Michael Reagan (1987–1988)
Ralph Andrews (1988)
Dusty Martell (1987–1988)
Margaux Mackenzie (1988)
Global: 9/28/1987 – 3/25/1988
Ralph Andrews Productions
Bernstein-Hovis Productions
CCR Video Corporation

MICHAEL: "Can you guess this five-letter word beginning with the letter (insert letter)?" DUSTY: "(insert guess)" MICHAEL: "That's not it, but the squares around the letters (insert letters) are in the word and in the right position. The circles mean the (insert letters) are in the word but in a different position. Try again." DUSTY: "(insert guess)" MICHAEL: "That's right! Hi, I'm Mike Reagan." DUSTY: "And I'm Dusty Martell." MICHAEL: "And that's how you play television's most challenging new game show." BOTH: "LINGO!"

Lingo was a game which played a lot like bingo, except in order for players to mark their cards, they had to guess a five-letter word within five turns to have a chance.


Two teams of two contestants competed in a game of guessing five-letter words & making bingo (or in this case, "Lingo").

Main GameEdit

Two teams of two contestants, one of them usually returning champions, competed. To start the game, each team received a computer generated Lingo card. One team's Lingo card had even numbers and blue markers, and the other had odd numbers and red markers. Seven of the 25 spaces on each card were covered.

Play began with the red team. A five-letter word was randomly selected by an Amiga computer and the first letter was displayed before the team provided a guess. The team then had five seconds to provide a valid guess, which had to be five letters in length and then spell the word. If the team did not come up with the right word on the first try, they were shown which letters were correctly-placed as well as those in the word but not correctly placed. If a letter was in the word and in its correct place, the square was lit in red and the letter remained displayed for each subsequent guess. If a letter was in the word but was not in its proper place, a yellow circle was placed around it. Play continued in this manner until one of the teams guessed the word. If a word was guessed on the first try, the team won $1,000.

A team could lose control if any of the following things happened:

  • Failing to guess the word correctly within five tries. The five tries were cumulative and carried over if control passed to the other team.
  • Giving an invalid word, whether it be misspelled, not in the dictionary, or not five letters in length. If a word was longer than five letters but the first five letters spelled a valid word in the dictionary, the team retained control.
  • Failing to come up with a guess within five seconds.

If more than one letter in the word had not yet been revealed, one was given to the other team before they took control. If only one letter remained, the team did not get to see it but were allowed five seconds to confer.

Once a team guessed the word, each contestant drew a ball from a hopper in front of them. Eighteen of the balls had numbers on them corresponding with the numbers of the uncovered spaces on their Lingo card. When drawn, the corresponding space was marked on the team's Lingo card. Three red balls were also in the hopper; drawing one of these ended the team's turn and cost them control.

Each hopper also contained what were referred to as "prize balls". When the series premiered, each team had three placed in their hoppers, and each ball corresponded with a prize. Drawing one ball won the team $250 in traveler's cheques. Drawing another ball added a trip. If the team managed to draw all three prize balls in their hopper, they also won a cash jackpot which started at $1,000 and increased by $500 for each game it went unclaimed.

As long as a team did not draw a red ball, they retained control and received first guess at the next word. The match went on until one of the teams completed a line during their turn. The first team to do this won the game, $250, and a chance at thousands more in the bonus round. The runners-up received $100 as a consolation prize.

Rule changesEdit

Partway through the series' short run, the main game payouts were adjusted. Instead of receiving $250 for winning a game, the winning team's total was determined by the line they made when completing a lingo. Horizontal and vertical lines paid off at $500, while diagonal lines paid $1,000. If the team was able to complete two lines with one draw—referred to as a "double Lingo"—the team won $2,000. Also, the number of prize balls in the team's hoppers was reduced from three to two. Later still, the cash jackpot became the only prize available; when this happened, the prize balls became known as "jackpot balls" and the team had to draw both of them and win the game to claim the pot.

No Lingo (Bonus Round)Edit

The bonus round had the exact opposite objective of the front game, with teams working to avoid completing a line, giving the round its name of "No Lingo". Before the round started, the team was shown a Lingo card with all even numbers on it. Sixteen of them were covered to start the round, with the pattern forming a star shape and the center space left open. The champions were staked with $500 to start.

For each mystery word, the team was given five chances to guess and were shown the first letter and one additional letter to start. If the team guessed the word on the first try, they drew one Lingo ball from the hopper in front of them. Each subsequent chance added a ball to the total draws (for instance, if it took the team three tries to guess the word, three balls would be drawn). If the team went through their allotted chances without guessing the word, they incurred a penalty of two Lingo balls and would be required to draw seven balls from the hopper.

All 37 even numbers that could possibly be on the Lingo card (2–74) were placed in the hopper, which could work to a team's advantage as they could draw a ball that had either already been covered or did not appear on the card at all. If the team managed to avoid completing a Lingo, their winnings were doubled. There was also a gold ball in the hopper and if it was drawn at any point in the team's turn, their money doubled on the spot and their turn ended. If any of the drawn balls formed a Lingo, the team lost everything.

After each turn, including at the beginning of the round, the team was given the choice to stop playing and take their money or keep going. If they managed to survive five turns without a Lingo, the team won $16,000. Each subsequent trip to the No Lingo round was played for twice the stakes, with the team playing for $32,000 on their second try and $64,000 on their third.

When the front game payout structure changed, the team's front game winnings became the starting stake for the No Lingo round. If the team managed to make a horizontal or vertical line, No Lingo would be played for $16,000. If they made a diagonal line, the round was played for $32,000. If they managed a Double Lingo victory, the team played for $64,000.

In the first format, teams were retired as champions after three victories. When the payout structure changed, teams were allowed to remain on the show until they were defeated twice.


This version of Lingo died due to the fact that the show was low on dollars and many contestants were not paid because of it.


Ralph Andrews

See AlsoEdit

Lingo (QC) - French language version of Lingo for Quebec


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