Lingo (US game show)

Lingo (US game show)

Infobox Television
show_name = Lingo

caption =
format = Game Show
picture_format =
runtime = approx. 22 minutes (per episode)
creator = Harry de Winter
starring = Chuck Woolery(host) (2002 - present) Stacey Hayes (2003 - 2004) Shandi Finnessey (2005 - present)
channel = GSN
first_aired = August 5, 2002
last_aired = present
num_series =
num_episodes = 325
country = USA
producer =
related = Lingo (UK version)
website =
imdb_id = 0329871

"Lingo" is an American television game show currently being produced for GSN. It combines a variant of the skill-based word game Jotto with a form of Bingo. Versions of "Lingo" have also existed in other countries.

Broadcast history

The first version aired in 1987. It was produced by Ralph Andrews (in association with Bernstein/Hovis Productions) in Canada for syndication by ABR Entertainment in the US. This version of the show has become somewhat controversial, with allegations that the cash-strapped producers didn't pay some winning contestants their prizes for unexplained reasons. Despite the show's checkered run, versions of "Lingo" were subsequently produced in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Quebec (see Lingo (Quebec game show)), France, Norway, Sweden, Poland and The Netherlands.

On August 5, 2002, Game Show Network started airing the first episodes of its version of "Lingo". The first 20 episodes were recorded in the Netherlands, on the set of its Dutch counterpart; subsequent episodes were produced in the U.S. 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, respectively. GSN held back five unaired Hawaiian-themed episodes from the fourth season, but these episodes

Hosts and co-hosts

The host for the 1987 version was Michael Reagan, son of then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, with Dusty Martell as co-host. The host for the last five weeks was executive producer Ralph Andrews with a new co-host, Margaux MacKenzie.

The host for the current version is game-show veteran Chuck Woolery. Co-host Stacey Hayes joined the show in the third season; in early episodes of that season, there was a second co-host known only as Paula, but that role was quickly eliminated. Shandi Finnessey, Miss USA 2004, took over the role as co-host since the start of the fourth season. Randi Thomas, a female announcer known for doing Hooked on Phonics ads, was the offstage announcer in the second season, with Hayes acting as announcer in the third season. In the fourth season and beyond, contestants introduce themselves in the intro and Shandi offers the "welcome back" before the beginning of round 2.

Note: Stacey Hayes made her premiere on a "special" California elections episode.


Original 1987 version

Main game

-The team that correctly guesses the mystery word then gets a chance to pull two Lingo balls out of a hopper in front of them. Eighteen of the balls are labeled with numbers corresponding to the numbers on their Lingo board; when a numbered ball is drawn, the corresponding space on the Lingo card is covered. Also in the hopper are three prize balls: one is worth $250 in Traveler's cheques, another is worth a trip, and the third is worth a jackpot which starts at $1,000 and increases by $500 every game the jackpot isn't claimed (later in the run, there were two "jackpot balls", and a team had to draw both of them in order to win it). Prizes can only be claimed if the team wins the game. Normally, after drawing their balls, the team keeps control and may guess at the next mystery word. However, the hopper contains three red balls as well; a team drawing one of these balls must immediately stop drawing, and loses control (the opposing team gets to guess at the next mystery word). Once balls are drawn, they are discarded (prize balls are placed in a stand on the team's podium as a reminder that the prize is in play), so the same ball cannot be drawn twice in one game.

The first team to cover numbers on their board that form a Lingo – five numbers in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row – wins the game, $250 (along with the prizes from any prize balls they drew), and the right to play in the "No Lingo" bonus round. Later in the show's run, the prize was $500 for a vertical or horizontal Lingo, $1,000 for a diagonal Lingo, and $2,000 for a Double Lingo (two lines completed with the same ball).

No Lingo

Beginning in the second season, the prize for forming a Lingo was $5,000 cash, but a Lingo on the very first pull would award a grand prize. If the team formed a Lingo on the first draw, the team won the $5,000 plus a trip. For season 2, the prize was a pair of $5,000 Jamaican vacation packages, for a total value of more than $15,000. For Season 3, a trip to Harrah's Entertainment in Lake Tahoe plus $5,000 was at stake. For Season 4 the prize for a first-draw Lingo was changed to $10,000 cash. A team that failed to form a Lingo still won $100 per word successfully guessed. On celebrity episodes, a first-draw Lingo won $25,000, a regular Lingo win $10,000, and $2,500 was awarded for no Lingo. However, on some episodes this varies; one episode in the show's 4th season saw Trista Sutter and Rachel Hunter awarded $30,000 for getting a bonus-round Lingo. Typically the consolation prize for a losing celebrity team is $2,000, but in the above mentioned ep., the losing team of George Wallace and George Wendt received $5,000.

Beginning in the show's fifth season (April 2006), a cash jackpot was added to the bonus round, won if a Lingo was made on the first draw. The Progressive Jackpot started at $10,000 and went up by $1,000 for each show on which it wasn't won. It took only two episodes for the jackpot to be won for the first time, at $11,000. The jackpot has been won only three times in the season; the other two times were on May 3, 2006 (during Fiesta Week) for $31,000 and for $35,000 on June 9, 2006.

The jackpot has been won five times in season 6. On April 24, 2007, contestants Amy and Laura Kelly won the biggest progressive jackpot in this version of "Lingo" to date, sharing $41,000. On May 10, 2007, contestants Luc and Bay won $21,000; on May 22 a father/daughter team won $17,000; and on May 31 a team won $16,000. The fifth jackpot win of the season came on June 8, worth $15,000.

Given that there is only one way (not counting rotations and reflections) in which 12 of the 25 numbers are marked off at the beginning of Bonus Lingo, the expected number of draws before a Lingo is achieved can be easily calculated to be 3.86. Since many players earn 5 or more pulls during bonus play, winning Bonus Lingo is quite common. The probability of winning Bonus Lingo after earning "N" pulls is shown in the chart below.

On the third episode of Hawaiian Week (first aired on January 1, 2007), the winning team (Robert McKee of Fort Worth, Texas and Heather Gunn of Thousand Oaks, California) solved ten puzzles, ending the round prematurely with 12 seconds left on the clock. They then pulled the winning Lingo ball on the first draw, winning $10,000. This happened a second time in the first episode between the on-air winners and the online champs (first aired on May 22, 2006), completed with one bonus letter remaining unused. However, this rule is new, as seen in one of the fourth-season episodes when a team got ten words correct in Bonus Lingo, but the first two letters of an eleventh word appeared as time was called. Contestants are now told that earning 10 balls is the maximum rather than the record, and that they are thus guaranteed at least $1,000 (at $100 per ball). Left unsaid is the guarantee of $5,000, given the odds explained above.

Unusual situations

A variety of unusual situations can arise during a game. For example, when a question-mark ball is drawn and no Lingo is possible, the contestant chooses a number to cover. When this occurs, the wild-card-replaced number is not removed from the hopper; if it happens to be drawn later, the draw is ignored (for the purpose of game play) and edited out of the show before it is aired. [According to a first-person account by a contestant ( [ A Brush with The Chuck] )]

If, during Bonus Lingo, the staff member entering words makes a mistake while typing and time is lost, the lost time is restored and the mistake is edited prior to airing.

The board layouts for Bonus Lingo are not random, but chosen from a set of recurring arrangements. In several of the arrangements used in the 5th and 6th seasons, one or more of the numbers on the on-screen balls appears twice; however, one of the duplicates is always covered when the initial set of 12 numbers are marked off. This situation seems never to occur during the two-team portion of the game.

Sometimes unusual or obscure words are used as correct answers or contestant guesses. The word "LINGO" is frequently guessed, and has been the correct answer more than once. Words of a sexual nature are rarely correct, but they have been guessed by several contestants. On a 3rd season celebrity episode featuring Playboy playmates, the word "boobs" was a correct word. The word "NAKED" was the correct answer at least once (Jeny and Jessie, rerun 29 May 2008).

Because correctly located letters appear automatically in their correct boxes once contestants guess them, it is possible for all five letters to be filled in even though the word itself has not been guessed. For example, Ellen and John (episode rerun on 22 May 2008) guessed FIRST and FLING as they were working on a word which turned out to be FLINT. Because they had guessed every one of the five letters in their correct locations, on their last attempt they were given FLINT filled in. The rules state that even though the answer is obvious, contestants must pronounce and spell the word anyway.


Like many television shows, "Lingo" has its detractors, but reviews have generally been positive. Fans of the show say the cleverly designed gameplay offers much play-along value for the viewer, Woolery maintains a friendly atmosphere with touches of humor, and the competition often generates real suspense. Critics have derided the show's paltry prizes, the sometimes anticlimactic bonus round, the questionable judging (valid words such as "busty", "zesty", and "forts," which appear in any dictionary, have been rejected by the show's judges), and the introduction of Shandi as co-host in the third season.


The No Lingo scoring display had an Eggcrate "$" but not Eggcrate numbers.

Actor Larry Hovis was a producer for the original series. Hovis is best known for playing Sgt. Andrew Carter on "Hogan's Heroes".

Rumors suggest that the controversy over contestants not being paid is what lead Michael Reagan to leave the show, not wanting to cause damage to his father's reputation.fact|date=October 2008 When Ralph Andrews began hosting himself he told viewers on his first day that Michael would just be away for awhile on a book tour. However, no mention was made about what happened to Dusty Martell.

GSN reruns earlier seasons of "Lingo" extensively on its current schedule. There was a mini-game version of "Lingo" in GSN's late-night interactive series "PlayMania" (on which Finnessey is one of four hosts). Viewers try to guess a mystery word in a manner similar to the regular game. Each viewer gets only one guess, however.

ION Television included the original 1987 version of "Lingo" in the February, 2007 "viewers vote" on its website. Site visitors could vote for the show to be included in the network's schedule.

Many of the sound effects and graphics on the current version were taken directly from the Dutch version, as the show's 2002 revival started with 20 episodes taped on their set. The major change was using five instead of six letters, as the Dutch version uses.

pecial episodes

The original 1987 version had one special episode that actually wasn't planned. A sibling team had come on the show with the intention of winning enough money to pay for a trip to Australia to see their dying father. When the team didn't win, host Michael Reagan informed them the show would pay for the trip, anyway. Their reaction was understandably emotional.

GSN held a tournament of champions with particularly successful contestants from its second and third seasons. In the final tournament episode there was no bonus round. Instead the episode featured a third round where a correctly guessed word was worth 75 points and a "Lingo" was worth 150 points. 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 series of special competitions is now airing on GSN for the first time. Notably successful players from the fourth season face off against pairs of winners from the 2005 online "Lingo" tournament at

A special episode that aired on April Fool's Day in 2003 had the entire roster of GSN's 6 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 winning 500-0. The sixth host to take part was Todd Newton (Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck), serving as the show's announcer.

"Lingo" will often have theme weeks where the set is decorated, Shandi and the contestants dress in an outfit that fits the theme, and words pertaining to the theme are used.

Lingo Online

In 2008, GSN lost the rights to Lingo Online. []


In early 2008, it was announced from Game Show site, that GSN would not make any new episodes of Lingo in 2008. An executive at the network said "GSN opted not to make new episodes this year and will air all 6 seasons throughout the year. So far, GSN has aired all but season 1.

UK Version


External links

* [ GSN's "Lingo" site]
* [ GSF|Go Inside the Game, "Lingo" Central]
* [ A Brush with The Chuck: A very detailed "Lingo" contestant dissertation]
* [ Download "Lingo" at the Game Show Warehouse]
* [ Chuck Donegan's "Lingo" Page]
* [ David Livingston's "Lingo" Page]
* [ Free Online "Lingo" Solver]
* [ "Lingo" Cheat!]

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