TV Review: 'Bingo' gambles on viewers as players

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There's one particular element of ABC's "National Bingo Night" that distinguishes it from all the other prime-time game shows of recent years. It's certainly not the bald host (NBC's "Deal or No Deal" got there first).

Craig Sjodin, ABC
"National Bingo Night" players vie for a trip around the world.
Click photo for larger image.

'National Bingo Night'

When: 9 tonight, ABC.
Host: Ed Sanders.

The tricked-out set (thank you, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"), the babe-in-a-tight-dress presenter (thank you, "Deal or No Deal") and the over-the-top contestants (again, aping "Deal") are all familiar, but the interactive element is what might make "National Bingo Night" stand out.

This game show (premiering tonight at 9 on WTAE) allows viewers at home to play along, even awarding the winners prizes (Kmart gift cards and country music CDs for most, a cruise for the top winner). If there's a sudden drop in attendance at local bingo parlors on Friday night, this show could be the reason.

But here's the complicating factor: For viewers to play along at home, they have to print out bingo cards from ABC.com and, if they win, register their success online. Let's face it, the prime bingo-playing demographic is probably the least computer proficient.

That potential speed bump aside, "National Bingo Night" allows computer-literate viewers the chance to play along as bald British host Ed Sanders (a team member on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition") leads a contestant through the paces. Commissioner Sunil (Sunil Narkar) keeps the audience honest, though mostly he just says, "No Bingo!"

Basically, contestants on the show compete against the audience to see who can get to "Bingo" first.

In an example sent for review, a contestant plays a game called "Bingo 500." He has to draw balls and reach 500 before anyone in the audience achieves "bingo." The contestant has to guess whether the next ball drawn from the one-ton "Bingo Sphere" (it looks like a giant gumball machine) will be a higher or lower number than the previous ball drawn. If he guesses correctly, he keeps the number of points on the ball (the ball also shows a letter so the audience and viewers playing at home know which spot on their bingo cards to mark). If the audience reaches "Bingo" first, he loses his chance to win $50,000. (It sounds more complicated than it is if you tune in to watch.)

The ability to play along aside, there's nothing about "National Bingo Night" that viewers haven't seen before. But that interactive element may be a draw for people who love bingo -- if they can get to ABC.com on a computer.


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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