Series: Lingo

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 Robert ten Brink (B-R-I-N-K) 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, but this attempt ended (E-N-D-E-D) after (A-F-T-E-R) only (O-N-L... E-E) one season.

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.

A bonus was also given out if the word was correctly spelled on the first try.

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 changed things up some, with Engvall giving clues for the words in the main game, in the style of Woolery's Scrabble. Also, Bonus Lingo became 5 words in 90 seconds for a chance at $100,000. Bonus letters were 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.

Although the show itself is toast, an online version that can be played for "Oodles" that can be used to earn contest entries or bid for prizes is available still on GSN's website. Careful, it can be addictive, especially if you're good at it. On the downside, its dictionary does seem to contain some omissions, which may leave you shaking your fist if it rejects what should be a perfectly good word. (For example, "bimbo" is rejected.)

Not to be confused with The Lingo Show, an Edutainment Show with no relation to this show whatsoever.

Game Show Tropes (T-R-O-P-E) in use:

  • 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 was the "Prize Ball", filled in the center with green. No number was marked off on the card, but the contestant did win a certain prize, one which was theirs to keep regardless of the game's outcome.
  • Consolation Prize: Averted. The Engvall version scored 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) awarded 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 helmed the 2011 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" becoming their official term. These had the number circle filled in in red, rather than the whole ball, since the balls were now selected from racks behind the teams instead of from a hopper.

This show provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: The Vliegende Panters note  sketch Nineteen-Letter Lingo note , which features such gems as M-I-N-I-M-U-M-T-E-M-P-E-R-A-T-U-R-E-N note .
  • April Fools' Day: On April 1, 2003, the then-hosts of GSN's other originals (Graham Elwood of Cram and Kennedy of Friend or Foe vs. Marc Summers of WinTuition and Mark L. Walberg of Russian Roulette) played each other for charity, with Todd Newton (then-host of Whammy) as announcer.
  • Bowdlerization: One early promo ended with the narrator saying, "Doesn't Chuck Woolery make you..." followed by a clip of a contestant saying "Horny, H-O-R-N-Y." This was later changed to a clip of another contestant saying "Laugh, L... U... G-H."
  • Catch Phrase: As he did on Love Connection, Chuck regularly threw the show to commercial with, "We'll be back in two and two."
    Chuck: It's not just letters...
    Stacy/Shandinote : It's Lingo.
  • Censored for Comedy: 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".
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Especially noticeable in the bonus round where sometimes it took several precious seconds for the computer to register a player's response. Justified since someone (usually the co-host on Woolery's version) actually typed it in.
    • The Woolery version had the yellow team get odd-numbered Lingo boards, while the red team got even-numbered boards. However, this was not done for the Engvall version, so both teams' Lingo boards could 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.
  • Couch Gag: On some season 2 episodes, Randy Thomas introduced Chuck as "C-H-U-C-K Woolery".
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The aforementioned April Fools' Day game. Mark and Marc won 500-0, still the second most lopsided defeat in the history of the show (The first was a 525-0 game, with the losers receiving donuts for their Epic Fail.)
  • 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first season of the Woolery version taped on the Netherlands version's set. Bonus Lingo also had several differences: it was played for a small prize package including a Borders gift card and watch (described by Chuck in a pre-recorded copy), there were no bonus letters, and at least two balls were required to make a Lingo.
    • Season 2 was still markedly different from the later years, as they still used the original theme song, Randy Thomas was the announcer, there was no model, and the set was blue and wood-grained. The show finally resembled its most familiar form in Season 3, when the rock theme was introduced, the set became neon blue, and Stacey was introduced.
  • Epic Fail: One team in the first season tried to guess "approach" as a five-letter word. They then went on to become the only team in the show's history to get no words right in Bonus Lingo. (Not at all helped by some off the wall guesses such as "Kazaa".)
  • 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, THONG, and SPANK were each the correct answer at least twice. BOOBS was also the correct answer once.
    • 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, if anyone cares.
    • BITCH was used as a response to "A major complaint". It was the correct answer!
  • Hotter and Sexier: The Engvall version, as seen above.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: 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.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The logo used for Woolery's third 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."
  • Non Standard Game Over: In Season 1, the Bonus Round did not offer bonus letters for every Lingo made in the main game, and two balls were required to make the winning Lingo. However, one team won only one ball, and another won zero, likely leading to a rules tweak in Season 2.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Bonus letters in Bonus Lingo. Season 1 didn't have them, leading to the Non-Standard Game Over more than once. From season 2 onward, every team got 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 earned money, but the bonus letter remained 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: The first two seasons of the Woolery version used a few looped bars of synthesized "game show" music, recycled (like the first season's set) from the Dutch version of the show. It was replaced in season 3 by an original, 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).
  • Running Gag: The second season of the Woolery version used foghorns to indicate the end of each round. Whenever the game ended in a Curb-Stomp Battle, Chuck would jokingly tell the losing team that their ship has just arrived after the foghorn was played.
    • Anytime a team forfeited an extremely obvious word, Chuck would often instruct the team who got the word correct to look at their opponents and say thank you to them.
  • Shout-Out: Woolery called the red balls "stoppers" in reference to his own Scrabble. Both shows had, essentially, the same rules regarding Stoppers. The Engvall version officially crowned the red balls "Stoppers," making this 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. Sometimes a valid strategy was simply to say something that obviously wasn't the right word simply to get some more letters. Only the first letter is given to start off, so for example, suppose the answer is TRUCK. The constant's first guess might be THOSE, which wouldn't reveal any letters. After this, if the contestant guessed TRICK, even though that definitely couldn't be the answer, they now have TR-CK on the board and pretty much a guaranteed shot of getting the answer before they run out of guesses.
  • 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 Randy Thomas, the Season 2 announcer. She was only heard in the opening, or on a rare occasion when the Jamaica vacation was won.