Monday, June 6, 2016

5 years since 'Lingo'

5 years ago today, Lingo with Bill Engvall premiered. 

GSN's revival of Lingo, the second of six one-and-done game show revivals GSN produced between 2010 and 2015, premiered strongLingo aired each weeknight at 8pm ET from June 6th through August 1st, with a one-day hiatus on July 4th. Premiere week numbers went as follows when GSN still scheduled originals in a daily strip. 

June 6th: 524K (8pm); 255K (11pm encore)
June 7th: 311K (8pm); 305K (11pm encore)
June 8th: 446K (8pm); 247K (11pm encore)*
June 9th: 355K (8pm); 237K (11pm encore)
June 10th: 308K (8pm); 333K (11pm encore)

*The June 8th run featured a $100,000 win, which was an obvious "spoiler" in promos earlier that day. There were two $100,000 wins throughout the entire series (second on June 22nd).

Lingo, along with GSN's revivals of 1 vs. 100 and The Pyramid earlier this decade were favorites of mine more-so than Idiotest currently (I do enjoy Idiotest). The most recent version of Lingo was well produced, had good gameplay, big money and a host who carried Lingo humorously (sometimes humor in good taste, other times bad).

The downside with the 2011 version of Lingo was a taste of the crude humor from Harvey Feud, where Steve was in his first season as host at the time. GSN and Lingo producers thought Lingo could do well with dirty humor, using words such as "Kinky" and so forth. It did not pass, and the ratings did not fare well over time.

Throughout forty episodes, Lingo averaged a very respectable 359,000 total viewers. That number was fine for GSN standards in 2011 and even fine for GSN today (but that figure would have depended completely on 18-49's for GSN today).

The ratings for Lingo hurt because most say (and I agree) that it was put in a timeslot that competed with network primetime. At the time, GSN viewers were adjusted to new originals, such as The Newlywed Game, Baggage and Catch 21, existing in the 5-7pm ET timeslots and rerunning in primetime. New episodes of Lingo with Bill Engvall would have likely done better at 6pm or 6:30pm with a Catch 21, The Newlywed Game, Baggage or Deal or No Deal lead-in.

As for Lingo not achieving a second season, there is the possibility that Lingo got caught up in a production stall at GSN, which legitimately occurred on GSN between September 2011 and January 2012 with a shift in the EVP of Programming role between Kelly Goode and Amy Introcaso-Davis, who was hired in the Fall of 2011.

Lingo with Bill Engvall bounced on and off the GSN schedule in reruns from 2011 to 2014 and has not appeared on the GSN schedule since. Chuck Woolery's version, which is favored by GameShowNetworkNews poll-takers by a 5 to 1 margin (see sidebar poll), airs weekdays at 11am and 11:30am ET.


  1. Who would want to watch an unfunny, annoying comedian with a speech impediment? No, I'm not talking about Ben Gleeeeeb.

  2. Ok, get ready for a rant Scott, because I have a lot to say on this one. I hated the new 2011 Lingo, with a passion, and there are multiple reasons why the Bill Engvall version didn't resonate with viewers in the same way Chuck's version did. Overall, it seemed like production of the 2011 version was rushed and not enough thought was put into it, and you can clearly see that with the end result.

    #1 - Crude Humor. As you already pointed out, this was one of the many issues with the revival. I hated the fact they used dirty words in the puzzles, but more than that, what was extremely offensive was when they used curse words as well. I still remember the 'B' word in that puzzle during that one episode where even the team was surprised. They thought they couldn't say the 'B' word out loud on national television, so they didn't say it, even though the producers made it the answer of the puzzle. But that wasn't all. Humor is subjective, but in Chuck's version, the humor came naturally. In the revival, way too often, the humor was forced. There were numerous times when Bill would be making jokes or talking with the contestants, and he would be laughing out loud, and I would be watching it thinking to myself, "What he said wasn't that funny Bill. You can stop forcibly laughing now."

    #2 - The Set. Clearly, GSN was lazy enough to use the exact same set as they used for Baggage. I'd guess at that particular point in time, they had already decided not to renew Baggage for a 5th season, so they figured that instead of spending time and money creating a new and unique set, they'd go ahead and re-use the Baggage one. Problem was, compared to Chuck's Lingo, which had a very large open set with flashy lights, the Baggage set was too calm, too much like a talk show, too boring... for what was supposed to be an exciting game show.

    #3 - The Atmosphere. Exactly what I was complaining a few days ago about how networks don't understand that a game show is as much about the experience itself, as it is about the game. Chuck's version of Lingo had catchy music and well-timed sound effects. By contrast, Bill's version had boring music and low-key sounds. Even worse, Bill's version clearly had the music and sounds added in post-production, after filming had already been completed, and even then, GSN didn't synchronize the sound effects properly. You'd hear the 5 beep sound effects BEFORE the letters even appeared on the board, again proving the contestants weren't hearing anything while they were actually playing the game, and also proving the post-production editing team had zero intelligence.

    #4 - The Game. Compared with Chuck's version, almost all of the changes made to Bill's version didn't make any sense, or weren't needed in the first place. Everything from the Lingo balls being like mini-bowling balls on a rack, to the unnecessary clues that Bill was reading (throwing off the contestants), to the limit of puzzles in a round (as opposed to just continuous play until time ran out). Even the prize amount was ridiculous. Was it really necessary to offer $100k as a top prize? Sure, I complain about shows like CR, Idiotest and The Pyramid being way too cheap, but this is completely at the opposite end of the spectrum. GSN could've easily gotten away with a top prize of $25k, or better yet, start at $25k and keep the rolling jackpot of Chuck's version, increasing it by $1k for each episode where it wasn't won.

    1. #5 - The Initial Promo. When I saw that initial interview GSN uploaded, of Bill trying to convince everyone that he didn't need a female co-host partner, and that the game was really fun, and that all of us should give it a chance, that's when I knew there was going to be an issue. When you have to convince people that a particular game show is fun and entertaining, then you know there's a problem.

      All of these reasons are why GSN was completely (and to a degree, still somewhat is) out of touch with the genre. Just like how Nintendo isn't listening to its fanbase, GSN isn't listening to their fanbase either. Now, my rant may be biased because I'm comparing everything in the new Lingo with the old one, but every time you revive a show or a movie, the viewers are always going to compare it with the original. It's the same reason why so many people hate the new Star Trek movies, or the Ghostbusters reboot.

      What would I have done differently? First off, I would've tried to get Chuck back to host it (clearly GSN didn't even bother making an attempt to contact him just to ask), because he has the experience in the genre. I get they were trying to hit the 18-49 demo with a younger host, but still. Now, even if he didn't want to return, the revival could've still done well with the SAME FORMAT of the game as Chuck's version. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that if it worked before, it would work again. I would've kept the exact same gameplay -- pulling out the small Lingo balls from the podium, only using G-rated family-friendly puzzles, setting the top prize amount to a base $25k with a rolling jackpot by pulling out the first ball, otherwise you win $5k. Heck, I would've even kept the same music or sound effects, or at the very least, played them LIVE during the actual recording of the taping, like you're supposed to do.

      There's a reason why GSN has had so many "one and done" revivals these past 6 or so years. There's a reason why game shows like Chuck's Lingo were so successful, why they lasted 6 seasons in the first place, and why they still have so much staying power as schedule filler, even today, decades later. GSN would kill to have another successful 4+ season show that can be used as future schedule filler when production of it ends, but they'll never have one unless someone hits the dev team in the back of their heads with a hammer and it jogs their memories as to why previous game shows worked, and why their current game shows have no lasting appeal.

      If Idiotest is renewed for another season or two, then I can see it working as schedule filler, even though personally I've lost interest and stopped watching it myself. As for Skin Wars, even if it does make it to Season 4 or 5, the reruns are bombing, because it's a reality competition. And aside from Idiotest and Skin Wars, everything else GSN is developing is on its very 1st season (Winsanity), or won't have the rerun value to stay on the schedule beyond 2 seasons at most (Fresh Paint, Window Warriors, Breaking App, Hellevator). So 5 years from now, aside from potentially Idiotest (since we don't know how Winsanity will fare yet), none of the other programs being worked on right now will still be on the schedule. Like I said, they don't have any longevity or staying power. If GSN wants to focus on eventually replacing their entire schedule with post-2010 HD programs, then they need to put more effort into developing game shows that will last 5+ seasons, so there'll be hundreds of episodes available, and at the rate of airing 1 per day, they'll be able to go for months on end before recycling through the entire episode catalog again.

    2. Anyways...on a lighter note, I like how when watching Chuck's version of Lingo, he still says at the beginning of the episodes that for a small fee, you can compete in online tournaments for a chance at cash and prizes and becoming a contestant on a future episode of Lingo. GSN could use that to their advantage in the future, if they ever decided to bring Lingo back again, but DO IT CORRECTLY for a change. Imagine them bringing the online tournaments back, where people could compete online to become a contestant on the show again. In fact, I bet even as we speak, people are trying to access and wondering why the page doesn't exist.

    3. I don't know if Idiotest will get renewed. The viewer average and demo is so so at best. If Winsanity and Fresh Paint somehow bombs, then Idiotest will be back no doubt. As for the 2011 Lingo, I didn't think it was that terrible. I do agree the crude humor was unnecessary and stupid, but it was still watchable. Engvall was all right. He is no Woolery, but at least he didn't turn it into a stand up act. Although the cold opens he did were just weird and out of place. 2011 wasn't a good year for GSN. Lingo, Catch 21, Improv, Love Triangle all were canceled. Although Catch 21 was in a dumb timeslot.

      If they wanted to revive this, which now probably won't happen after 2015 Chain Reaction lasted one season, maybe bring Chuck back. He could bring good numbers compared to what half the originals are bringing right now.

      At least when Winsanity comes on Thursday, it looks and feels like a true game show. Hopefully no comedy is added. But I wouldn't hold my breath. I don't ever see 2011 Lingo returning again unless if GSN needed timefiller in the afternoon and couldn't figure out what to place there. I am honestly surprised The Pyramid is still at 2:30. Those episodes must have aired 1 million times now. At least 2011 Lingo in 2014 when it was on the schedule lasted a few months. It has been at 2:30 for nearly 2 years. I guess GSN has nothing to air there or they like the numbers it puts up. I miss the old GSN, where there was actually some variety. Now with 14 shows on their schedule, that's no variety. It's just boring. One thing I am glad is that they are not promoting Harvey Feud a lot now like they did incessively a couple of years ago. I got sick of the one where one woman with the big boobs was shaking them at another contestant.

    4. "I don't know if Idiotest will get renewed."

      It will be renewed if Winsanity fails big and/or skews too old like The Chase and Chain Reaction. I still stand by my theory that the reason Idiotest was renewed for a third season was because Steampunk'd bombed and Idiotest skewed younger than The Chase and Chain Reaction. In addition, a weak development slate.

      Needless to say, Idiotest had respectable ratings, but I question if Steampunk'd was a run-away hit like Skin Wars what would have happened with Idiotest.

      "At least when Winsanity comes on Thursday, it looks and feels like a true game show. Hopefully no comedy is added. But I wouldn't hold my breath."

      I have only seen one full episode of Winsanity, which is one more than almost everyone, and I think you will be satisfied with Winsanity. I really like the concept of stacking numerical facts.

      "I am honestly surprised The Pyramid is still at 2:30. Those episodes must have aired 1 million times now."

      Approximately 20 to 22 times in the 2:30pm timeslot alone. That is a real estimate. Do not forget the reruns before The Pyramid entered the 2:30pm timeslot in 2013.

  3. In reflection to your points:

    #1: The crude humor was the downfall of the 2011 remake of GSN's Lingo, which is how the series has been dubbed "Dirty Lingo" on many forums and websites to not get confused with the Woolery version.

    For the 'B' word used on a puzzle, I remember this clearly and I was shocked. Words like this should not have occurred on Lingo (but I am okay with 'bitch' being on television elsewhere away from family programming) and were more of a turn-off with criticism than a turn-on with humor.

    Bill Engvall's "forced" Lingo was also a problem with traditional game show viewers, hard-core Lingo fans and even common, casual viewers. I looked past it and I do not think it was as bad as what WWTBAM tried to do with Cedric a couple years later and GSN's Mind of a Man. Watching Woolery's version again since it is back on GSN, humor was not forced. It just came beautifully between the contestants, Chuck and Shandi.

    #2: For the set, I have no "insider" information on whether Lingo was filmed in the same place as Baggage or used similar sets. I have heard this discussion before and it only occurred to me when the discussion was brought up-not on my own when watching Lingo. I did not really notice similarities until this discussion brewed in the summer of 2011.

    Looking around, I do see similarities between the set behind the podiums and the space/studio itself. My biggest problem with the 2011 Lingo set was that it was too big and spacey. GSN tried to make Lingo look too much like a primetime game show, where they could have done better with a much smaller set like both GSN versions of Chain Reaction had.

    There could have been something financial, because the third season of Baggage and Lingo both filmed at the same time in the March through May stretch of 2011. It's very possible that they filmed Lingo before or between (but not after) the third season of Baggage filmed in the same place.

    Again, the Lingo set never bothered me.

    For the record, Baggage had a 3rd season and did not get renewed for a fourth season. The third season of Baggage actually premiered the same night as Lingo on June 6, 2011. It was not until the end of 2011 where Baggage (and Lingo) got caught in the production freeze.

    #3: Again, this never bothered me and I'm sorry Scott-but I am not one of those game show fans who criticizes sound effects and theme music (unless they are over obnoxiously bad). Your remark is too picky. I do remember the beeping sounds being a little off-but that never really bothered me.

    #4: I will agree with you on the balls. I was never able to clearly picture the balls on the racks until I saw the set photos. I was not a fan of the clues either and most of the time, to jump back to your first point, a lot of times the clues were only there for dirty humor.

    The top prize is what broke the budget for Lingo and limited the number of times for big wins. Notice Family Feud keeps their prize budget small and goal of 200 points reasonable so it's always won and keeps the show positive with families always winning. $25,000 for a top prize with a $1,000 rising each episode would have been great. The episodes just would have aired in chronological order of filming date, which GSN does not like doing with their shows.

    1. The point with Engvall hosting-you have to expect some dirty humor from him, which is what GSN was after.

      I thought Shandi would have been fine on her own as a Lingo host. No co-host needed. As for Woolery, unless GSN was offering him millions for 40 episodes, his days with GSN were over by the time he got around to his sixth season of Lingo in 2007. I do not know if Woolery would have even taken the millions. I think Chuck just wanted to be done with Lingo and GSN after 2007.

  4. He was on Name Game today and his resume had no mention of Lingo. Hmmm...

    1. Maybe he didn't like doing it. He probably needed money, although I thought he made a lot by doing comedy.

    2. "He was on Name Game today and his resume had no mention of Lingo. Hmmm..."

      Tammy: Bill Engvall was on Celebrity Name Game? I take it that is who you are discussing.

      Lingo was just a very small portion of Engvall's career. Plus, it was axed after one season. I don't think that has much appeal to Engvall or any editor/producer doing his bio.

      When Engvall did Dancing with the Stars, I believe it was Fall 2013, there was no mention of Lingo then.

      "He probably needed money, although I thought he made a lot by doing comedy."

      Adam: It would not shock me if Engvall made more per minute/hour/day filming Lingo and Dancing with the Stars than a lot of the comedy shows he does.

  5. I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Stacey Hayes in the comments section yet.

    1. Stacey does deserve recognizition-but a lot of people view her as not memorable. She was filler from the time producers wanted a co-host until the time they got Shandi.

      But thanks for mentioning Stacey, because she was part of Lingo about 12 years ago.

    2. Your welcome Scott, and even though GSN never has and never will aired the original 1987-1988 version but what about Michael Regan and Ralph Andrews?

      Also what about Paula Cobb from the Woolery era Scott, was she also useless filler or a useless Vanna White at the time?

    3. I have never seen the 1980's version of Lingo and we probably never will on GSN. That's what YouTube is now for.

      I vaguely remember Paula Cobb. I did not even know that was her name. I saw an episode with her once or twice many years ago. I never understood two co-hosts and I am glad that never lasted long.

      Here is a picture of Cobb and (I would assume) Hayes together on Lingo:

    4. Wow I guess Paula was a useless Vanna White after all, who knew?

  6. I personally don't mind the crude humor as much as I probably should, though I do think the show would have done better had the humor been more family-friendly. It was rated TV-14 for a reason; I remember seeing an episode where "B*tch" was one of the words. That could have definitely been a turn-off for former Woolery viewers...

    1. You know that reminds me of a similar episode problem they had with Catherwood's version of Chain Reaction not so long ago in 2015.

  7. I did not like the 2011 version of Lingo either. First, why did they feel they needed a co-host? I found Shandi to be annoying and an attention getter. What she did could and was done easily but Chuck Woolery. He is so personable and cute, he did not need help from Shandi or anyone else. Her humor was just stupid and juvenile. I love Chuck Woolery and I wish he would find something to come back and host.

  8. Please bring lingo back with Chuck Woolery and Sandi. Ratings gold with these two. I miss lingo.