Lingo (ITV, 1988)
Lingo was a short-lived primetime game show based on an American format which was produced by Thames and had a bingo-style element where teams had to use their wordpower and luck to win prizes and money. After the much-missed Paul Daniels’s success at hosting game shows, his son Martin Daniels had a go at hosting this one, and every week two teams of two took part.
At the start both teams are given a 5×5 grid which has various numbers on it. Then the first letter of a five-letter word appears on the screen and they have to guess what it is to gain control of the game. Whether they are correct or not is indicated in a similar style to the Master Mind board game, with letters in correct spaces and letters in incorrect spaces being indicated, until the correct word is finally found.
Whatever team gets the answer wins £50 and they have the chance to pick two numbered balls out. If one is picked out which is on their card, it gets marked off, and if they can create a horizontal, diagonal or vertical line of five, it’s a “lingo” and they score a bonus of £100. However, there are other various balls on offer which they could pick out, including a red ball which is bad luck as it instantly loses them their turn.
When time is up the highest-scoring team goes through to the final, where they could win lots of money. Again they had a 5×5 grid to play with, but this time the idea is to not make a lingo when they pick a ball out. They are given £100 to start off, and again they have to solve a five-letter word puzzle. If they do, they have to pick out as many balls as they needed turns to guess the word. In this round, there is also a silver ball on offer which wins them a bonus prize.
If they pick out a numbered ball that isn’t on their grid, Martin will say “that’s not on the board!” and the prize money is doubled to £200. The team will then be asked if they want to gamble for the chance to double their money again, knowing that they have to solve another word puzzle, and if they do pick a number that is on the board their money will drop back to the previous level and the game is over.
This carried on until a team reached the top prize of £3,200, plus what they had won in the first round, which was a big amount of money for game shows in those days, and I’m fairly sure it was only surpassed at the time by Wheel Of Fortune which also launched on ITV in 1988. So even though it doesn’t look much now, there was actually a lot at stake for the contestants and a decent amount of tension for viewers as they were playing for one of biggest available cash prizes on British TV at the time, and at least one team went all the way.
However, as Wheel Of Fortune went on to run on ITV for 13 years, Lingo, despite its popularity, lasted for only one series and is all but forgotten now, although there is an edition on YouTube that was good to watch, and I’ve also watched some editions of the original American version where it was a bigger success. Maybe it could be time for a big-money revival 25 years on.