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L-U-N-A-C... Aww, Nuts - May 10

On May 5, a personal friend of mine restored my enjoyment of the game show "Lingo." I had given up on the show entirely; there was nothing in it anymore. Big ups to Jason and Jacky for winning $5,000, because it is likely the last episode I'll watch.

"Lingo" is not a terribly hard game to grasp: players guess a five-letter word, and are told which letters are in the word, and which letters are in the proper position in the mystery word. Armed with that information, teams have five guesses with which to guess that word. Time and time again I will see a team guess "STEAK," find that only the S is in the right position, and then they'll guess "STATE," gaining nothing in the process. Something as elementary as guessing 'new letters' is a strategy that precious few teams consider. Those are the teams that are going to win the money, but they are few and far apart. The contestant coordinators choose which players will make it to the show, and they select telegenic people and not good players. All this time I was under the impression that home viewers wanted to watch people just like them, but what do I know, I'm just one viewer.

Then comes the game. I'm not crazy about game shows that rely so much on luck, but I'll accept it in small doses. That said, the reward for solving a word should be that you get to fill in spots on the board, not that you're forced to turn over control to the other team. It makes no sense. A team that is able to keep control by solving the words in play should not lose control because of some random element added to make the game 'more interesting.' It does the exact opposite: it gives poorer teams a fighting chance when they should have none. It is a pointless addition to what could be a fine game.

The bonus round is supposed to be the big climax of the show, but Bonus Lingo completely fails to build up any sort of tension at all. With two minutes, good teams are able to rattle off at least a half-dozen words, and poor teams are lucky to solve one or two. Good teams will almost always win the $5,000; and bad teams surely won't. If you're going to base the show on pulling balls from a bin, there should be a bit more variance than that. I don't know what the solution would be, and if I did, I wouldn't share it, because they aren't paying me for that. One thing that doesn't solve anything is a progressive jackpot for a one-ball lingo. Once the first ball is drawn, the big money goes away and it's $5,000 or nothing. That 'big money moment' lasts for all of five seconds, and there's nothing that teams can do to improve their lie. A good team can only set their sights on winning $5,000, which is unfortunate, because some good teams could have won lots more with different rules.

Lingo just might be GSN's highest rated program, but it's far from the best game. For that reason, I've moved on. That's too bad, too, because it has some of the best play-along elements in the genre. I had more I was going to cover, but it's not really worth my time. There's better stuff on television.

Travis Eberle can spell five-letter words with the best of 'em. Fill in the blanks at traviseberle@gmail.com.

 

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