Induction #250 - National Bingo Night
Bingo Balls the size of basketballs, yet limper than the New York Knicks


ABC: (May 18th - June 22nd, 2007)

Deal or No Deal's introduction back in the mid 2000s brought in the second wave of the game show resurgence that Millionaire started in 1999. While people decried it for being a simple, brainless game, it had a charm and style all onto its own. And with that came a lot of rip-offs and knockoffs and cash-ins on its format. But one thing that did see a couple cash-ins for was for the play at home Lucky Case game. One of those shows is the one you voted for in the Viewers Choice Poll. Yes, it's time to talk about one of the biggest flops and another example of ABC not being able to get a game show to be a hit after Millionaire: national Bingo Night.

National Bingo Night was launched from the hopper of bad ideas on May 18th, 2007. In this show, contestants guess the next ball out of the hopper whether it is higher or lower, a black or white ball or something to that effect in order to finish their game before one of the 200 or so audience members make a bingo from their cards to win a big grand prize. While Deal or No Deal managed to get something out of the format by focusing on the stories behind the contestants going for life changing amounts of money, National Bingo Night tried to focus on the play at home aspect entirely. While that might not sound as bad as you think, they took away what is a major hook for any game show: playing along at home with a solid game.  It's the biggest flaw any show could have. I get the Keep It Simple, Stupid philosophy for game shows. But you have to have some gameplay hook or emotional hook to keep fans interested in 2007. But let's talk about that hook of playing at home.

The main focus throughout the show is the printable bingo cards through ABC's website. The aim was to print off the cards and see the ads for the upcoming ABC shows on the website. The cards were used by perspective viewers to play bingo at home while the show is going on. Getting a bingo at home would win a small prize, whether it be a $5 Kmart gift card, a CD or DVD of a band or movie, or the grand prizes they would dole out of a $10,000 Kmart gift card, a trip or even $50,000 for the final game. I have no problems whatsoever with this gimmick, as it was duplicated in the pseudo revival of this show in Bingo America. The problems I have with the show is everything else with the show, starting with the host.

Let's talk about the Howie Mandel wannabe Ed Sanders. He got his start being a builder/carpenter in the states on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I am under the assumption they kinda wanted Ty Pennington to do this, but he was busy with Extreme Makeover or joining back up with Paige Davis when TLC decided to reverse course for Season 8 of Trading Spaces, so Ed Sanders got the gig. This might have been the compromise because he was recovering from slicing his hand open while doing a build on Extreme Makeover. Ed on this show is loud and shouty and doesn't know how to rein it in on his end, making him more of an irritant than a solid host. He might have thought he was still on the construction site rather than a TV studio.

This show also has a commsioner by the name of Sunil Narkar. He is an actor who's done a lot of good work after this show, namely New Girl and The Mindy Project. There is something about this casting that makes it more uncomfortable than it should. Maybe it's the ref shirt when he has the title of commisioner and makes him feel more of a lesser to Ed Sanders, I don't know. Or maybe there is no banter between him and Ed to give the idea that they are equal. Or that he is given absolutely nothing else to do but shout NO BINGO! In the memiest way possible. I should also not that Sunil did host a pilot for an Indian version of Bingo America and he did alright there. If they had him be like this as commishioner, it might have been alright, but just another example of poor asset management on the part of Andrew Glassman, the producer.  It's one of the things that really gets me while looking back at all the bad game shows I covered. You hire your on-air talent for a reason and you try to get the best out of them. If you're not hiring them for a name, like what ABC did with William Shatner for Show Me The Money, then you're hiring them for their ability to manage the game well and convey the game to the audience at home. If you let them flounder on camera, then it makes the whole show suffer.

The main crux of the game for the contestants is to complete a mini-game revolving around the 2 story tall bingo hopper. It is cool looking and gives a presence. The games though are a different story. Some games require you to get a certain amount of right answers, the balls adding to 500 or knocking off as many numbers there are in a car VIN. In order for the ball to count towards the game, they must either correctly guess whether the next ball is higher or lower than the previous one, a odd or even ball or have a black or white outline star or design on it. While the contestant does that, the audience members are playing bingo. The goal is to win your game before an audience member gets Bingo. If you do that, then you win the games grand prize. Most games are worth $50,000, but others are worth a luxury car or a trip around the world.

The problem is that the games themselves aren't exciting at all or almost impossible to win, no matter how loud Ed Sanders or the contestants shout. One of the more prominent games was Bingo 500. In this game, the goal is to get to 500 Miles around the track before someone in the audience reaches Bingo. The problem is that with 200 audience members you need a lot of high balls in order to end the game quick. That in turn makes it almost impossible to win because the audience can rack up the needed 5 numbers in the G or O column in order to win. Same thing with the trip around the world game. In early episodes, the amount of stops were 8 in the second episode, but later episodes had it up to 12. With those games being entirely either/or games of the black/white or red variety, the odds of sweeping would be high, namely 1 in 256. This conceivably can be done, but it is really tricky. Bumping it up to 12 made it almost impossible to win.

The rest of the games just kinda blur together, whether it's steps to get to the altar, getting balls that have the same numbers as the VIN of the car or a dollar bill, it all just blurs together and makes for pretty bland television, but then again what can you do with a pretty bland game in itself in Bingo? What you do is you have to add something, like a good gameplay hook to make it work. Lingo is the best example of this. By adding the word game element to this, you had a nice take on bingo as well. National Bingo Night was shovelware for TV and it only lasted 6 episodes. Plans were to have it back in the winter for a 5 episode run, but the network decided to axe it in favor of Duel. A show that should have had a longer run at home and abroad. After the cancellation, Andrew Glassman took the game, tinkered with it, and sold it to GSN as Bingo America. It was an ok show that lasted 2 years, even with the horrid miscasting of Patrick Duffy in the first season. 2nd season was much better thanks to Richard Karn and a better bonus game. Kinda wish we had gotten Season 3.

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