The New Lingo Has Its F-L-A-W-S
Originally posted: June 10, 2011

Text by: Jim Williams

This week GSN debuted a revamped version of the network's most successful original game show, Lingo. Gone are Shandi Finnessey & Chuck Woolery and in are Bill Engvall & a possible $100,000 payoff. The following commentary looks at the good, the indifferent & the true flaws of the new Lingo.

The Good
The game, at its core, is the same. Teams of two are solving 5 letter words to outscore their opponents and make Lingos.

The game is played for money, which is good. Most winning teams will amass $1,500 or more which isn't really that bad for guessing a few words.

Your mileage may vary, but I like the new bonus round. A maximum of 5 words (maximum of 5 guesses per word) is played in 90 seconds. Each correctly guessed word is worth more money. Getting 1 word adds the amount a team won in the main game to its bonus round bank. From there the money doubles with each word correctly guessed. If a team can get all 5 words in 90 seconds, they win $100,000. There are no clues in the bonus round, and there are no bonus letters offered, which I think is fair since they're shooting for a 6 figure payoff.

Bill Engvall, for a rookie, is a solid host. He knows when to inject humor and bring out personality, and when to play it straight.

The Indifferent
They opted to change the method of selecting of balls to a wall of silver balls. It's change for the sake of change. I personally preferred drawing balls from inside the podium, but it's not a deal breaker for me.

Prize balls are in the mix. In theory, this should be a good thing, however it's possible that a game could come down to having a team get a Lingo and on their final ball they could pull out a prize ball and go away with just a prize.

Speaking of the balls, they have random numbers that have no set BINGO logic. Others have explained to me it's akin to European BINGO, but it still seems odd to me that someone can pull out a ball with an 88 on it. Not a good or bad thing, just a head scratcher.

The winning team keeps the money they banked in the main game while the losing team, unless they uncovered a prize ball at some point, will go home with nothing. I'm indifferent on the matter since the Woolery version offered nothing to the losing team, but it couldn't hurt for GSN to give the losing team their bank as a consolation, could it?

The F-L-A-W-S
As good of a host as Bill Engvall is, he doesn't explain the new wrinkles to the game at the outset. It may seem like I'm nitpicking here, but I've never been a fan of explaining a game as you go. This probably is more a fault of the producers & directors than it is the host.

I'm not a comedy coach, but as a broadcaster, I'd like to think I know a thing or two about good comedy. Game shows where comedic moments happen spontaneously are almost always better than those where the comedy is forced. Lingo has become a show with forced comedy. How? Clues are given before each word in the main game that often have a zinger in them with a sexual or crude connotation. Why? They do absolutely nothing. As a matter of fact, they probably deter contestants from playing the game as they would have in the past.

Finally, stop me if you've heard this before...contestant coordinators for new game shows really are complete and utter asses. Instead of looking for decent game players, they look for completely over the top personalities and stereotypes. I have no problem with seeing a show here or there with a team of "characters". It seems, however, that the powers that be at Lingo are trying to put "characters" into every episode, and it comes at the expense of the game. As a prime example, many of the players I've seen so far haven't grasped the concept of how to play the bonus round. You have to throw out guesses rapid fire to have any shot at winning the jackpot. We've gone from Bonus Lingo contestants getting between 7 & 10 words in 2 minutes to contestants not even getting 1 word in 90 seconds. There's just no excuse for it.

The Final Verdict
Lingo is far from the worst thing on GSN. That title remains firmly around the surgically altered waist of Wendy Williams & Love Triangle. The new Lingo can be enjoyable, but it can also be annoying as hell thanks largely to pointless clues & loud, obnoxious contestants with the IQ of balsam wood.

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