Wednesday, June 08, 2011

GSN brings Lingo back from the grave

Verdict: 3.0 out of 5

No love for Chuck Woolery? Such is the state of game shows in the 2010s, an era in which game show hosts get by not on their polished presentation skills but on their resumes as comedians or C-list personalities. Classic-era host Chuck Woolery helmed GSN's 2002-2007 revival of Lingo, a relatively obscure format that had a single syndicated season in the late 1980s, and it is somewhat surprisingly back (given that GSN seems to think tawdry relationship shows is now its bread and butter) in a slightly tweaked version now helmed by "blue-collar comedian" Bill Engvall. Illogical a pick as the new host may be, he has brought some appreciable deadpan wit to the format, a combination of word game and Bingo in which teams try to guess five-letter words to earn the right to draw a couple of balls which can help them score a Lingo on a numbered field set up like a Bingo card. Adding insult to Woolery's exit is that the show has now added a clue for each word in a style ripped from NBC's Scrabble, hosted by Woolery for the duration of its exceptionally enjoyable run of 1,300-plus episodes from 1984 to 1990 and again briefly in 1993. While the new, genreric rock music theme is another dubious move, GSN deserves kudos for making some overdue changes — correct guesses and Lingos now earn cash rather than points for the winning team, and the cable network has finally made the obvious move of including prize balls amongst the drawing lot, as well as a wild ball that, when selected, can be used to fill any open slot on the Lingo card. I'd also suggest a progressive jackpot ball — those side elements can break the monotony of a highly repetitive format (think Super Password's always-fun Cash Word). GSN has remade Lingo's end game in a way that boringly excises the Bingo element; the teams just try to breeze through five words in 90 seconds to collect $100,000 — an awful lot of loot for a simple, if compelling, word game. And, unfortunately, the game has stripped away a level of Woolery-era  class by wallowing in inuendo. It needs "enema" as one of its five-letter words (I'm not making that up) as much as it needs Big Money Syndrome.

Lingo airs at 7 p.m. (Central) weekdays on GSN

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