Lingo

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Lingo (L-I-N-G-O) is a Game Show franchise begun (B-E-G-U-N) in 1987, combining Bingo (B-I-N-G-O) with a spelling game. It was first (F-I-R-S-T) hosted by Michael Reagan (son of Ronald Reagan) and taped (T-A-P-E-D) in Canada in 1987-88, but became notorious for not paying its winning contestants. Despite this, the format became popular overseas (especially in the Netherlands beginning in 1989, originally hosted by François Boulangé and later (L-A-T-E-R) by several other (O-T-H-E-R) emcees before Lucille Werner took over in 2005). GSN produced a revival hosted by Chuck (C-H-U-C-K) Woolery from 2002-07. A re-revival began (B-E-G-A-N) on June 6, 2011, with Bill Engvall as host.

Both versions featured largely identical gameplay, with two pairs of players trying to identify a five-letter word given the first letter. A correct guess earned the right to draw two balls and mark off numbers on a Lingo board. One team had a board with odd numbers; the other, even numbers. Question-mark balls were wild and could be used to cover any open number. Drawing a red ball ended a team's turn. Getting a "Lingo" (five in a row) won points (or won the game entirely in the 1980s version), but also passed control to the other team. Round 2 doubled the point values and added question mark balls, which could be turned into any number on the Lingo board.

The original version featured a Bonus Round called "No Lingo", where the winning team got a chance to double a stake determined by how many games they had (won up to five times) by solving words given the first letter and one other letter in the word, but having to draw a ball for each try they use (as the goal was to avoid getting a line of five on a special card pattern), with a claimed maximum payout of $112,000.

Woolery's version replaced it with a new bonus game, called "Bonus Lingo". Here, the winning team is given two minutes to complete as many five-letter words as possible, given the first letter and one other letter in the word. From season 2 onward, a team also received bonus letters (one for winning the game, plus one for every Lingo in the main game), which could be called for at any time. Each completed word awarded a ball draw for the Bonus Lingo board, a board with some of the 25 numbers filled in (13 in the first season, 12 in season 2 onward). Starting with Season 2, the board's pattern was made in such a way that a Lingo could be made on the first draw. Doing so initially won a trip, and later a progressive jackpot. Getting a Lingo on subsequent pulls won a smaller cash prize; failing to achieve Lingo in this round won $100 per ball.

GSN's revival with Engvall has changed things up some, with Engvall giving clues for the words in the main game, in the style of Woolery's Scrabble. Also, the bonus round is now 5 words in 90 seconds for a chance at $100,000. Bonus letters have been repurposed in this version's Bonus Lingo, with only one given out automatically on the first word courtesy of the show's sponsor, and the ball board was thrown out.

For more information on the Dutch version, see here.


The following Game Show tropes appear in Lingo:
  • Bonus Round: The Reagan/Andrews version had "No Lingo", while both GSN versions have "Bonus Lingo".
  • Bonus Space: The "?" balls, which filled in a number of the team's choosing. If the number chosen by a "?" ball was drawn later, it was edited out and the team was allowed to redraw.
    • The Engvall version got rid of the "?" balls (although a few sponsored episodes have special balls with a sponsor's logo which work the same way). In their place is the "Prize Ball", filled in the center with green. It doesn't give you a number on your card, but you win a prize, which is yours to keep even if you lose. (But you only get to keep your score money if you win the game.)
  • Consolation Prize: Averted. The Engvall version scores in dollars, but the losing team leaves with nothing (unless they were lucky enough to pick a prize ball during the game).
  • Golden Snitch: The Engvall version's $500-a-pop Round 3. Getting all three words and a Lingo (easy with six pulls from the ball rack) awards that team $2,000 and a near-insurmountable lead.
  • Losing Horns: The Reagan version used Type B for a bonus round loss.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Randy Thomas briefly announced on Season 2, and Todd Newton announced the April Fool's Day 2003 episode. Stacey Hayes announced on Season 3, making her a rare combination of The Announcer and the Lovely Assistant. When Shandi took over, the role of announcer was eliminated.
    • Game Show Host: Michael Reagan for most of the 1980s run, followed by series creator Ralph Andrews for the last five weeks. Chuck Woolery hosted all of the 2002-2007 version, and Bill Engvall helms the current GSN revival.
    • Lovely Assistant: Dusty Martell for Reagan's tenure as host, Margaux MacKenzie during the Andrews era. Halfway through Woolery's run Stacey Hayes became co-host, later replaced by Shandi Finessey. As mentioned below, a second model named Paula Cobb assisted Stacey on two episodes of Season 3.
  • Whammy: The red balls, which pass control to the opposing team. Chuck called these "Stoppers", no doubt as a Shout-Out to Scrabble.
    • It came full circle with the Engvall version, with "Stopper Balls" now being their official term. These have the number circle filled in in red, rather than the whole ball, since the balls are selected from racks behind the teams instead of from a hopper.
Tropes used in Lingo include:

Chuck: It's not just letters...
Stacy/Shandi: It's Lingo.

  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Especially noticeable in the bonus round where sometimes it takes several precious seconds for the computer to register a player's response. (May be justified if there's someone actually typing it in).
    • The Woolery version had the yellow team get odd-numbered Lingo boards, while the red team got even-numbered boards. However, this is not done for the Engvall version, so both teams' Lingo boards can have the same numbers. In fact, during one preliminary round, a team drew a Progressive ball (which "pretty much" ensures that you'll go first) and chose 88, while the other team drew an 88. Both teams had to draw again...and, you guessed it, the team that originally drew the 88 ended up getting control.
  • Cool Old Guy: This show cemented Chuck's status here, to the point that he was present on several other GSN-related things, including a short-lived Reality TV show (Naturally Stoned) about his family.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The aforementioned April Fools' Day game. Mark and Marc won 500-0, still the most lopsided defeat in the history of the show.
  • Downer Ending: One team got seven balls in Bonus Lingo, giving them about a 98% chance of winning. Incredibly, they failed to make a Lingo on all seven balls. Chuck, incredulous over what just happened, reached into the hopper himself...and against 99.9% odds, grabbed the only ball that still left no Lingos on the board.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When asked who would draw balls first in Bonus Lingo, one contestant said "I have red balls, Chuck; it's going to [my teammate]."

Chuck: I'm not touching that with a forklift.

    • Another time, Shandi said that one contestant had "Lingo balls" to choose his ex-wife as his teammate.
    • When a contestant tried to use "SPRRA" as a word in another episode and it wasn't accepted, Chuck said that he thought it was a word meaning "a bra that breaks."
    • HORNY and THONG were each the correct answer at least twice. BOOBS was also the correct answer once.
    • One time during the tie-breaker when the word "Current" was used. Since the first and last letters were revealed until all letters are uncovered, the visible letters ended up reading "CU___NT".
    • During a seven-letter round on the Netherlands version, a contestant guessed CUMSHOT as their word. It was accepted.
    • In a similar vein, at least three contestants on the American version guessed PENIS on separate episodes. It was accepted every time.
      • One episode of Naturally Stoned shows a scene where PENIS was actually the correct answer.
    • On the first Engvall episode, the same team submitted guesses of DICKS and SEMEN on separate words (The clues were "It always comes in the end" and "An arresting development", respectively.) Both guesses were accepted. Also, the first clue of the game was "Doggy style." The correct word was "LOYAL", if anyone cares.
    • Another Engvall contestant continued the tradition a few episodes later with a guess of PUSSY, which was accepted.
      • Similarly, one of the clues started off with "It smells fishy" and the starting letter was a "P" and caused everyone to laugh knowing what was on everyone's minds. The actual word was PEARLS.
    • BITCH was used as a response to "A major complaint". It was the correct answer!
  • Hotter and Sexier: The Engvall version, as seen above.
  • If You Know What I Mean: Lots and lots and lots in the Engvall version, especially with the clues.
  • Loophole Abuse: Chuck repeatedly said that "it's not what you say, it's what you spell". Sometimes, players who would accidentally declare a six-letter word would save themselves ("Breath. B-R-E-A...D."). Another team abused this loophole several times, by saying one word, realizing it didn't fit right after they got a letter or two out, then "correcting" it on the fly ("Loans. L-O...U-S-Y"), much to Chuck's amusement.
  • Missing Episode: A series of Hawaiian episodes was taped in June 2005, offering a trip to Hawaii to the winning contestants. These episodes were scheduled to air in October, but sat for 14 months before finally airing on New Year's Day 2007, because the original sponsor dropped out.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The logo used for Woolery's second-to-last season used a pink-on-white color scheme very similar to the 1980s one.
    • One Engvall word with a clue of "Sometimes it goes up" turned out to be CHUCK. Engvall's response after the contestant solved the word: "Yeah, even in 2011 Woolery still gets his name on this show."
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Bonus letters in Bonus Lingo. Season 1 didn't have them, leading to one team getting only one ball (at the time, you needed two to make a Lingo in the bonus round) and another getting none. From season 2 onward, every team gets one bonus letter for winning the game, plus one more for each Lingo scored in the main game (also, it was changed so that only one is needed to make a Lingo). Reverted with the Engvall version, where playing Bonus Lingo just earns money, but the bonus letter remains intact, albeit under different circumstances (see above).
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: To intro the series, GSN created a number of ads with Chuck as a doctor treating patients afflicted with "Lingo" — the uncontrollable need to spell out five-letter words. As a parody of radio soap operas, an organ punctuated the events of the ads. This was lampshaded at the end of one ad:

Chuck: Do you hear an organ?
Patient: Organ! O-R-G-A-N!
Chuck: You just can't stop, can you?

  • Replaced the Theme Tune: Seasons 1 and 2 of the Woolery version used a generic looped theme, recycled from the Dutch version of the show. It was replaced in season 3 for a much longer rock theme.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Contestants averaged at least one Egregious misspelling per game, if not more. There have also been many occasions in which someone says a six-letter word and starts spelling it out, only to make an Oh Crap reaction when they realize their error.
    • Occasionally subverted in Season 2, when the judges chose to use an unabridged dictionary. As a result, obvious misspellings such as SWARE and FLUOR were accepted because they happened to be real, if obscure, words ("sware" is an archaic past-tense of "swear", and "fluor" is a type of mineral). However, they sometimes went too far in the other direction on later episodes; by 2007, their dictionary somehow wasn't recognizing ZESTY, BUSTY or FORTS, even though the first two were correct answers in earlier episodes, and FORTS was accepted in at least one Season 3 episode (and bizarrely, no explanation was given for FORTS not being accepted).
  • Shout-Out: Woolery called the red balls "stoppers" in reference to his own Scrabble. Both shows had, essentially, the same rules regarding Stoppers. As of the Engvall version, this is now an Ascended Meme.
  • Take That: One Engvall puzzle clue was "what Jeff Foxworthy does every morning." The contestant's first guess was MONEY, to which Engvall mock-flippantly replied "Oh come on, I said every morning." Eventually the contestant correctly guessed MOANS.
    • Take That Me: In the Engvall run, one puzzle's clue was "People have said this about my act." The contestant first said SHAME ("Obviously you've never seen my act or you'd know I have no shame."), followed by SORRY. Eventually she got the right answer: SUCKS.
  • Trial and Error Gameplay: The entire point of the spelling game, as you're supposed to guess what the word is by using the provided letter(s), correct guesses, and hints of a right letter in the wrong place.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Paula Cobb (only her first name was given on-air) was introduced halfway through GSN's third season. She'd introduce the players at the beginning of the show, and put the bonus prize ball into the well before the start of Bonus Lingo. Paula's main job, though, was to stand next to Stacey and gesture toward the game board. She was quietly dropped after just two episodes, and never mentioned again.
    • Same thing with Randi Thomas, the Season 2 announcer. She was only heard in the opening, or on a rare occasion when the Jamaica vacation was won.
  1. (Flying Panthers)
  2. (Negentien-letter Lingo, in Dutch)
  3. (minimum temperatures)