The YouTube Files – Lingo USA.

Lingo (1987-1988)

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. vlcsnap-00029

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. vlcsnap-00030

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. vlcsnap-00031

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. vlcsnap-00032

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. vlcsnap-00033

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.

Game Show Memories – Lingo.

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. vlcsnap-01051

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. vlcsnap-01052

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. vlcsnap-01055

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. vlcsnap-01062

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. vlcsnap-01093

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. vlcsnap-01065

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.