Friday, June 1, 2007

WEST COAST BEE CALL (no different from the East Coast except three hours later): Here’s what I hate about the Bee in Primetime: the cuteness. The “hey, look at the cute kids” of it all. The cute videos, the cute promo spots, the sugar-y cutie pie cuteness goes directly against the hardcore sport of spelling. On ESPN, the finals are dry, bland, almost cold in their directness. Here, on network, the Bee is forced into a charming 2 hour ratings moment. Don’t get me wrong. I write Grey’s Anatomy and I work for ABC – I love a good ratings moment. But I like my Bee like I like my tennis – hard court, lots of grunting and vicious competition.

So I pour myself a glass of red wine, settle in with a fresh pair of flannel pajamas and start channeling my inner geek with glee. Primetime or not, I love the Bee. I love it. I love the celebration of intelligence, the championing of nerd-ship, of the brotherhood of brainiac. This is why the Bee should be on primetime network television. So that the Steve Jobs in all of us gets some real screen time. So that the incredible freakiness of spelling into your hand has an audience. A chance to shine. A chance to let every kid who spends his evenings rocking back and forth in his bedroom dreading the misery of junior high see that it is going to be okay. That geekiness has a freaking point! The Bee is a nerd manifesto! WHOO-HOO!

Okay, maybe too much wine. But you get my point, right?

8:09 pm: Horton Hears A Who Boy (Jonathan Horton) goes out on his very first word. Girolle (dude, these words are hard). It’s heartbreaking as this is his last year but he is gracious to the end, remembers to say “thank you” after Bossy But Cute (BBC) Jacques Bailly gives him the correct spelling. Later, when he is interviewed, he weeps. He’s shocked and weeping but a gentleman and I adore him for it.

8:10 pm: Evan O’Dorney, my personal favorite is up. He’s an adorable pint-size spelling genius and I know in my heart that one day he’ll create some kind of amazing box-type object that will change the world somehow. Ooh! And he gets his word right! I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed…

8:14 pm: I’m a little worried about Tia Thomas. First of all, her parents make sure to tell us she is adopted. And then they make sure to tell us that she is not a nerd. As if to say, “y’all, we have no idea where this freaky brainy kid comes from so don’t blame us for her weirdness.” But they clearly love her so I’ll forgive them. Plus, she knits some kind of booties or hats for preemie babies so she gets extra points for being Harvard application ready at only 12 years old. However, she goes down quickly with “zacate” – a word I have never heard of and could never spell. I love that she curls up on her father’s lap for comfort. I want to see what this kid does next year.

We’ve lost three of the first four spellers. This Bee might be the shortest ever.

8:16 pm: My ten year old nephew emails to tell me that BBC Jacques Bailly is pronouncing all the words wrong. I tell him about Samir Patel. He takes this in. My nephew is a future Champion of the Bee. His name is Christian Bailey. Wait for him.

8:26 pm: Joseph Henares continues to be a network’s dream. He’s audience-charming, telling BBC that instead of “punaise”, he prefers its definition – bedbug. He gets his word right and moves on.

8:47 pm: Connor Spencer wows the crowd with his spelling of the word “helzel”. Once again, he spells into his number placard before speaking out loud and once again he pumps his fist. I dig him but his charm is starting to wear a little old – been there, done that. I’m begging the TV for him to do an end zone dance instead of a fist pump next time.

Important Discussion Question: what do you think BBC Jacques Bailly does with his time the rest of the year? Does he sit in a room alone pronouncing words? Or does he frolic on a beach with babes? What IS the secret life of BBC Jacques Bailly?

Matthew Evans sails through on “genizah” – which, obviously, is a storeroom or repository in a synagogue used for discarded, damaged or defective books, papers and sacred objects. Obviously. I’m starting to feel like an uneducated moron.

8:55 pm: Prateek Kohli has a mustache and attends a place someone was crazy enough to call Hicksville Middle School. I feel for him. But he spells “rigaree” like a champ.

9:01 pm: Amy Chyao is gone on “grognard” – the only word I actually knew how to spell. I feel smarter than a kid which is sad but all I have. Now, there’s only one girl left in the Bee – Isabel Jacobson. She’s the last hope for the vah-jay-jay crowd and I’m now rooting for her like crazy. Her word is “helodes” – and she rocks it. 7 spellers remain as Round 7 ends and we head for commercial and I head for more wine…

9:10 pm: First word up in Round 8, Bossy But Cute Jacques Bailly loses his mind and gives my sweet Evan O’Dorney the word “schuhplattler” which has such a long definition that I can’t even type it here. Even the audience is laughing. But Evan rocks his word and lives to fight another round.

I’ve just noticed that Joseph Henares forgets to move his arms when he walks and I love him for it. He’s the perfect Bee competitor. His word is “triticale” which is an amphidiploid hybrid between wheat and rye. I don’t know why anyone would want to eat a hybrid between wheat and rye but Joseph spells it flawlessly and heads back to his seat, arms frozen.

9:21 pm: Dude! Connor Spencer is down! He’s down! On “cachalot”! He’s down!!!! No more spelling into his number placard! It’s over for Connor! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

I’m heartbroken. In the geek-roundup only Frozen Arm Boy is left as the biggest geek contender now.

BBC seems to be loving the French-origin words. Is it just me or is everything either French-sprung or Hebrew-sprung tonight? We lose Matthew Evans on “fauchard” and now only five spellers remain.

It strikes me as freaky that our White House least interested in being smart is hosting the spelling champs. I mean, Bush is nothing if not a frat boy who teased the geeks. Right? It gives me the oogy bumps. But maybe that’s just me.

9:33 pm: Round 9 begins with Evan O’Dorney who is from California (my state, by the way). Evan rolls through “laquear” like it’s no big thing. Then Nate Gartke steps up to the microphone. Up until now, I’ve ignored Nate Gartke because he’s Canadian…okay, not really. I dig Canada as much as anyone. No, I’ve ignored him because he’s so quiet and unassuming that I thought he’d never make it. But, here under the sparkly lights of primetime finals, he’s so full of confidence and spells so brilliantly that I’m getting the itchy feeling that maybe this Bee might belong to Canada.

9:40 pm: Joseph Henares has been given what I believe to be an impossible word. Aniseikonia. Can he do it? Can he? Ooh, he has braces. Braces and glasses – now I really love him because he reminds me of me and... Oops. He went down on the word. He’s gone. Only 4 spellers left! And now we’ve just lost Prateek! He’s down! And then Isabel is given the disturbing word “cyanophycean” which sounds like a disease but is really a blue green algae. And she’s out. Which means we now head into the Championship Rounds -- only two spellers remain. Nate Gartke and my Evan O’Dorney.

I told you. I’m just saying…

Championship Round: Evan is on his game – calm, mellow and self-assured. Go Evan! I can’t help but root against Nate who seems like a sweet kid and just as self-assured – he’s just not my Evan who I feel I’ve watched grow up here on this stage.

These final rounds are not that exciting. Why? Because there’s a commercial break every five seconds. I love commercials. I believe in commercials. I just want to see my Bee without so many breaks. I want to see the sweat on the brows of Evan and Nate. Also, it’s delaying the airing of Grey’s Anatomy. And I like Grey’s Anatomy.

10:04 pm: I dig Evan’s ears. He’s got the kind of face that is going to grow into those ears and be fantastic. He spells “yosenabe” like it’s nothing, no thang but a chicken wing, and keeps on moving. I’m so impressed.

Ach! Nate went down on coryza! I was barely paying attention cause he was so confident! He went down! Now, Evan must get the next word right in order to win.

The word is “serrefine” which is a word I instinctively spelled wrong. But Evan gets it right and-



I don’t know which is more exciting – me being right or Evan being right. Clearly, it should be Evan. But I’ve had some wine and it’s all unclear.

As I do every year, I get a little misty at the end of the Bee. But this year, I’m less misty than usual. Cause there was something missing. Some...magic. Magic was missing. Did anybody else feel that way?

Oh well. Bee Season over.

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