Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eurovision 2007

Last year, Viola and I blogged on our first experiences of watching the Eurovision Song Contest in America (Eurovision and Eurovision: The Verdict). This year we were up for it again and tuned in on Saturday afternoon to watch the final from Helsinki. It is a very odd experience watching Eurovision here. First, no one in America has heard of it, so there is no one talking about it -- except, of course, online. Second, the only way to watch it is via the live streaming from Eurovision.tv. It's an amazing quality feed of 700kb/s, and as on all such occasions, we simply plug a laptop into the telly, put the big speakers on and enjoy. (And this year, we didn't try to download Doctor Who at the same time, not least because this year there was no episode on Saturday night, so the quality of the streaming was far better.) But I really missed the proper BBC packaging of the event, and especially Terry Wogan's ironic commentary. With the direct feed, all you get are the basics; when the phone-numbers to ring appear all over the rest of Europe, the live streaming gives you just a blank, black box. And third, it is very odd watching a night time event on a Saturday afternoon. It feels lazy and decadent to be watching Saturday night entertainment with daylight outside. In the UK, it begins at 8pm, so for us it was 3pm. And there was just enough of a delay on the streaming, something like 30-40 seconds, for our niece Bronwen to be instant messaging Emily about what was about to happen, as when the UK finally got awarded some points.

As for the event itself, it was not a great year. The UK's entry, by Scooch, was a perfectly fine novelty song, nothing spectacular, but lively and suitable for the occasion, and a darn sight better than a lot of the other instantly forgettable songs:

My favourite part of the contest is always the scoring, though it has become rather sad and predictable in recent years, with neighbours all voting for one another regardless of the quality of the song. And it has been a feature of the last few years that the UK is scraping the bottom of the barrel. This year, we had 0 points for a heck of a long time, until finally Ireland obliged us with 7 points, and Malta with 12.

Serbia won with a rather intense ballad, but the big debate in the Goodacre family was over the gender of the singer. The girls and I thought it was a man, but Viola thought it was a woman, and it turned out that Vi was right. If we'd have been in the UK and able to watch on BBC1, we'd not have been in doubt given Tezzer's useful intro:

Elsewhere, the debate is apparently turning to whether or not Serbia's song was stolen, which sounds uncannily like the plot of the Eurovision episode of Father Ted.

As usual, The Guardian has been a source of insightful and often witty comment, especially in this piece in today's paper:

Please let's retire from Eurovision. It's just embarrassing now, isn't it? Let's stick Eurovision alongside cricket and good manners on the list of things we used to be good at, but now can't quite seem to manage . . .

Click here to watch the video. . . . The problem is, we've got no mates. The UK turning up at Eurovision is like the unpopular teenager at the disco: "So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry and you want to die," as Morrissey put it - although I can't forgive the organisers for raising our hopes that he was going to represent us at Eurovision. I think we should enter a proper pop star, but one who everyone already dislikes, like poor James Blunt.

Most of our points came from Malta, the only nation in Europe that still likes us. And we know that's only because we gave them the George Cross. And that was in 1942. They're still saying thank you for something we did 65 years ago. That's going beyond touching loyalty and starting to become a bit creepy, if you ask me . . .
If we're the greatest nation on earth, how come no one gives us any points at Eurovision? by Lucy Porter

If only we could somehow get America into Eurovision (well, Israel are in it, after all), then we might get some votes again, especially if we could find an act with Liverpool accents.


Jonny Goodacre said...

I'm sorry but I really have to take issue with the comment: 'The UK's entry, by Scooch, was a perfectly fine novelty song'. Were we watching the same thing??! It was beyond novelty to be simply embarrasing. The video, which we were lucky enough not to see, was even worse than the live performance with dreadful attempts to curry European favour by putting everybody's flags in it.

It's also outdated - a remnant of old Euro campness. This year's winner was all about being intense and sentimental. Okay so it was awful, but a reaction against people not taking it seriously. And Eastern Europe is now taking it very very seriously.

For an extremely good analysis I recommend the blog on Labforculture at: http://www.labforculture.org/en/community/blogitem/8290

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi Jonathan. Thanks for that. You are probably right. I mean "perfectly fine" in the Mark Kermode sense of "Yeah, it's OK, no real problems with it, could be a lot better, not going to set the world on fire" etc., but that too may be a bit generous for Scooch. Still, it is at number 5 in the Hit Parade, and the charts don't lie :) I enjoyed the piece in the blog you recommended. Cheers, Mark

Anonymous said...

As an American, I'm completely baffled by Eurovision. What is it exactly? Is it a national pride competition like the Olympics (that is, an olympics with a heaping dollop of sequins and kitsch)? Or, do people actually realize that it is incredibly campy and just watch it for fun? I say the latter because it seems sooo sacchrin. While watching that Schooch video, I felt like I was watching Barney. Maybe I've completely missed the point of it, but I'd appreciate a European person's view on this...

Viola said...

I think that Eurovision is all of the above (except that Barney doesn't immediately spring to mind for me). Now and again someone takes it seriously and actually enters a half-way decent song. However, as everyone else just votes for their neighbouring countries and/or prefer the tat, the good ones often (not always) fall by the wayside.

Or perhaps I'm being too synical?

By the way, any Steve Coogan fans might like this footage of Tony Ferrino winning the Eurovision Song Contest for Portugal.

selwyn42 said...

I thought the UK song was quite good - at least a catchy tune, but not sure I liked the electric blue get-ups. But surely the whole point is to enjoy Terry Wogan. I cannot imagine how frghtful the whole thing would be without Terry's brilliant commentary. The Serbian song was frightful - and why wear a bow tie if you aren't going to tie it?