First Review: Hot Spell

When I was a kid there was no Australian Idol for budding performers. And there certainly weren’t any TV spelling bees around, I would have kicked arse. A.R.S.E –arse.

Since the feature documentary Spellbound (US 2001), the sport of grammar has gripped America. The latest hit series, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? is about to undergo a localized production, produced and hosted by Rove McManus for TEN. But it’s SBS that is getting in first with Hot Spell.

Hosted by Michael Tuohy, this half hour series is being programmed in an intensive, round-robin style schedule at 6:00pm daily for ten consecutive nights. Designed as an ‘Idol for Spelling,’ teams of little kids aged 9-13 auditioned in cities across the country. Fittingly, under the considered tone of the national broadcaster there is no Dicko or Kyle berating kids. No, everyone’s a winner here, it’s just that some are more winning than others. And like Idol, some score the chance to go to Sydney for the official finals. Funny that Canberra wasn’t seen as the brains centre of the country, maybe that’s being kept for a Porn Idol? P.O.R.N –Porn.

The kids in these finals are all too good for their own boots. They look like little Delta Goodrooms, spelling everything from Pernicious to Artesian. They’re even tested on the differences between Stationary and Stationery. Yikes.

The format wheels through a variety of challenges entitled Speed Spell and Buzz Off, on a set that marries a stylized classroom with a live audience. Amongst the contestants is a concerted push for multiculturalism, including Sameer from Melbourne and William Y. from Sydney (he reckons all the other players, “should just get chicken pox so I can win”).

Hot Spell is refreshingly addictive. If you’re tired of Ed Phillips being super smooth in Temptation or Andrew O’Keefe never shutting up in Deal or No Deal, this show is for you. It’s easy to play along at home and find out no, you’re not smarter than a fifth grader. Thankfully, I did eventually beat them all at their own game. Just. Except I don’t have any of their precociousness. S.U.C.K.E.R.S –precociousness.

Hot Spell screens 6:00pm nightly from Aug 24 on SBS.


  1. hey just wanted to say great gameshow!! Ahh my dad and me were watching one day and he brought up that i should have a try on hotspell because i love spelling!!! Could you tell me how do you get on the show!! thanks for reading my comment!! please send me a reply to my email !!thanks
    Faithfully Joy

  2. Does multiculturalism explain the host too?

    I disagree with this: “Hot Spell is refreshingly addictive”

    Just as a side note, the girl who won looked like she was at least 17. Did anyone check birth certificates?

  3. Jean Abbey

    It is unfortunate that in Hotspell as well as It’s Academic the pronunciation of the letter H as haitch seems to be gaining ground in the education system.

  4. DefensiveMum

    This is for TelevisionAU… just found your post about my daughter ‘the over-achieving 12yo’ on the Hotspell series, whom you refer to in your message from August 25, 2007. (Just for the record, we prefer ‘highly achieving’.) Well, she’s not quite 19 yet, but at 14 she’s being head-hunted for a Vice Chancellors Scholarship for University and intends to study a Dual Degree in Laws and International Relations with a view to a career in the Diplomatic field. Her passion is to work in the areas of female equality and combat crimes such as child slavery and sexual abuse and it is with these platforms in mind that she will represent Queensland at the upcoming United Nations Youth Conference this year. So as for your comment of appearing ‘on the cover of Playboy’ by the time she’s 19, I feel you may be mistaken. Obviously ‘Tall Poppy’ syndrome is alive and kicking in your world TelevisionAU. Hope you reach your goals one day.

  5. i agree Viewer.. there have been a couple of times when the host doesn’t pronunciate properly and it puts the kids off.. tonight he asked a contestant to spell “celery” but he pronounced it like “salary”, so of course the kid got it wrong. I think it was unfair because it wasn’t clear what word the host actually meant.

  6. host’s name is Michael Tuahine not Tuohy 🙂 But yes always interesting to watch the over-achieving 12yo (what’s the bet she’ll be burned out and on the cover of Playboy by the time she’s 19!! ) thrash the poor little cherub from Dubbo.. and how p**sed off was Justin didn’t get any in the buzz-off round 🙂 bring on the next 9 nights ! 🙂

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.