Lingo (American game show)

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Lingo logo.jpg
GenreGame show
Created byRalph Andrews
Presented byMichael Reagan
Ralph Andrews
Chuck Woolery
Bill Engvall
StarringDusty Martell
Margaux MacKenzie
Stacey Hayes
Shandi Finnessey
Gwendolyn Osborne
Narrated byRandy Thomas
Stacey Hayes
Michelle Visage
Country of originCanada
United States
No. of episodes130 (1987–88)
345 (2002–07)
40 (2011)[1]
Running time22–26 minutes
Production companiesRalph Andrews Productions (1987–88)
Bernstein-Hovis Productions (1987–88)
Laurelwood Entertainment
IDTV International
All3Media International
Game Show Network Originals
ZOO Productions
DistributorABR Entertainment Company (1987–88)
All3Media International
Original networkSyndication
Game Show Network
(2002–07, 2011)
Original releaseSeptember 28, 1987 (1987-09-28) –
present (present)
Related showsLingo UK

Lingo is an American television game show with multiple international adaptations. In it, contestants compete to decode five-letter words given the first letter, similarly to Jotto, with each correctly guessed word earning number draws to attempt filling in a Bingo card.

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 the BCTV studios in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia; initially hosted by Michael Reagan, series creator Ralph Andrews took over beginning in February 1988. On August 5, 2002, Game Show Network (GSN) premiered a revival of Lingo, which was hosted by Chuck Woolery and ran for six seasons through 2007.[2] On June 6, 2011, GSN premiered a second revival hosted by comedian Bill Engvall,[1] running for one season.

In February 2022, CBS announced a fourth, primetime incarnation of Lingo, which will be hosted and executive produced by RuPaul. It will be filmed in England with American contestants.


1987 version[edit]

An example of a Lingo puzzle

Two teams of two contestants, one of them usually a returning champion, compete. To start the game, each team receives a randomly generated "Lingo" card, similar in manner to a Bingo card, with some spaces already filled in. The 1980s versions started with seven spaces filled in, while all other versions start with ten.

The team is then given the first letter of a five-letter mystery word and must make attempts at guessing the word by spelling it out. To assist in figuring out the word, each letter lights up. A letter that turns red is in the mystery word and in the right place; one that is yellow is in the mystery word but in the wrong place, and one that does not light up is not in the mystery word at all. If the team did not come up with the right word on the first try, they were shown which letters were correctly-placed as well as those in the word but not correctly placed. A team has five turns in which to guess the word.

Control passes to the opposing team if the team in control either fails to make a guess before five seconds expire; makes an invalid guess (a misspelled word, a proper noun, a contraction, a hyphenate, or a word not five letters in length); or guesses incorrectly on the fifth turn. Passing control to the opposing team also reveals another letter in the word, unless doing so would fill in the word completely. If the opposing team still fails to guess, then the word is discarded and a new one generated.

After correctly guessing a word, a team draws balls from a hopper in front of them. Most of the balls contain numbers, which correspond to those on each team's respective Lingo board. The 1980s version also featured "prize balls", which awarded trips or cash if drawn. Also present are red balls, which if drawn, immediately forfeit control to the opposing team. Starting with the 2002 version, the red balls were known as "stoppers". The goal of the Lingo board is to achieve five covered spaces in a row in any direction, known as a "Lingo". Doing so awarded $250 cash on the 1980s versions, with the first team to complete a Lingo being declared the winner.

2002 version[edit]

Gameplay on the GSN version was largely similar to that of its 1987 counterpart, though with several changes. Unlike the 1980s version, the 2002 version used a point system, and did not feature prize balls. Each correctly guessed word awarded 25 points, while scoring a "Lingo" awarded 50 points and a new Lingo board; all point values were doubled in the second round of each game. In addition, the 2002 version introduced "mystery balls" in the second round; drawing one of these allowed a team to mark off any one number on their board. The team with the most points after the second round won the game. Ties on the 2002 version were broken by revealing a seven-letter word, starting with the first and last letters then working inward one letter at a time until a team gave the correct answer.

Bonus round[edit]

No Lingo (1987 version)

The No Lingo board used the same pattern of marked numbers for each game.

The bonus round of the 1980s version had the exact opposite objective of the front game, with teams working to avoid completing a line. Before the round started, the team was shown a Lingo card with all even numbers on it. Sixteen were covered to start the round. The champions were staked with $500 to start. For each mystery word, the team was given five chances to guess and were shown the first letter and one additional letter to start. If the team guessed the word on the first try, they drew one Lingo ball; one more was drawn for each subsequent guess, with a total of seven drawn if the word was not correctly guessed by the fifth turn.

After guessing words, the team drew balls from the hopper one at a time. If a number was already covered or not on the board, it was discarded. Each turn in which a Lingo (five in a row) was not achieved doubled the cash available. At any time after a draw, the team could choose to stop and collect their cash, or attempt another draw. Should any draw make a Lingo, all cash was forfeited. The maximum payout for surviving five turns without making a Lingo was $16,000. Regardless of whether or not the team won No Lingo, they would return to compete again the next day. Should the same team return to Double Lingo for a second or third day, the cash values would become $32,000 or $64,000 respectively. Teams stayed on the show until they won three games; this was later changed to staying on until the team won four times or lost twice.

Bonus Lingo (2002 version)[edit]

The first season Bonus Lingo board.

On the 2002 version, the winning team had two minutes to guess as many five-letter mystery words as possible. Two letters were initially revealed in each word, one of which was always the first letter. If the team failed to guess a word in five tries, it was revealed and the team moved on to the next word. The team won $100 for each correctly guessed word, up to $1,000 for ten words.

A Lingo card was then revealed with thirteen numbers marked off. The hopper contained twelve balls, one for each uncovered space on the board, and the team drew a ball for each mystery word successfully guessed in the first half of Bonus Lingo. Forming a Lingo won 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.[3]

From season two onward, teams were also given "bonus letters": one for winning the game, and an additional one for each Lingo scored in the main game. Teams could elect to use a bonus letter at any time to fill in an unrevealed letter in a word, even if doing so would reveal the word. In addition, the layout of the Bonus Lingo card was changed so that twelve numbers were marked off and a Lingo could be achieved in only one draw. Doing so awarded a large prize; in seasons two and three, it was a trip and $5,000; in season four, it was a flat $10,000; in seasons five and six, it was a jackpot that began at $10,000 and increased by $1,000 each time it was unclaimed. In any case, achieving a Lingo in two or more draws awarded a flat $5,000. Failing to achieve a Lingo still awarded $100 for each correctly guessed word. Unlike the 1980s version, this version did not feature returning champions.

An example of the Bonus Lingo board layout in season two. On this board, the 16 is required to win on the first draw.

Tournaments and special episodes[edit]

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 points tripled, meaning teams earned 75 points for a completed word and 150 points 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 L. 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.


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 higher number gets to play first. Unlike in previous versions, the number balls are on a rack and not in a hopper. 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. Also unlike the previous versions, the host gives a clue as to the word's meaning.

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.

In Bonus Lingo, the winning team has 90 seconds to correctly guess five words, receiving two letters in each 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[edit]

The first version premiered on September 28, 1987, with Michael Reagan, adopted 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 Productions (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. In season three, a co-host was added to reveal the puzzles and provide banter. Woolery's co-host was Stacey Hayes in season three, while Hayes had Paula Cobb as another co-host for the first two episodes of the season. Hayes was later replaced by Shandi Finnessey for the remainder of the series. Randy Thomas, known for her work in Hooked on Phonics ads, was the offstage announcer in season two, with Hayes also acting as announcer in season three. For the remainder of the series, the role of announcer was eliminated.

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 nearly four-year hiatus, with Bill Engvall as the new host.[4] One season of forty episodes premiered on June 6, 2011.[1] The last first-run show aired on August 1, 2011.

On February 11, 2022, CBS announced that it had ordered a primetime revival of Lingo from Objective Media Group, with RuPaul as host and executive producer;[5][6] it was filmed at Dock10 in Salford, England (where the current British version is filmed) with American contestants. RuPaul was also signed on to host a series of Celebrity Lingo episodes for broadcast in the UK.[7]

Episode status[edit]

The rights to the 1980s version of the show are held by Ion Television.[citation needed] 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 Game Show Network.

International versions[edit]

Country Name Host Channel Duration
Canada Canada Lingo (in English) Michael Reagan (1987)
Ralph Andrews (1988)
Syndication 1987–1988*
Lingo (in French) Paul Houde Télévision de Radio-Canada 1998–2001
France France[8][9] Motus Thierry Beccaro Antenne 2
France 2
Germany Germany[10] 5 mal 5 Bernd Schumacher Sat.1 1993–1994
Indonesia Indonesia Cocok – Coba-Coba Kata Denny Chandra SCTV 1996–1998
Israel Israel לינגו
Gil Alon
Assaf Ashtar
Channel 2 1994–1996
Italy Italy[11][12] Lingo Tiberio Timperi Canale 5 1992–1993
Una parola di troppo Giancarlo Magalli Rai 2 2021
Lingo – Parole in gioco Caterina Balivo LA7 2022–present
Jordan Jordan Lingo Abdallah Amara Jordan 1 TV 2019–present
Netherlands Netherlands[13] Lingo Robert ten Brink
François Boulangé
Nance Coolen
Lucille Werner
Jan Versteegh
Nederland 1, Nederland 2
Nederland 2, Nederland 3
Nederland 2
Nederland 2, Nederland 1
Norway Norway[14] Lingo Anders Hatlo (1992–93)
Truls Nebell (1993)
TVNorge 1992–1993
Poland Poland[15] 5×5 – wygrajmy razem Marek Grabowski TVP2 1995–1999
Lingo Paweł Orleański TV4 2007
Portugal Portugal[16] Lingo Heitor Lourenço
Tânia Ribas de Oliveira
Isabel Angelino
RTP1 2006–2007
Lingo-Eu Gosto do Verão José Carlos Malato 2007
Slovenia Slovenia Lingo Mito Trefalt
Eva Longyka
TV Slovenija 1990s
Spain Spain[17] Lingo Ramoncín
Eduardo Aldán
Ana Ruiz
Aitor Albizua (2022)
Jon Gomez (2022–present)
Punto TV
Canal Sur
Sweden Sweden[18] Lingo Martin Örnroth
Harald Treutiger
TV4 Plus
PostkodLingo Henrik Johnsson TV4 2013
United Kingdom United Kingdom[19] Lingo Martin Daniels
Adil Ray
ITV 1988
Celebrity Lingo RuPaul 2022

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


In late 2021, Two Way Media launched a mobile version of Lingo available for iOS and Android users. The game follows a similar format to the 2002–2007 format of Lingo. However, there are some slight differences. Players have a choice of playing either a four letter, five letter, or six letter round. If the player correctly guesses a word, they win coins and get to play bingo. The bingo balls are automatically generated and whenever a bingo card is completely full, the player gets to advance to a new city in the game. This version of Lingo does not feature a bonus round.[20][21]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Grosvenor, Carrie (January 13, 2011). "GSN Bringing Lingo Back with New Host". Archived from the original on February 10, 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  2. ^ Stelter, Brian (March 6, 2008). "As Went Love Connection, So Goes Lingo". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  3. ^ Lingo. Season 1. Episode 1. August 5, 2002. Game Show Network.
  4. ^ "Lingo, the Brand New Mystery-Word Game Show Hosted by Comedian Bill Engvall, Offers Players a Shot at $100,000" (Press release). GSN Corporate. May 16, 2011. Archived from the original on August 23, 2011.
  5. ^ Michael Schneider (February 11, 2022). "Step Aside, Wordle: RuPaul Is Reviving the 'Lingo' Word-Based Game Show at CBS". Variety. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  6. ^ Swift, Andy (February 11, 2022). "Hot Off Wordle Craze, CBS Reboots Game Show Lingo With RuPaul as Host". TVLine. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  7. ^ Maidment, Adam (2022-07-27). "RuPaul to film new Lingo TV series in Salford - and here's how to get tickets". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  8. ^ "Motus émission n°1 – 25/06/1990". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 – via
  9. ^ "Liste des invités des 25 ans de".
  10. ^ "5 mal 5 bei".
  11. ^ "Canale 5: "Lingo"". AdnKronos. 1992-10-02. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Canale 5: "Lingo"". AdnKronos. 1993-02-05. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  13. ^ SBS6 programma's: Lingo (in Dutch).
  14. ^ VG – NEBELL BLIR «LINGO»-SJEF (27.05.1993 – Side: 56)
  15. ^ "Nowy teleturniej w TV4" (in Polish). 2007-03-19. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  16. ^ MarkTest. "Um mês a fazer Lingo" (in Portuguese). 31 de agosto de 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  17. ^ Diario ABC, ed. (26 June 1993). "Concursos y humor, bazas de las cadenas de TV en la batalla de la audiencia veraniega".
  18. ^ Lingo
  19. ^ "Lingo – UKGameshows".
  20. ^ "‎Lingo – official mobile game". App Store. Retrieved 2022-01-21.
  21. ^ "Lingo: Guess The Word – Apps on Google Play". Retrieved 2022-01-21.

External links[edit]

  • Lingo at IMDb (1987–1988 U.S. Version) (Syndicated)
  • Lingo at IMDb (2002–2007 U.S. version) (GSN)
  • Lingo at IMDb (2011 U.S. Version) (GSN)
  • Lingo at IMDb (1989–2007 Dutch version)
  • Motus at IMDb (1990–present French version)
  • Lingo at IMDb (1992–1993 Norwegian version)
  • Lingo at IMDb (2006–2007 Portuguese version)
  • Lingo at IMDb (1993–1997 Spanish version)