(with help from Jay Lewis, John Himpe, and David Livingston)


  • Michael Reagan (1987-88)
  • Ralph Andrews (last five weeks of 1987-88 version)
  • Chuck Woolery (2002-07)
  • Bill Engvall (2011)

  • Dusty Martell (1987-88)
  • Margaux Mackenzie (last five weeks of 1987-88 version)
  • Stacey Hayes (Oct. 2003-Aug. 2005)
  • Shandi Finnessey (Aug. 2005-Jun. 2007)

  • Randy Thomas (Dec. 2002-Oct. 2003)

  • Syndicated Sep. 28, 1987-Sep. 1988
  • Game Show Network, Aug. 5, 2002-Jun. 29, 2007; Jun. 6-Aug. 1, 2011

  • Ralph Andrews Productions and Bernstein-Hovis Productions (1987-88)
  • Laurelwood Entertainment, in association w/IDTV (2002-07)
  • ZOO Productions (2011)
  • Origination:
  • BCTV Television Centre, Barnaby, BC (1987-88)
  • Hilversum, The Netherlands (Aug. 2002)
  • The Burbank Studios (Dec. 2002-Oct. 2003)
  • Ren-Mar Studios, Hollywood (Oct. 2003-Aug. 2005)
  • Tribune Studios, Hollywood (Aug. 2005-Jun. 2007; Jun-Aug. 2011)

    Catchphrase (2002-07): Its not just letters, its Lingo!

    Premise: A bingo-type game where two teams solve five letter words to get a "Lingo".

    RULES (1987-88):
    The game is played between two teams. At the start of the game, each one gets a 5x5 "Lingo" card w/25 spaces; the champs' card contains even numbers, and the challengers' contains odd numbers. Seven numbers on each card are automatically covered at the start of the game.
    The challengers play first, and are shown the first letter of a five-letter word, which they must try to guess (doing so successfully on the very first try is worth a $1,000 bonus, later changed to a prize). After each guess, a square is placed around letters that are in the word and in their correct position, and a circle is placed around letters that are NOT in their correct position, but in the word. If they fail to identify the word in five guesses, fail to answer at any time during their turn, give a misspelled/nonexistent/non-5 letter word, the other team gets a chance to guess; if there is more than one letter unrevealed, one of those letters is revealed, and the team is given five seconds to make a guess. If there is only one unrevealed letter in the word, it is not revealed. If they fail to steal, control returns to the first team, who get another five chances to guess the word.

    In any case, whichever team guesses the word now gets to draw two balls from their hopper. Inside are numbered balls (which correspond to the numbers on each team's card), prize balls (see below), and three red balls, which cause the team to lose control if drawn. In any case, if a "lingo" has not been made after the draw is completed, another word is played.

    "Prize Balls": There are three of these aforementioned special balls in each team's hopper; one is worth a vacation, another worth $250 in traveler's checks, and a third is the "jackpot ball" (the jackpot begins at $1,000 and increases by $500 for each game that it is not won). If a team draws any of these three balls and then wins the game, they get the corresponding cash and/or prizes.
    Later in the run, one of the prize balls was dropped, and thereafter, it was changed so that the jackpot was the only prize available, with a team required to draw both "jackpot balls" to win it.

    The first team to fill in a line on their card (their term, "lingo"), wins the game and $250 and advances to the "No Lingo Round"; the losing team recieves $100.

    "No Lingo Round":
    The team is shown another Lingo card (with sixteen numbers automatically covered before the start of the round) and given $500. The first two letters of a five-letter word are shown, and the number of balls to be drawn is determined by the number of guesses it takes to identify the word (if it's not guessed after five tries, the team must make an additional 2 "penalty draws" along with the required 5).
    After doing so, the team draws from their hopper (which now contains all even numbers from 2 to 74, plus a gold ball), and if they avoid making a "lingo", their money is doubled. Should the gold ball be drawn, the team's money is automatically doubled and they advance to the next word immediately (unlike all other balls, the gold ball is the only one returned to the hopper after being drawn, and thus can come up more than once during the course of the round). In any event, they can either take the $1,000 and quit, or go on and try to double their money to $2,000 this time (this option is offered to them each time a draw is completed during the round).
    If the team makes a "lingo" at anytime during a draw, they lose the money earned up to that point, and the round is over. However, if they can successfully identify five words and then avoid making a "lingo" in any of the subsequent draws, they win $16,000. For the team's second crack at the "No Lingo Round", they start with $1,000 and work their way up to $32,000, and for their third and final No Lingo Round, they begin with $2,000, and victory is worth $64,000.
    Later in the show's run, the value of the No Lingo Round was determined not by the team's winning streak, but by how they had "lingoed" in the maingame; a horizontal or vertical lingo was worth $16,000 in the bonus round, a diagonal lingo was worth $32,000, and two lingos in two different directions was worth $64,000.
    Also, teams were allowed to play until they had lost two games, and instead of $250, the winning team got $500, $1,000, or $2,000 (depending on how they got their "lingo"), which was used as a base amount to build on in the No Lingo Round

    RULES (2002-07):
    This version is similar to its predecessor, but w/some notable differences:

  • No returning champs.
  • Unlike the straddled games (i.e., a show could end in the middle of a game and be continued on the next show) played on the original, each episode is self-contained.
  • The maingame goal is not to achieve a single "lingo", but to accumulate as many points as possible.

    In the first round, successfully guessing a word is worth 25 points, and achieving a "lingo" is worth 50 (once the latter has been made, that team recieves a new game card, and control defaults to their opponents).
    Round 2 is played the same way, except the point values doubled to 50 for a correct guess and 100 for a "lingo"; in addition, 3 "wildcard" balls, each containing a question mark, are placed in both teams' hoppers, and if one is drawn, it can be used to cover any open space on that team's card. Whichever team is ahead at the end of this round wins the game and goes on to play "Bonus Lingo".
    (NOTE: In the event of a tie at the end of round 2, a blank 7-letter word is shown, w/2 letters revealed at a time in sequence: the first and last, then the 2nd and 6th, and finally the 3rd and 5th; the remaining middle letter is not given. The first player to buzz in and correctly identify the word wins; if incorrect, they are out, leaving their opponents free to guess all by themselves. However, if the opponents' guess is also incorrect, both teams are back in for the remainder of the word.)

    "Bonus Lingo":
    The winning team is given a 2-minute time limit to identify as many 5-letter words as possible; two letters to each word are shown (always the first, while the second one's placement varies), w/up to 5 tries for each word. Each successful guess wins the right to draw an additional ball at the end of the round; if a team fails to do so after 5 tries, the correct answer is given and they must move on to the next word.
    In addition, should a particular word prove to be a stumper, the team is entitled to bonus letters, w/1 given automatically and additional ones awarded for each "lingo" made during the maingame; if called for, an additional letter in that word is placed in its correct position.
    Once time is up or (during season 5) the maximum 10 words have been successfully guessed, the team is given a new Lingo card w/12 spaces covered and makes whatever number of draws they earned the right to. If a lingo is made, they win $5,000; otherwise, each word identified in the earlier part of the round is worth $100 apiece.
    If a lingo is made on the very first draw (which is difficult, since due to the strategic placement of the free spaces, it can only be achieved via one particular five-in-a-row combination), the team wins:
    - $5,000 and a vacation (seasons 2-3)
    - $10,000 cash (season 4)
    - A jackpot which begins at $10,000 and increases by $1,000 for each show it's not won (seasons 5-6)
    For the first 20 episodes, there were several notable differences in Bonus Lingo from later seasons:
  • There was no "bonus letter" rule (see "NOTES")
  • 13 free spaces were given (instead of 12)
  • No bonus was awarded for a first-draw lingo
  • Winning was worth a $4,000 prize package
  • The champs got to keep the $100 per correct guess, regardless of the outcome

    RULES (2011):
    This version is similar to the 2000s version, but w/several changes:
  • The game consists of three rounds (three words are played in round 1, four in round 2, and three in round 3)
  • Similar to "Scrabble", host Engvall offers a clue for each word
  • Correct answers are now worth money: $100 in round 1, $200 in round 2 and $500 in round 3, which are also the payoffs for making a "lingo"
  • Rather than drawing balls from a hopper, the teams do so from a rack located directly behind them; each rack contains 16 numbered balls, 3 red "stopper" balls, and a prize ball
  • The team w/the most money after 3 rounds gets to keep their earnings and play the new Bonus Lingo; unlike the previous version, no card or number draws are in play, w/the team simply attempting to solve 5 words in 90 seconds (no clues are given this time). The first correct answer is worth whatever amount was won in the maingame, which doubles for each of the next 3 words, while guessing the fifth and final word wins $100,000.

  • NOTES:

    Original host Michael Reagan (born John Flaugher) is the adopted son of the late ex-President Ronald Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman.

    While the original version of "Lingo" was quite popular w/diehard game show fans and attracted a cult following, the show was plagued with legal problems. The producers were apparently unable to pay a number of champions their endgame winnings (they were backlogged by about $20,000-$50,000), and many sued (though it's unknown whether any were successful).

    The official line given to explain Reagan's departure was that he was promoting his new book, "On the Outside Looking In". Regardless of the circumstances, however, the show was in serious trouble by that point, as many stations in both the U.S. and Canada had already pulled the plug on it (the CBS owned-and-operated stations, which carried the show in major markets, doing so only a few weeks into the series).

    Despite its failure, however, the show went on to enjoy widespread popularity elsewhere, w/versions seen in such countries as Spain, Canada (Quebec), and most notably The Netherlands, thus prompting Game Show Network to revive it for American TV in the summer of 2002.

    The first 20 episodes of the current version were taped on the set of its Dutch counterpart, w/host Chuck Woolery, the contestants, and a number of American staffers (though they primarily used the Dutch version's crew for most slots) flown in for the tapings.

    Keeping a bit of lingo (no pun intended) from his earlier series "Scrabble", Chuck frequently referred to the turn-ending red balls as "stoppers", which later became the official term for them on the 2011 revival.

    During the first season, there was one team who did not guess a single word correctly in Bonus Lingo (and thus, won nothing); the "bonus letter" rule introduced in the 2nd season may have been added to prevent this from happening again.

    Second-season announcer Randy Thomas (only one of a handful of females to hold this position) is perhaps best known for her voice-over work on major awards shows, Hooked on Phonics ads and most recently, as the first female announcer of ABC News' long-running series "Nightline" .

    On April Fool's Day 2003 (which was noteworthy for featuring hosts of GSN's original series trading places w/one another), GSN aired a special episode of Lingo featuring the GSN original hosts, in which the team of Marc Summers and Mark L. Walberg completely shut out opponents Graham Elwood and Kennedy w/a score of 500-0 and nailed a then-record 9 words in Bonus Lingo (Todd Newton of "Whammy" also joined in as the episode's announcer/on-camera sidekick).

    For the show's 3rd season, Stacey Hayes came aboard as announcer/hostess/"Lingo Linguist", handling the announcing duties and game judgement calls. (The first taped episodes of the season saw her joined by Paula Cobb, but the latter had little function during the actual game, and was dropped after only 2 shows).

    To launch the show's 3rd season, a special episode featuring 4 California Gubernatorial candidates playing for charity aired Oct. 7, 2003 (actually 2 months before the "official" season premiere), leading into a repeat of GSN's original special "Who Wants to Be Governor of CA? The Debating Game".

    The third season concluded with a 7-episode Tournament of Champions, in which eight winning teams from the 2nd and 3rd seasons competed for the grand prize of two 2005 Suzuki Veronas. During the finals episode, no Bonus Lingo round was played, replaced by a third maingame round in which the values were 75 points for each correct guess and 150 points for each "lingo".

    For the 4th season, Stacey was replaced by Miss USA 2004, Shandi Finnessy, who essentially served the same duties as her predecessor.

    An interactive mini-version of Lingo was originally featured as part of GSN's late night series "Playmania" (on which, by less than an amazing coincidence, Shandi was one of several co-hosts), but was dropped when the formatic differences from the "regular" game proved too confusing for some viewers.

    The largest Bonus Lingo jackpot win ever was $41,000.

    Shandi was featured as a celebrity on the 4th season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" (during which time GSN's airings of Lingo featured onscreen crawls encouraging DWtS viewers to vote for her), but was eliminated after the third week.

    Despite the series no longer being in production by that point, Imagination released a DVD game of "Lingo" in 2008, followed by a traditional board game adaptation the following year.