OPINION: Spelling Bee creates buzz for family TV
THE Great Australian Spelling Bee is like a great big hug.
That's what one of my co-workers said this week while we were discussing the new show and it stuck with me.
The family entertainment series, which has children aged eight to 14 competing in a series of spelling challenges, is an unexpected ratings and social media hit for Channel 10.
While it didn't quite hit the numbers of Ten's other big show, The Bachelor, The Great Australian Spelling Bee wasn't far behind, debuting to a national audience of 1.19 million (peaking at 1.49 million).
I was certainly surprised by how much I enjoyed the show and I found many viewers on Twitter who felt the same way.
My concerns over smothering stage mums and potentially pretentious child geniuses dissolved within the first five minutes as I was won over by the enthusiastic spellers and the show's supportive atmosphere.
Spelling Bee's producers and hosts, Grant Denyer and Chrissie Swan, have managed to create a space for friendly competition where fun and sportsmanship are just as important as correct answers.
Denyer was particularly impressive for his sensitive handling of the disappointed children who didn't get through.
"I do feel like the king of the kids," Denyer told me in a recent interview.
"When I was on Sunrise kids knew me because I was always mucking around, whereas now they know me from the Feud because they sit down and watch it with the family and now there's Spelling Bee."
It was also nice to see the parents supporting each other backstage, sharing hugs and high-fives.
Perhaps best of all, Spelling Bee gives the spellers the space to be themselves, often with hilarious results, and celebrates a love of words.
It's the perfect alternative to the seemingly endless barrage of cooking, renovating and sport.