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
Narrated byRandy Thomas
Stacey Hayes
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
ZOO Productions
Game Show Network Originals
DistributorABR Entertainment Company (1987–88)
All3Media International
Original networkSyndication
Game Show Network
(2002–07, 2011)
Original releaseSeptember 28, 1987 (1987-09-28) –
August 1, 2011 (2011-08-01)
Related showsLingo UK
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 the BCTV studios in Burnaby, British Columbia. A revival/reboot of the series debuted on Game Show Network (GSN) on August 5, 2002 and ended in 2007 after running for a total of six seasons.[2] 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 five-letter 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[edit]

Main game[edit]

An example of a Lingo puzzle.

Two teams of two contestants, one of them usually returning champions, competed. To start the game, each team received a computer generated Lingo card. The champion team's Lingo card had even numbers and blue markers, and the challenger's had odd numbers and red markers. Seven of the twenty-five spaces on each card were covered.

Play began with the red team. A five-letter word was randomly selected by an Amiga computer and the first letter was displayed before the team provided a guess. The team then had five seconds to provide a valid guess, which had to be five letters in length and then spell the word. 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. If a letter was in the word and in its correct place, the square was lit in red and the letter remained displayed for each subsequent guess. If a letter was in the word but was not in its proper place, a yellow circle was placed around it. Play continued in this manner until one of the teams guessed the word.

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 passed to the other team.
  • Giving an invalid word—misspelled, not in the dictionary, beginning with the wrong first letter, or the wrong length. If a word was longer than five letters but the first five letters spelled a valid word in the dictionary, the team retained 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 was given to the other team before they took control. If only one letter remained, the team did not get to see it but were allowed five seconds to confer.

Once a team guessed the word, each contestant drew a ball from a hopper in front of them. Eighteen of the balls had numbers on them corresponding with the numbers of the uncovered spaces on their Lingo card. When drawn, the corresponding space was marked on the team's Lingo card. Three red balls were also in the hopper; drawing one of these ended the team's turn and cost them control.

Each hopper also contained three "prize balls", each corresponding with a prize. Drawing one ball won the team $250 in traveler's cheques. Drawing another ball added a trip. If the team managed to draw all three prize balls in their hopper, they also won a cash jackpot which started at $1,000 and increased by $500 for each game it went unclaimed.

As long as a team did not draw a red ball, they retained control and received first guess at the next word. The match went on until one of the teams completed a line during their turn. The first team to do this won the game, $250, and a chance at thousands more in the bonus round.

Rule changes[edit]

Partway through the series' short run, the main game payouts were adjusted. Instead of receiving $250 for winning a game, the winning team's total was determined by the line they made when completing a lingo. Horizontal and vertical lines paid off at $500, while diagonal lines paid $1,000. If the team was able to complete two lines with one draw—referred to as a "double Lingo"—the team won $2,000. Also, the number of prize balls in the team's hoppers was reduced from three to two. Later still, the cash jackpot became the only prize available; when this happened, the prize balls became known as "jackpot balls" and the team had to draw both of them and win the game to claim the pot.[3]

No Lingo bonus round[edit]

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

The bonus round 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 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.

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 from the hopper in front of them. Each subsequent chance added a ball to the total draws (for instance, if it took the team three tries to guess the word, three balls would be drawn). If the team went through their allotted chances without guessing the word, they incurred a penalty of two Lingo balls and would be required to draw seven balls from the hopper.

All thirty-seven even numbers that could possibly be on the Lingo card (2–74) were placed in the hopper, which could work to a team's advantage as they could draw a ball that had either already been covered or did not appear on the card at all. If the team managed to avoid completing a Lingo, their winnings were doubled. There was also a gold ball in the hopper and if it was drawn at any point in the team's turn, their money doubled on the spot and their turn ended. If any of the drawn balls formed a Lingo, the team lost everything.

After each turn, including at the beginning of the round, the team was given the choice to stop playing and take their money or keep going. If they managed to survive five turns without a Lingo, the team won $16,000. Each subsequent trip to the No Lingo round was played for twice the stakes, with the team playing for $32,000 on their second try and $64,000 on their third.

When the front game payout structure changed, the team's front game winnings became the starting stake for the No Lingo round. If the team managed to make a horizontal or vertical line, No Lingo would be played for $16,000. If they made a diagonal line, the round was played for $32,000. If they managed a Double Lingo victory, the team played for $64,000.

In the first format, teams were retired as champions after three victories. When the payout structure changed, teams were allowed to remain on the show until they reached four victories or were defeated twice.

GSN versions[edit]


Main game[edit]

While the game mechanic of the revived Lingo[4] 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. The team in 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; in a callback to his previous game show Scrabble, Woolery always referred to the red balls as "stoppers".

If they failed to complete a Lingo, the team was given control of the next word and play continued. 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 then passed to their opponents.

After the first commercial break, Chuck interviews each team starting with the team who began the first round.

Play in the first round continued until time was called.

In the second round, play continued from where the first round left off. The team with the lowest score begins the round. This time, point values were doubled, meaning a correct word was worth 50 points, and a Lingo was worth 100 points. 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 most points 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 bonus letter. If that team did not guess correctly, play resumed as normal. The team that correctly guessed the word won the game.

Bonus Lingo[edit]

The first season Bonus Lingo board.

The winning team has two minutes to guess as many five-letter mystery words as possible. Two letters are initially revealed in each word, one of which is always the first letter. If the team fails to guess a word in five tries, it 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.[5]

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

The second season saw the addition of bonus letters to Bonus Lingo (known as free letters in Season 2). These allowed the team to fill in one of the spaces in a Bonus Lingo word and could be called for at any time, even if filling a space would result in the word being revealed (the team still had to say and spell the word to receive credit for it). The team received one bonus letter for winning the match plus one more for each Lingo they made.

Additionally, the layout of the Bonus Lingo card changed so that a team could complete a Lingo with their first draw. Twelve spaces (instead of thirteen) were marked off the card, and the twelve pre-marked spaces were chosen so that there would always be exactly one row or column 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. Originally, the team won a fabulous Jamaican vacation package from Harris' Vacations on top of the $5,000, making the total value of the package over $15,000. In season three, the package was replaced with a vacation 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 where for every time a team was unsuccessful at making a Lingo on their first draw, $1,000 was added to the jackpot. When a team has won the jackpot, a new one was created worth $10,000.

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 were 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.

Lingo occasionally featured theme weeks where the set was decorated, the host, hostess, and contestants wore costumes, and the theme music was 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[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 (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, who was in charge of setting up the Lingo boards and the puzzles on Lingo's official computer. 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 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, Finnessey 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.[6] 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,[citation needed] when it was replaced on the schedule by Shop 'til You Drop. Woolery's version aired until October 26, 2016.[citation needed]

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 GSN.

International versions[edit]

Country Name Host Channel Duration
Canada Canada
(in English)
Lingo Michael Reagan (1987)
Ralph Andrews (1988)
Syndication 1987–1988*
Canada Canada
(in French)
Lingo Paul Houde Télévision de Radio-Canada 1998–2001
France France[7][8] Motus Thierry Beccaro Antenne 2
France 2
Germany Germany[9] 5 mal 5 Bernd Schumacher Sat.1 1993–1994
Indonesia Indonesia Cocok – Coba-Coba Kata Denny Chandra SCTV 1996–1998
Israel Israel Lingo Gil Alon
Assaf Ashtar
Channel 2 1994–1996
Italy Italy[10][11] Lingo Tiberio Timperi
Giancarlo Magalli
Canale 5
Rai 2
2021 TBA
Jordan Jordan Lingo Abdallah Amara Jordan 1 TV 2019–present
Netherlands Netherlands[12] 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[13] Lingo Anders Hatlo (1992–93)
Truls Nebell (1993)
TVNorge 1992–1993
Poland Poland[14] 5×5 – wygrajmy razem Marek Grabowski TVP2 1995–1999
Lingo Paweł Orleański TV4 2007
Portugal Portugal[15] Lingo Heitor Lourenço
Tânia Ribas de Oliveira
Isabel Angelino
RTP1 2006–2007
Lingo-Eu Gosto do Verão José Carlos Malato 2007
Philippines Philippines Lingo Joey de Leon
Vic Sotto
Slovenia Slovenia Lingo Mito Trefalt
Eva Longyka
TV Slovenija 1990s
Spain Spain[16] Lingo Ramoncín
Eduardo Aldán
Punto TV
Sweden Sweden[17] Lingo Martin Örnroth
Harald Treutiger
TV4 Plus
PostkodLingo Henrik Johnsson TV4 2013
United Kingdom United Kingdom[18] Lingo Martin Walker
Martin Daniels
Adil Ray
Central (1987)
ITV (1988, 2021)

* 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. ^ Stelter, Brian (March 6, 2008). "As Went Love Connection, So Goes Lingo". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  3. ^ Lingo. 24 February 1988. Syndication.
  4. ^ "Lingo : GSN – The Network For Games". October 29, 2005. Archived from the original on October 29, 2005.
  5. ^ Lingo. Season 1. Episode 1. August 5, 2002. Game Show Network.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "Motus émission n°1 – 25/06/1990" – via
  8. ^ "Liste des invités des 25 ans de".
  9. ^ 5 mal 5 bei
  10. ^ "Canale 5: "Lingo"". AdnKronos. 1992-10-02. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Canale 5: "Lingo"". AdnKronos. 1993-02-05. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  12. ^ SBS6 programma's: Lingo (in Dutch).
  13. ^ VG – NEBELL BLIR «LINGO»-SJEF (27.05.1993 – Side: 56)
  14. ^ "Nowy teleturniej w TV4" (in Polish). 2007-03-19. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  15. ^ MarkTest. "Um mês a fazer Lingo" (in Portuguese). 31 de agosto de 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  16. ^ Diario ABC, ed. (26 June 1993). "Concursos y humor, bazas de las cadenas de TV en la batalla de la audiencia veraniega".
  17. ^ Lingo
  18. ^ "Lingo – UKGameshows".

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)