Weaver's Week 2003-05-31
31st May 2003
Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.
On one hand, we could lead with the most-watched cultural event anywhere in the world in 2003. On the other hand, we could kick off with the programme that's going to dominate the press and television for the next nine weeks. Which is it to be?
THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST (LTV and EBU, Sa 2000 BBC1)
This year's presenters: Renars Kaupers didn't wear a mustard yellow suit well, but no one on (or near) the planet would. The Brainstorm singer changed into something less eye-boggling for the voting announcement, and this column thanks him for that. Marie N, last year's winner, was just plain annoying, as were the Hall Of Fame linkups to the international space station and Elton John before we got going. Perhaps Renars could have handled the show himself, as Ulrika effectively did in Birmingham.
The staging deserves mention. The main stage was an attractive oval shape, with a glass floor, onto which pictures and patterns could be displayed. The result: plenty of overhead shots to show this off, and some fab lighting effects. More monitors dotted around the hall, used to great effect by Israel and Poland. The latter country was the only act to go onto the Voting Podium, a short distance into the crowd, while Russia used the slight slope down from the stage to the audience, and a curved walkway behind and rising above the oval, to great effect.
The killer moment: once the contest was finished, the back of the stage dropped away, to reveal the green room where all the acts were. We couldn't see any detail, but they were visible behind Renars and N's shoulder.
Poland, Iceland, Romania, and Ireland will make the Saturday final next year, as will the big contributors France, Germany, Spain, and the UK. The top six join them.
Austria finished sixth, with a song that has divided opinion, to say the least. The lyrics will enter the canon of Completely Bonkers Euro Songs, something about Mother Schongen making a coat from the wool of the African dromedary. There were animal heads on stage for no obvious reason, and a nice little head banging bit in the middle to ward off claims that this was just "Lily the Pink" slowed down. Certainly one of the performances that will crop up in the highlights reels for many years to come. Perhaps Alf's suggestion on live national television, that BBC3 viewers got close 'n' cuddly to Eurovision, won't appear on so many highlights tapes.
Sweden came fifth. Eurovision by checklist: girl, guy, bright costumes, standing on stage, shouting at each other, uptempo beat, plain beat. The Norwegian television commentator derided this entry as like something from a well-known chain of furniture stores.
Norway's fourth position was proof that we should have sent David Sneddon. Young bloke, sat at piano, singing plaintive ballad. It's not a patch on "Stop Living The Lie," a Eurovision song if ever there was one.
The top three countries scored 164, 165, and 167. It's the tightest three-way finish since the current scoring system was introduced in 1975, beating a spread of nine points (and tied winners) in 1991, and eight points in 1998.
The Slovenian announcer has always had a special place in our hearts. This time, with everything hanging on the last result, the gentleman said "I'll be off," and was off. In a "leave your seat and have Europe staring at an empty desk" way. It's a joke that would have backfired if the race hadn't been tighter.
Third place went to Russia, with another song that has split opinion into the "love it" or "hate it" camps, with no middle ground. Most Eurovision performances are predictable. Not so here, where the entire stage became a playground, and for a short moment it felt like the performers could go anywhere, do anything, and were tapping into some source of raw, primal energy.
Three things conspired against Tatu's victory. Thing one: the lack of rehearsal. One of the performers was (allegedly) hospitalised during the week, and (allegedly) had a very bad throat on the night. Cues were missed, runs mistimed, and the Antan Dec of Moscow had their work cut out to deliver a strong performance. There were very ropey vocals on the opening verse, with Ant (or was it Dec) singing a little low (or was it high). It was still a tune, which was more than would be said for the UK entry, but it wasn't note perfect. On the upside, this wasn't exactly a song where perfect pitch would be such a huge advantage.
Thing two: forgetting to submit a translation of the song to the EBU by the deadline. If only they'd sung in English, a few more points would have been Russia's, and along with that, the victory.
Thing Three: as in 1999, and throughout the candidate selection process, the Irish televote system failed to deliver the results to the RTE on time, and the backup jury was used. Ireland gave nothing to Russia, nothing to Turkey, and ten to Belgium.
The result: some very strange voting. Russia picked up the most votes of the night, scoring from twenty three of twenty five countries. The only countries to award a big fat zero: Ireland and the UK, where Russia finished 12th, less than 800 out of the points. This clearly tells us something about the Anglo-Saxon musical sensibility, but what does it say? That the Eurovision viewer in these parts doesn't recognise a huge joke when they see it, thus becoming the butt of that joke? That they confused the performance with some wailing cats? That the UK and Ireland don't like Russians, don't like (faux-)lesbians, and won't vote for them?
Second place went to Belgium. "They've got four official languages, and they're making another one up for the event," spoke Wogan. Urban Trad is quite clearly the logical follow up to Karl Jenkins' Adiemus project, the sounds coming out of the mouth being used to counterpoint the sounds from other instruments. In the UK, only one act from Eurovision in recent years still has a record deal: Secret Garden, winner for Norway in 1995, is a regular on the classical music charts. Urban Trad could well follow that pattern of niche success.
Belgium's entry was easy listening pop, but also gains something when treated as classical music, with brainiac pretensions.
The winner: Turkey. If it wasn't going to be the raw energy, or the intellectual challenge, it had to be the sex. "Everyway That I Can" has done the business, and Sertab Erener and her bellybutton-baring dancers will be bringing Eurovision to Byzantium next spring. The song was inspired by the Europe-wide success of Tarkan's "Simarik" (a UK hit for Holly Valance under the title "Kiss Kiss".)
This win broke a number of ducks: the first winner from Turkey, the first winner ever to come from the fourth on show position. Ireland, the country that (when not winning) regularly gave eight or more to every winner, donated absolutely nothing to this year's.
Turkey's clincher, though, was 15 points coming from two unexpected sources: eight from Cyprus, seven from Greece. Recent developments in Cyprus have thawed out the previously frosty relations between Greeks and Turks. That makes it viable for an exchange of points to take place. In turn, that gave Turkey the win. Without these votes, Belgium would have moved up in the Cypriot vote, and beaten the Russians by three points.
It was a momentous day when the green line, separating Turkish and Greek communities, opened in Larnaca last month. No one, surely, expected the ramifications to be felt in Latvia. That's global politics for you.
Last year, the Greeks wore the lawsuits after "SAGAPO" went down like a tonne of bricks. This year, Russia's Channel One has the dubious honour of submitting the Official Protest. There were too few votes from places like Norway, Malta, the UK, and Ireland. This column reckons that the genuine thoughts of Ireland would have changed matters, though not necessarily in Russia's favour. Eurovision's complex tiebreak rules mean that Belgium would almost certainly not win, Russia could, but still had to find three points on Poland. RTE quietly confirmed on Monday that the jury was used, but we're yet to find out what the lost votes said.
Inevitably, there will be more on this story in weeks to come. Next week, an analysis of how the UK finished 167 points behind the winner, and how to improve on this situation. It's not difficult.
OH LOOK, IT'S BIG BROTHER FOUR (C4 and E4, all week)
As the door opens on another twelve celebrity wannabes, the 49th through 60th to enter the place, we remember the introduction to Without Prejudice?. Everyone, describe yourself.
- 49: Anouska, 20, Derbyshire, Nursery nurse.
- 50: Camron, 32, Orkney, fish trader.
- 51: Frederico,23, Glasgow, model-turned-waiter.
- 52: Gos, 31, Southall, London, chef.
- 53: Jon, 29, Staines, London, data strategy manager.
- 54: Justine, 27, Leeds, sales manager.
- 55: Nush, 23, Worcestershire, farmer's daughter and world traveller.
- 56: Ray, 25, Dublin-via-London, must do something to finance his hedonistic lifestyle.
- 57: Scott, 27, Liverpool, marketing manager.
- 58: Sissy, 26, Manchester, designs clothes for children.
- 59: Steph, 27, Redditch, former prison warder, former footballer's wife.
- 60: Tania, 22, West London, works for a clothing shop in Belgravia.
- 51 and #52 are gentlemen, #55 and #58 ladies.
And on that information, please make your nominations.
Yes, first nominations took place a scant two hours after the doors opened. Everyone made one nomination, and everyone receiving one nomination was up for the vote. Anouska (6 nominations), Frederico (1), Jon (4), and Scott (1) faced the ballot. What criteria impressed the rest of the group? Anouska was widely seen as too loud, Jon as too quiet, Scott a face in the crowd, and Frederico a bit precious for insisting that only his full name would suffice. Such is the depth of moral reasoning after around 90 minutes that only one person dibbed Anouska's promise to leak any bitching she heard. Sissy is playing the game already.
Week 1 challenge: keep a pair of pedaloes turning at a combined rate of 60rpm from Sunday lunchtime to Wednesday lunchtime. Continuously. It's an almost exact retread of the log challenge from the start of series 2, ensuring that there's someone awake for the E4 broadcasts through the night. Fred blew the task, nipping out of the boat for a small piece of gum.
Pointless fact 1: The Diary Room chair became the first casualty of BB4; following a visit by three contestants on the opening night, the cheap blue plastic 'n' fake fur construction collapsed. This is a metaphor for the future of the show: comprendez?
Pointless fact 2: Subtitles referred to #58 as "Ceasey" and "seacy" during the opening broadcast, showing that even the Intelfax crew hadn't been tipped off about the names.
Pointless fact 3: After four years, two celebrity editions, three substitute contestants, and two who didn't quite make it in, we're yet to repeat a name.
Pointless fact 4: The contestants are not wearing watches. Timepieces of any kind remain verboten. The twelve are wearing stress monitors; they'll be used on BBLB during the show.
Day trading: All twelve contestants were Celebdaq IPOd at 250p around 2200 Friday. The prices fell en bloc until early Tuesday, then slowly rose, still en bloc. At the lowest point, the combined value of the house was just over £22.50, or slightly more than Aberystwyth.
Making books: Anouska was the early favourite for eviction, trading at about 7/4 Saturday afternoon, with Jon around 5/2, no real money for either of the others. Jon took the favourite's mantle following the Monday night show, and never looked like staying. This column has decided not to watch any of the nightly C4 coverage, and hence didn't see Jon being anything other than intelligent, witty, and probably going right over the heads of half the target audience. The man's a comedy genius, and he may just be a Gopherman genius.
Anouska had drifted in the betting all week, settling at around 6/1 against by Friday night. However, Jon managed to survive odds of 5/1 on, and Anouska went. The betting favours Nush and Ray, both near 4/1 before last night's eviction; Scott at 11/2 and Cameron at 8s also attract money. Sissy and Federico led the early betting for next week's eviction.
Celador's legal department must be getting a wing of its own soon. First there was the Major court case this spring, then the strange activities mentioned here two weeks ago. Now, a Belfast contestant on WWTBAM is considering suing the programme over a dubious answer.
The question in question aired on the May 17 edition: "The Island of Staffa is said to be at one end of which route?" Paddy Herron answered "Road to the Isles," but the required answer was "Giant's Causeway." Celador pointed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica as one of many sources, Mr Herron said that "a number of experts" supported him.
This one will run and run.
Over in Bournemouth, army major Charles Ingram has pleaded not guilty to five charges of deception against two insurance companies totalling more than £32,000.
In summary, the charges are: falsely representing the number of claims against a previous home contents insurance policy; obtaining a watch; and a money transfer of £30,000 on August 10, 2001.
Ingram was supported during the hearing at Bournemouth Crown Court by his wife, Diana, who sat in the public gallery. The case was adjourned for trial on these, and two similar, charges. Trial will be held in the autumn and Ingram was released on unconditional bail.
Court-imposed reporting restrictions insist that this column does not publish anything about any previous convictions Mr Ingram may have.
THIS WEEK AND NEXT
The BB live task is at 2100 tonight on C4; that's a taped task at 2200 for viewers in Wales.
Classic episodes of Millionaire air on ITV at 1730 weeknights, starting from the very beginning, and seeing where the former contestants spent their money. (Viewers in Ulster get an enhanced local news service instead.)
It's the drag queen edition of Bargain Hunt, 2030 BBC1 Monday. Stop laughing at the back.
C4 launches Grand Slam, billed as the extreme quiz show, at 2000 Friday.