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.