Culture > Television

Numbers game

Television | National Bingo Night struggles against competition

Issue: "Goodbye again," June 9, 2007

The program has bells and whistles. It has a gigantic ball twirling about with spinning numbers. It has an exuberant host with an even more exuberant (and annoying) crowd. But it's still just bingo. On television.

Although bingo is often relegated to smoky halls on Indian reservations, ABC thinks it can make televised bingo into a 2007 summer fad. ABC's concept for National Bingo Night (Fridays, 9/8 central) is only slightly more complicated than standard five-by-five bingo. As numbers are revealed, audience members and viewers at home who printed off cards from fill out the squares. Meanwhile, if the sum of all the numbers selected surpasses 500 before someone gets a bingo, another contestant wins $50,000. Those who manage a bingo in the crowd or at home win prizes too.

Ultimately the significance of National Bingo Night might rest in what the show's success would mean for the American television viewership. The concept of interactive televised bingo must have struck ABC executives as a crazy-enough-to-work concept. The network promoted the show's premiere heavily and even hired a well-known host (Ed Sanders from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition).

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Even so, the ratings numbers weren't initially encouraging for National Bingo Night. The program finished third, which isn't necessarily disappointing until one considers that it was beaten out by Dateline and a Dr. Phil special during its hour.

But if ABC can turn its bingo ratings around, it may open up a whole new genre of game show. How about Yahtzee night? Boggle?


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