August 18, 2014, when it was replaced on the schedule by Deal or No Deal.

Episode status

The rights to the 1980s version of the show are held by Ion Television. Ion included it in a February 2007 "viewers vote" on its website, with site visitors being able to vote for the show to be included in the network's schedule. Despite this, Ion has not aired this or any other game show (except the previous year's Family Feud episodes by special arrangement) since 2005.

Versions produced after 2002 remain owned by GSN.

International versions

Country Name Host Channel Duration
Canada (English) Lingo Michael Reagan 1987
Ralph Andrews 1988
Syndication 1987–1988*
Canada (French) Lingo Paul Houde Radio-Canada 1988–2001
France Motus Thierry Beccaro Antenne 2
France 2
Germany 5 mal 5 Bernd Schumacher Sat.1 1993–1994
Indonesia Coba-Coba Kata Denny Chandra SCTV 1996–1998
Israel Lingo Gil Alon
Assaf Ashtar
Channel 2 1994–1996
Italy Lingo Tiberio Timperi Canale 5 1992
Netherlands Lingo Robert ten Brink (1989–1992)
François Boulange (1992–2000)
Nance Coolen (2000–2005)
Lucille Werner (2005–2014)
Nederland 2
Norway Lingo Anders Hatlo (1992-93)

Truls Nebell (1993)

TVNorge 1992–1993
Poland 5x5 – wygrajmy razem Marek Grabowski TVP2 1995–2000
Lingo Paweł Orleański TV4 2007
Portugal Lingo Heitor Lourenço
Tânia Ribas de Oliveira
Isabel Angelino
RTP1 2006–2007
Lingo-Eu Gosto do Verão José Carlos Melato 2007
Slovenia Lingo Eva Longyka TV Slovenija 1990s
Spain Lingo Ramoncín
Eduardo Aldán
Punto TV
Sweden Lingo Martin Örnroth
Harald Treutiger
TV4 Plus
PostkodLingo Henrik Johnsson TV4 2013–present
United Kingdom Lingo Martin Walker
Martin Daniels

* Aired in both the U.S. and Canada for both audiences


  1. ^ a b c "GSN Bringing Lingo Back with New Host". Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Lingo. Season 1. Episode 1. August 5, 2002.  

External links

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