IT WAS the surprise hit of last year and now a new and improved The Great Australian Spelling Bee returns to our screens.
The family entertainment series showcases the country's brightest young spellers in colourful word-related games and challenges. Tackling tongue-twisters such as camaraderie and entrepreneurial, the show's young stars would spell circles around many adults.
The original format, produced by Shine Australia for Channel 10, has already been sold internationally, including to television networks in Thailand and the UK.
Building on the success of season one, the show's producers have tweaked the format and, most importantly, Ten has listened to viewer feedback by moving the show to the more family friendly 6.30pm time slot.
The spelling competition needed to grow with its viewers, co-host Chrissie Swan tells The Guide.
"There are less challenges per show," she says.
"We get more time to enjoy the personalities and the journeys of these children. Viewers will get to know them a lot better. The kids are really the stars."
Swan's nurturing spirit comes to the fore backstage, where she supports the children and their families during filming.
"In any classroom there's usually one or two really smart kids and all of a sudden these kids, who are used to only feeling like they're truly understood by one other kid in the class, have got this big tribe of clever, word nerd kids," she says.
"That is the prize. That's what I kept on telling them. The prize is you've just made friends for life."
She describes this year's crop of 36 super spellers, aged between eight and 13, as funny, cheeky kids.
"After watching the show last year, they were familiar with what was going to happen and how it was going to work, so they were a lot more relaxed and cheeky and it was a really fun shoot," she says.
"Backstage they were having pillow fights and eating snacks and half the time it was like 'oh we have to go spell now'.
"The focus of the producers has always been on fun... and even when they are eliminated the tears don't last long. Within minutes they're back in the (viewing) room with the other kids enjoying the show."
The show's pronouncer, former WAAPA acting teacher and playwright Chris Edmund, also returns to read out the words and deliver the all-important verdicts.
"There was an element of authority that he clung to last year that completely disappears in the second series," Swan says.
"The kids are not scared of him at all. They treat him more like a fun grandpa; they love him."
Season two of The Great Australian Spelling Bee premieres on Sunday at 6.30pm on Channel 10.
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