Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spelling used to be more fun than this.....

I read an article in today's New York Daily News that was really disturbing.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has become the latest to fall to the whims of television. ABC, which holds the broadcast rights for the finals, mandated that 10 contestants would advance to the finals, broadcast live last night. That meant cutting the semi-final round in mid-stream, with a handful of contestants getting a virtual free pass into the final round.

The semi-finals started with 19 contestants. Once they got to 10, even though six had not yet gone to the mic to take their turns, the competition was stopped for the duration. ABC & Disney got what they wanted, even if the methodology was all wrong. Indeed, it wasn't fair, and it takes the fun right out of the competition.

Had this been on any other network, save maybe for PBS, it'd be the same thing. ABC had a 2 hour window (8-10 pm ET), and couldn't risk losing any more players. It's not exactly the same as the "human drama of athletic competition" that the late Jim McKay referenced in the open to Wide World of Sports for so many years, but at the same time, these kids and their parents have a right to be angry over the shallow handling of the competition.

Here's a simple solution that can be worked one of two ways:

1. If you keep the finals in prime time, then start the competition a day earlier, and keep the meddling network suits out of the picture. Let the competition progress naturally.

2. Put it on a Saturday morning, bouncing those over-played Disney Channel reruns that make up ABC's Saturday daytime lineup for a day. The latter, in this writer's opinion, makes the most sense, as it'd freshen things up in the one part of the schedule that ABC has neglected for the longest time.

Either way you slice it, you can still spell it a s-u-c-c-e-s-s.

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