Award-winning actor, director, and educator LeVar Burton is joining the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Variety reports. Burton, known for his work in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Reading Rainbow, will host the competition’s televised semifinal and final rounds. The event began Tuesday with preliminary rounds; this year’s Bee hosts 234 young spellers from around the world competing for a grand prize of $50,000.
Although participants can’t be older than fourteen per the official eligibility rules, the National Spelling Bee is anything but child’s play—past winning words include “aiguillette” (a braided shoulder ornament on some military uniforms) and “stichomythia” (alternating dialogue used as a stylistic device in ancient Greek drama).
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The three-day event, held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center near Washington D.C., is the first Bee to be held fully in-person since 2019—2020’s National Spelling Bee was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the early rounds of the 2021 Bee were held virtually.
2022 also marks a big move for the Bee. Beginning this year, the National Spelling Bee will be broadcast on ION Television and Bounce TV. The change comes following Scripps’ $2.65 billion acquisition of ION in 2021; ESPN previously held broadcast rights to the competition.
Burton Will Converse with Contestants Before They Take Spelling Stage
Along with the move to ION and Bounce TV, Scripps wants to provide viewers more insight on the contestants. “These kids aren’t just spellers,” said David Hudson, head of original programming for Scripps. “We want to incorporate that into this show.”
As host, LeVar Burton will converse with the bright young contestants before and after they take the stage. When a kid is dismissed from the competition in the final rounds, Burton will “be able to have a real heart-to-heart talk, in depth, with kids, families and teachers,” Hudson said. In addition to the one-on-one chats, Variety also reports that Scripps filmed a “Road to the Bee” (narrated by Burton) leading up to the event and will fill the finals with pre-recorded stories from contestants.
The 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals will air Wednesday, June 1 at 8 p.m. ET; the finals take place Thursday, June 2 at 8 p.m. ET.
The events will air on ION, Bounce, Laff and TrueReal. Find the full schedule of events and your local station on the Scripps National Spelling Bee official website.