This is the original American version of the game show that briefly appeared on ITV in the late-80s. Lingo was the game that combined wordpower and Bingo, and was described as “television’s most challenging game”, which might be overselling it a little. There were various hosts, including Ralph Andrews (who wasn’t the creator of This Is Your Life, that was Ralph Edwards).
The format was fairly similar to what happened in the UK version. Two teams of two took part, and played with a 5×5 grid. One had odd numbers, the other had even numbers, and seven numbers are automatically filled. The had to guess the mystery five-letter words within five goes, and they were given the first letter to start them off. Get the word right, and they can choose two balls, which are announced by the co-host.
The numbers are then placed on their card. If a jackpot ball is found, they can win a bonus, but only if they win the overall game. If they don’t, the prize rolls over to the next game. But finding a red ball means that they lose their turn, so the contestants would often say “no red ball”, in a similar style to how they would constantly squeal “no whammys!” on Press Your Luck.
The first team to create a Lingo, whether in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal direction, win a bonus and go on to the final. In this, there is another 5×5 grid, which has 16 squares filled in. But the idea is now to not create a Lingo. Again, they had to guess words, but they were now given two letters to start off. They then have to pick out as many balls as guesses they needed to find the word, a maximum of five.
If the number isn’t on the board, then it’s good news. Finding a gold ball is even better, as that means an automatic win. If they do succeed, they can go on to the next word for a chance to double their money, but finding a Lingo means they will lose a lot. They could play up to five times, meaning that the maximum that they could win was $64,000.
This was much more than the £3,200 that was on offer in the British version (and even that was pushing it based on the restrictions on prize money in place at the time). There were some rather tense finishes where people pushed their luck and could barely believe what happened. Games could also straddle if they were unfinished at the end of an edition.
Lingo originally ran in America for only about six months, and there have been several other versions of the show around the world, mostly in European countries. There was then a revival of the show in America in the 2000s, and recently there have been rumours that Lingo might be returning in the UK after over three decades soon too, which could be interesting.