As Wordle began to take off over the holidays—with more and more people sharing their yellow, green, and gray guess grid on social media—several TV fans pointed out that Wordle was very, very familiar.
It’s basically a version of Lingo, a game show that premiered in 1987, hosted by Michael Regan, the son of the then-President of the United States.
The central game involved guessing five-letter words with just five chances. Unlike Wordle, the first letter was provided by the show, but like Wordle, letters that were in the word but in the wrong position were highlighted.
The title, Lingo, came from the way the show combined that word game with bingo, as teams drew balls to try to create bingo lines on a grid of numbers.
Lingo was revived by GSN in 2002, with host Chuck Woolery, and then again in 2011, with Bill Engvall hosting.
And now it’s being revived again, this time with RuPaul Charles as host and executive producer.
RuPaul previously appeared on CBS as a judge on Mark Burnett’s disastrous attempt to clone America’s Got Talent, The World’s Best, in 2019, and hosted Logo’s Gay for Play Game Show Starring RuPaul, which aired form 2016 to 2017.
Was Wordle just Lingo or is new Lingo Wordle?
CBS appeared to acknowledge the connection to Wordle in a press release, which quoted CBS executive Mitch Graham saying:
“We give you a letter, and you guess the rest! The word game craze is sweeping the nation, and LINGO will deliver a fast-paced, fun and addictive show for the whole family. RuPaul’s flair and sharp wit, coupled with the ability for viewers to play along at home, make this a timely show with wide appeal that we’re excited to join our network lineup.”
Wordle was recently bought by the New York Times for millions of dollars, in “the low seven figures.”
The game show’s format is owned by All3Media International, which revived the show in the UK last year on ITV.
That version did not have any bingo element at all. Here’s how All3Media describes the format in its catalog:
Do you know your Lingo? ‘Lingo’ is the fast paced word-play game that keeps on innovating for new audiences, with its mix of skill, tension, humour and the chance to win big cash prizes. Teams are pitted against each other in a battle to fill in the blanks and find words. Over a series of compelling rounds, the prize money gets bigger, but so does the risk – fail to find the right word and your opponent may jump in and steal a victory. The team that has won the most money in the first rounds goes though to the nail-biting End Game and has the chance to boost their winnings, but if they can’t find the words, they could go home with nothing. It’s the perfect, family game show, with lots of play along opportunities for the audience at home. Lingo has been produced for 30 minute and 60 minute time slots. This incredibly flexible format can be tailored to suit any audience, time slot or budget and is the perfect fit for multiplatform play.
The production companies for the CBS version of Lingo are Objective Media Group America, which produced TBS’s The Cube, and the UK production company Triple Brew Media, which produced the ITV version.
Saturday 12th of February 2022
For those of you older enough, I'm guessing very few, another word game preceded this. Jotto started around 1955 where two players had secret 5 letter words and the opposing player guessed a word and was told how many letters were correct. You were not told which letters were correct.
I remember playing it and I was terrible at it. I'm better at Wordle. 60 additional years have expanded my vocabulary and spelling only a little.
Saturday 12th of February 2022
Fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I like the back and forth game play, which could work well for a face-off on a game show, too.