#152 - Thousand Dollar Bee
The only bee that enforced stereotypes rather than being worth anything at the end.
Black Family Channel (2004-2007)
Text by: Robert Seidelman
Well, to end one of the most popular months on the site, I had to pull out what could be the absolute worst kids game show of all time. I normally try to figure out how a show could fail so bad, but thankfully the show pretty much showed it in just one show. Not only that, it enforced so many negative stereotypes about African-American culture that it's just insane. Needless to say, it's time to get started on this terrible show. It's time for everyone's favorite low-budget piece of garbage from the Black Family Channel, The Thousand Dollar Bee.
I want to put this video up first, so you can listen to the theme song. It's one of the cheapest pieces of music for a game show I've heard since the Taboo and Peer Pressure theme songs. Yes, it's terrible, but I honestly think this was a rush job on the part of Jody Mayfield, the person who made the theme, or the producers of the show not caring enough for the theme song. This is not a knock on Jody himself, since on his YouTube page, he's got other compositions up and he's really talented as a Pianist and musician outright. He probably had a rough draft done for the producers to hear, they just said, "We'll take that. We need to keep this show as cheap as possible." So there you go.
The first host and most well known is a man named Sinatra Onieyewacki. At the beginning of the show, he's just called Sinatra "The Wacky Host". Yeah, he isn't wacky at all. He's flat boring and also flat out bad. I'm under the assumption here, and a damned good one, that the producers themselves didn't care. They just saw a decent looking person and said, "You. You host this show." Also, if you need to tell someone that you're wacky, chances are that you're not. If you need your assistant and graphics guy to say that you're wacky or crazy, then you're definitely not. Near the end, there was a second host in Brandon, but none of the traders, nor anybody on YouTube has anything up on him, so I can't comment.
Now we get to the assistant in Tabitha Jones aka Busy Bee. I'm just going to come out and say it, she's really really annoying. I also wonder if there's any child labor laws being broken during the taping for forcing her to down 10 Pixy Stix before each taping so she can be hyped up to introduce Sinatra and doing Post-produced bits where a contestant bombed out on a word while wearing a really terrible looking bee outfit. Seriously, did the producers put a damned thought into this show before putting it on the air?
The first round is the "Sting Zone" round. Ok, I have made it abundantly clear that I can't stand lame animated breaks between host saying the name of the round and the round itself. I really hate it when they don't put any effort into any of them. This looks like a middle schooler who just learned how to do flash animation did the graphics.
The actual round is simply a 20 second speed round with a category attached to it. The first contestant gets to pick a category and then is given a barrage of words to spell out. That part's fine, but the judging can be really really spotty here. Sometimes they'll let a contestant hang on an obviously misspelled word for over half the time, or immediately go to another word when they are still trying to spell a word. Either way, that type of lame judging always destroys a game.
After a round or so, Busy Bee would appear in a post production piece giving a spelling tip. That's fine, but sometimes these are really condescending, especially saying how "Words can be tricky" I don't know who wrote that line for her, but the person who wrote it is an asshat. She'd also toss it back in a long-winded way to Sinatra, or Brandon depending on what episode you were watching, leading to more annoyance. The first round is done twice with two different sets of kids with the top one from each set moving on to the second round which is the lightning round.
Second graphic, yet worse than the first one. This one looks like an elementary school student messing around with an Amiga 500 computer was messing with it.
And the round itself is once again another speed round, but the two contestants hit a buzzer on a podium and then spell the word. The biggest fault I have with this is once again the cheap production. The main fault is that we don't see the buzzers, instead we see the screen lighting up and the word appearing next to the contestant. This is just lazy post production at its worst.
The next round is the Bee Scramble round. Here, contestants are given three words all mixed up. The contestants have to unscramble those words within a minute. Getting all three right doubles the score. I keep on bringing up lazy production, but here's the most prime example. The set for this round is nothing more than a blackboard with magnets. All could be bought for a retail price of about $60. Even then, you get the post-production terribleness of a bad graphic to kick off the round, which is too lazy to even put up. Oh, to make matters worse, the theme song plays in the background to annoy the viewer and the contestant with the audience yelling "Thousand Dollar Bee" at the end of the music.
To add to the crappiness of this round, after unscrambling the words, the contestant now has to use the word in a sentence, with the panel of bored judges. While this could be the job of just one judge, they felt the need to spring for three. Another major irritant is the way its shot. The rest of the show is shot in standard definition. The judges are being shot in Widescreen. That's insane. Did they not see how it was shot as well before even rolling the VTRs? Speaking of the judges, I'm imagining these are the producers of the show being used as a judge in order to save some money that they saved on the cheap graphics and Bee Scramble boards. Highest score wins and plays the end game.
Which is called the Buzzzzzy Bee Story Segment. Already, you get docked for poor grammar and crappy naming. The object of this round is that the champion has to use five words that were already used on the show and put them into a story. The catch is that the contestant has only two minutes to put the story together and hope that it can make sense. Here's the main problem with this segment. You're already dumping the most important part...the spelling. Each round had the contestant spelling the word. And now, you're dumping that for a bad story...
Oh and another crappy graphic to help speed up the time.
Also, we have Sinatra vamping with a couple kids and losing contestants and Busy Bee while he spells the words and worries about how the champion is going to use those words in a story. I have bashed Skip Lackey for him not being even remotely able to vamp or improv with contestants without trying to shed his already hyperactive persona, but Sinatra trying to vamp comes off thousands times worse than Lackey. It took Skip Lackey about 2 minutes to prove he's a fake. It took Sinatra 2 seconds to prove he was.
And of course we have the ending where Sinatra and Busy Bee say that "The smartest bee is a spelling bee"....
....and a bunch of kids stomp their feet to the crappy theme song.
Ugh, this was a terrible terrible show that was terribly produced, terribly hosted and terribly put together well. Originally I was going to put the blame on the person who found the show one night and posted footage on his website, but that's not the problem. The problem was the show itself. The show is the definition of how to make a game show and not be bothered to bloody try. Everything about this show was either boring, bad, or so disjointed that it was inconceivable that anything could be as bad as You're On, but this show has managed to do just that. By the way, I didn't mention the premise of the Thousand Dollar Bee. This was a damned tournament where the grand prize was....$1,000 towards their college education. Yes, the entire season's prize budget was $1,000. Did they spend too much on magnetic letters to forget that they could have talked to sponsors such as Webster's or even some other companies to get prizes for those who win the day. It would suck the most that if you got to the finals and got second place and won nothing. That would be the absolute pits. But yeah, the show is utter garbage and not worth the cheap VHS tape it was likely shot on.
Now let me speak to you for a second away from the keyboard and right into this camera that my brother has set up on the table.
God help me.
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