Monday, February 7, 2011


by Amy K. Bredemeyer

is yet another game that I came across on Game Show Network. I first saw it around 2004, and watched it on and off, especially in the summer, LoL. My brother watched it with me a few times, but I really tended to watch it alone. The rules make it sound like it's pretty complicated, when really the game is pretty basic.  

Brief history: Lingo has had two different incarnations, with a third soon forthcoming. It first ran 1987-1988, with Michael Reagan as the host. Then, in 2002, it was revived until 2007, featuring Chuck Woolery as the host, and several co-hosts, most notably Shandi (Miss USA 2004) during the final three seasons. The revival actually spawned off the Dutch hit, and most of the first season was recorded in the Netherlands. Bill Engvall will be the newest host when the show comes back this summer, and there will be at least 40 episodes.

The game: There's two teams of two players, and they're trying to guess words based on the starting letter. Every word is 5 letters long, and you get 5 chances. Correct letters in the correct spots are marked with red, letters that are in the word but in a different position are marked with yellow. When you guess, team members take turns, and they must pronounce and spell the word. If the team doesn't get it in five guesses, or repeats a guess, or uses an illegal word (not real, not the right spelling, a proper noun, etc.), takes longer than five seconds to guess, or uses a word that does not start with the designated letter (they could, however, use letters other than those already deemed correct), it switched to the other team's turn, AND they get another letter revealed. All team members can confer before each guess.

The team that completes the puzzle draws two numbers from a bucket, and they cover up numbers on their Lingo card [each team has one with 25 numbers on it (either all odd or all even), 7 (10 in the revival) of which are immediately covered]. They then retain control and begin the next puzzle. But, if they draw one of three red balls (the numbered balls are all blue), their turn is immediately over and the other team goes on to the next puzzle. When the team gets 5 in a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal), they get a "Lingo," and earn (in the original) a trip to the bonus round or (in the revival) 25 points. In the revival, the team with the most points played the bonus... each Lingo on your Lingo card got you another 50 points. Multiple puzzles (and sometimes multiple Lingo boards) were played for "round 1" of the revival, and "round 2" began where the cards left off, but winning a word got you 50 points; winning a Lingo got you 100. Additionally, you got a "bonus letter" for each completed Lingo, and one for winning the game... entitling you to at least one opportunity to get an extra letter revealed when playing for the bonus round.

The team that wins the preliminary rounds then goes on to a final round... and these vastly differ between versions. In the original, a 25-square Lingo card was shown, this time with 16 squares covered already, and the balls to pick from contain numbers not on the board (the prelim rounds only featured numbers that matched those visible). The goal was NOT to get a Lingo. They could take $500 and walk, or try to double that money, up to five times. They were given the first letter of a five-letter word as well as one of the other letters. They guess the word, but if they're wrong, they draw a ball. If they run out of tries, they have to draw two extra, for a total of seven. If they get a Lingo, it's game over. If they don't, they can take the $1,000 and walk, or try to double it again. The winning team used to come back up to three times, and in their second appearance, making it to the bonus round started their money at $1,000... and a third time started at $2,000. Now, in the revival, the team just tried to get as many words as possible (up to 10) in two minutes, earning a ball for each completed word - and try to get a Lingo on a 25-square card with 12 numbers covered. If you got it on the first pull, you won big - a trip, $10,000, or a progressively-growing jackpot (that got as high as $41,000!). If you got it at all, you won $5,000. If you didn't get it, you earned $100 for each correctly-guessed word.

Notable changes to the way the game is played: In the original game, the object was to get the first "Lingo," but in the revival, the object is to score the most points. The original game had "prize" balls that could be pulled and you could get extra prizes if you later won the whole game. This concept changed several times during that one season, and was pulled completely from the revival. In the original, winning the game got you between $250-2,000, depending on what kind of line won the Lingo.

Special contestants & situations: There was a Hawaiian week (in the revival), and it seems to run more often than many of the other reruns, since I've seen some of those episodes about three times, LoL. (there were also other themes that had everyone dressing up... I vaguely remember ponchos or something for a fiesta week, LoL.) Something I've never seen, however, is a tie after the second round. It only happened three times in the revival series, but apparently a 7-letter word was used, and teams took turns guessing it - one team guessed, but if they were wrong, another letter was shown to the other team before the original team could guess again, etc. There were also celebrity episodes for charity, and tournaments of champions, and even a way to win online at home.

Favorite Rounds: I really enjoyed watching people completely mess up. Like, trying to fit 6-letter words in, but not realizing it until they get to the 4th letter or so. Or people who are really bad at spelling. Or people who just can't sound things out. I also really like the Hawaiian episodes, as corny as they sound. But, I think this kinda carries across the board.. I just like gimmicky costuming on game shows, haha.

My take: I'm actually pretty bad at this game. I think having three humanities degrees does that to you... takes away all of your abilities to think about simple words. My husband is better than I am, but he doesn't really like to watch this one (we will sit and watch Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! from time to time, but otherwise he's not a big game show person). I don't know too many people who have watched this game (and those who have are also admittedly poor at it), so it's hard to think of additional potential partners, LoL. But, who knows how the new version will pan out... maybe it'll make more sense to me and the words will come more clearly... But, at least I'm not as bad as some of these guys... below is a 4-5 minute clip of some great spelling errors, and the last team on there demonstrates how you can use the rules to your advantage, LoL.

Did you ever watch Lingo? Are you going to be watching the new version in a few months? Who would you partner with if the show was still on the air and you were competing?
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