Saturday, May 20, 2006


Father Ted -- My Lovely Horse
Ted and Dougal
It's that time of year again -- summer's here. The outdoor swimming pools are open; another Big Brother is underway (for Brits); and the whole of Europe lay down their arms and take their grudges/allegiances to the ultimate European court -- The Eurovision Song Contest. Every year, the whole of Europe vies for this most coveted of all prizes and the chance to host the contest the following year (except maybe Ireland who won three years in a row and probably only lost in the fourth year because they already had their hat-trick and were sick of having to host it anyway -- who can forget Fathers Ted and Dougal's entry My Lovely Horse? (Dream Version; video)).

Here's what Mark has to say:

Like the late great John Peel, I've always been a big fan of Eurovision. The Eurovision Song Contest is a wonderful old institution launched back in 1956, making this year's the 51st contest. It takes place before a massive European television audience on a Saturday night in May (though it used to be April) every year. Twenty-something countries each select a song from their own national heats and each country performs it on the night in front of the live audience. In recent years, as the number of countries in Europe has expanded, they have also introduced a semi-final heat to keep the number of countries in the final down to about 24 or so. The host each year is the country to have won it the previous year. The most famous winners ever are ABBA, who won it for Sweden with Waterloo in 1974. I didn't watch that one myself, though I did see ABBA live a full five years later, at Wembley Arena in November 1979 (when Gimme Gimme Gimme was in the charts). I think the first one I watched was in 1977, and I've watched it most years since, though there was a hiatus in my college years because (a) Eurovision was massively uncool in the 1980s and (b) staying in on a Saturday night was even more uncool.

There are many pleasures involved in watching Eurovision, but it is not easy to explain the attraction to those who have not experienced it. It's certainly not about the musical quality. Many of the songs are pretty grim, including often the UK's entry, especially the year when poor old Jemini got 0 (nil) points (2003). [The song was bad, but not that bad. It was when the Iraq war had just begun, to most of the rest of Europe's dismay. We in the UK, while acknowledging that the song was not very good, saw "nil points" as a bit of a protest to the Iraq war. It was a blow to our pride as we always used to laugh at countries that got "nil points". (Ed.)]

John Peel always used to say that he loved the scoring, and I must admit that that is my favourite bit, where each country reads out the result of its own voting in English and French, and the scoreboard is adjusted as the votes get totted up. The character of the Eurovision as a UK television experience is all about Terry Wogan's now legendary commentary. He's been doing it for years and Viola and I went through a phase of finding it annoying, but have now realized that he is what makes it.

So, this is our first Eurovision since moving to America, but are we going to be able to view it? To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about it until I was looking at the BBC1 website tonight to check for the times for Doctor Who (second part of an great story on the Cybermen) and I noticed the big spread for Eurovision. Naturally, I began wondering how we would be able to view it over here. It seems that there is not much hope for watching it live on air. Others in the US have apparently been asking themselves the same question, as a page of Google Answers testifies. According to one of those comments, those with DirecTV have the best chance of getting it live, by tuning in to one of the European channels available on that satellite system. But we have Time Warner Cable (as well as some holes in the roof left by the Dishman), which is no good. On occasions like this, we turn to the internet and the good news is that there is a solution available. Eurovision TV provide a Live Webcast of the final:

Eurovision: Live Webcast

You have to download the Octoshape plug-in but it promises a high quality, 700kbps stream, which is a good deal better than the one I received for the cricket on Willow TV, which is perfectly adequate. So, it looks like we'll be plugging the laptop into the telly again and at 3pm Eastern Time, it'll be time to make the chilli popcorn and glue ourselves to the settee for three hours of Eurovision entertainment. And the UK entry from Daz Sampson, surely has a fine chance of success -- it's a very catchy tune, and it has a gimmick. Go Daz!

March 9, 2007

When I first published this post, I could only get a couple of audio clips of My Lovely Horse. Since then, YouTube has become flooded with Father Ted posts, so I decided to retrospectively add a couple of links.

Here's Ted and Dougal practicing:

Here's the dream version:

1 comment:

Lorraine said...

Well, like all ridiculous Americans, I'd never heard of this contest. Sounds like fun. We checked out the UK entry video and agree that it's a very catchy tune. Go Daz. (Let us know what happens, will you?)