Weaver's Week 2015-05-24
Semi-final 1: ORF for EBU, seen on BBC3, 19 May
Week two of our Mel Giedroyc and Silly Costumes season is the annual celebration of pan-European technical prowess. The annual festival of European culture being better than that American tat. The annual grand prix du chanson European. The annual festival of – crikey, the stage is modelled on a human eye.
The first semi-final begins with a reprise of last year's winning song, and the performers walking down from the "green room" to the stage. Green room is above the audience, but beneath a sculpture of individually-dancing balls. It's a very Eastern semi-final: only four of the nations haven't been under Russian influence in the past century.
There's no problem of austerity in Österreich; the show boasts four hosts. Mirjam Weichselbraun hosts Austria's Strictly Come Dancing, Alice Tumler is the multi-lingual expert. Arabella Kiesbauer is an "integration ambassador", just in case someone differentiates themselves in parts. Conchita is responsible for the green room. How wonderful to have a bartender when playing Kings.
TRM send "I want your love", and it's less than a minute until the first stage pyro, and the first Wrong Sort of Shiny Warning. Eduard Romanyuta's song reminds us of the Liberty X smash "Just a little"; the staging features a female cop whose uniform shrunk in the wash. Very Hollywood Arts High School, this, we'd expect to see it on a Nickelodeon comedy as a pastiche of a George Michael video. Eduard is the only Ukranian in this year's contest, and will benefit from that diaspora. He'll also win the Eurovision Vest Ripping contest for Moldova.
AMPTV give "Face the shadow", performed by Genealogy. It's an all-star group, put together for the occasion, featuring performers from every continent, illustrating the diaspora. We liked the cinematography, it flowed and there were lots of positive rotations; the song had an unfortunate guitar break and sounded more like a bad charity record than we'd like. The song was about a mass murder in 1915, known as a "genocide" in Armenia.
RTBF are responsible for "Rhythm inside", Loïc Nottet performs against a white background that is going to become the Wrong Sort of Shiny in moments. He's dressed in a black duffel coat, the backing singers are all in white, the effect is more sci-fi than washing powder. Loïc is a graduate of The Voice Belgique, he's able to sing while lying on the floor, but that means he's almost out of shot for 30 seconds. Not the worst, not B*lg*um.
AVROTROS send "Walk along" with Trijntje Oosterhuis. It's been a difficult year: Oosterhuis's dress in the first rehearsal was mocked, the jury performance last night was poor. The staging remains bizarre – it begins with an extreme close-up of a veil hiding her eyes, she's wearing a parachute, and she seems completely lost on the stage. The song is hummable and toe-tapping, but it's going to be a few listens before it becomes an earworm. Second place last year: we don't see a Saturday place for the Netherlands.
YLE give us "Aina Mun Pitää", performed by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät. PKN will be remembered for three things: 1) learning difficulties and Down syndrome; 2) Wrong Sort of Shiny; 3) shortest song in Eurovision history. OK, five things: 4) a camera that never keeps still, and 5) a poor Busted jump at the end. Great punk, because punk is rhythm – not melody, not lyric, just keeping time. The jury will drag this way down, you'll have to move there to see more of Finland.
While the hosts take a break, Australia takes breakfast.
NERIT is the first of two broadcasters to debut this year. Maria-Elena Kyriakou sends "One last breath", their entry into the Eurovision James Bond theme competition. It's backed by a bloke on the piano, the wind machine, and the BBC Schools countdown clock. It's Eurovision by numbers, they do enough to come back on Saturday and nothing more, so no early exit for Greece.
ERR have the first realistic winner: "Goodbye to yesterday" is performed by Elina Börn and Stig Rasta. It's a song about the end of a love affair; Stig starts, Elina appears through a fake door at the back. She's hacked off and wants to jump his bones, at the same time. It's a great staging, using left-and-right-and-centre and perspective depth. And the performers really sell their song, Elina sheds a single tear. What's it like at this time of year in Estonia?
MKRTV are up next, "Autumn leaves" comes from Daniel Kajmakoski. He won X Factor Adriatica last year. This really does feel like the semi-finals night on Pop Factor, where the four remaining competitors get to sing with an act that a) the performer likes and b) are available and c) are available on a Pop Factor budget. Daniel got two-thirds of Blackstreet. They've bought a stock animation of a marble building with light shining through, they've got leaves falling up (strange gravity they have in Skopje). When they're in close-up, this works. Level shots are blocked by the crowd waving flags, and Daniel and his trenchcoat are lost in the long shots. Good enough to bring back Macedonia?
RTS give "Beauty never lies" from Bojana Stamenov, with Wrong Sort of Shiny Warnings. She's from Serbia's Got Talent, she's got dancers walking around waving flags while wearing Punchdrunk theatre masks. Just when we think it's a power ballad, the dancers take off their cape and mask to groove like a disco. The sort of camp nonsense to fit in with BBC3's prejudices, it'll be in clip shows, but please let us not see more of Serbia.
MTV have "Wars for nothing", and it's from Boggie, and we're going to pretend to be too young to make the obvious Dire Straits joke. Another song about the Turkish intervention in Armenia, this song has everything – atmospheric staging, the fashionable circles, great use of the video wall and stage, a message if you look for it. Everything except a chorus. Won't hurt Hungary.
BTRC donate "Time", performed by Uzari and Maimuna, and staged with the Wrong Sort of Shiny. She's holding a violin so close to the camera that we can see the small gap between bow and string – of course she's miming, and the illusion is ruined. "Time is like thunder", goes the lyric; this is a rumble in the background for Belarus.
C1R have tonight's favourite, "A million voices" led by Polina Gagarina. She's got the hourglass motif used by Sanaa last year, the handclaps from "Radio ga ga", the smell of optimism from a singalong song, and the assured calm from a decade's experience since winning Star Factory in 2003. Shame that the presentation was spoiled by a political protest involving non-competitor flags blocking the camera lines. The BBC's Scott Mills reckons this is a "dark horse"; it shows how out-of-touch he is, this has been making the running for weeks. Is it too soon to go back to Russia?
Another break, during which Conchita does stuff in the green room, but Mel talks to Guy Sebastian.
DR have "The way you are", performed by Anti-Social Media. They're inspired by the Beatles, Scott reckons they're like early McFly, which is a very good thing. Slightly strobing black and white makes this a difficult watch, too much contrast change, but we're in favour of the song. Reminds us of "That thing you do!" from the late 90s, and the singer's from Bristol. There's a tradition of upbeat and clappy songs from DR, and this is almost a direct retread of "All night long" from 2008. Check: they don't want to host again in Denmark?
RTSH give "I'm alive", with Elhaida Dani singing. She's won Star Academy and The Voice Italy, and qualified by winning the Festivali i Këngës last December. Solo singer, so she's centre shot most of the time, with just enough wide shots of the arena to keep the director happy. It's a very competent performance of a mid-tempo number, perhaps lacking texture between the verse, chorus, pre-chorus, bridge; only the breakdown in the final seconds gets there. Should be enough for Albania.
TVR have "De la capăt", it's performed by Voltaj, another clear call for expatriate voting. It starts in Romanian and finishes in English. It's a song about the people left behind when their families go abroad to work. Compare with the other diaspora songs of tonight: it's a better song than MTV, and a better staging than AMPTV – here there are suitcases on the front of stage. We still think it's a bit of a weak song, but cutting to the singer's child after the performance is genius.
GPB send "Warrior", Nina Sublatti and the Wrong Sort of Shiny. She's going for the Jade West-slash-Raven from Teen Titans look: dark, gothic brooding, slightly scary, would come round and kick off at the slightest provocation. Re-viewing the start, we noticed Nina made great contact with the camera and made viewers wait to see what she's all about. It's this year's edition of Girl Power, and it's going to do well for Georgia.
Which brings us to the Active Voting Window; it'll open at 9.24 for 17 minutes. When they can cast ballots (voting in the UK is on Thursday), BBC viewers will be able to vote by 0898 number and by the EBU app. Only two years after the rest of the continent, the BBC has finally decided to allow app voting. The BBC continues to deny SMS voting exists, the country looks like a backwater rooted in the 1990s.
After the reprise, what are we going to see. The official interval act, a camera fixed to the front of My Lovely Horse? Or Mel Giedroyc interviewing people across the counter of a Great Viennesse Cake Shop? Also: a profile of Electro Velvet, and Scott Mills talking to Eurovision fans. Look, it's the marionnated puppet Terry Vision or a badly animatronic dog.
While they work out the result, Guy Sebastian reprises his interview, this time with Mirjam. Arabella talks to Lisa Angell (France2) and Edurne (TVE), with live translations from BBC3 language expert Mel Giedroyc, and not quite so live translations from the host.
You can't win the Eurovision Song Contest tonight, but you can lose it. The ten progressing, in "totally random" order (i.e. the best for a bit of suspense) are: RTSH Albania, AMPTV Armenia, C1R Russia, TVR Romania, MTV Hungary, NERIT Greece, ERR Estonia, GPB Georgia, RTS Serbia, and RTBF B*lgi*m.
So we lose TRM Moldova, AVROTROS The Netherlands, YLE Finland, MKRTV Macedonia, BTRC Belarus, and – here's the surprise – DR Denmark. Our guess (and it is only a guess) is that RTS got through by picking up fours and fives across the board, and by a sneeze from DR and TRM.
The show over-ran by about 90 seconds, they seemed to prolong the opening number needlessly, and took their time interviewing some of the direct qualifiers.
Semi-final 2: ORF for EBU, heard on RTE Radio 1, 21 May
A good day for Tony Iommi, writer of the AMPTV entry from 2013. He and his group Black Sabbath won the Outstanding Contribution Lifetime Achievement Thank Goodness You're Not All Dead Yet award at the prestigious Ivor Novello bash.
We need to mention the postcards. Packages in brown paper and string are sent from Austria to the performers. By the magic of television, the performers arrive in Austria, where they do Austrian things, and eventually appear on a billboard. Broadcasters call a shot before the postcard, showing the performers. And they call a shot after the performance, which Romania used to ram home their message.
Is it really five years since Shay and Zybszek began commentating for us and absolutely no-one else? It is. Fireworks, ready! Wind machine, ready!
There are a couple of sub-competitions tonight, and we begin with the Young People's Contest. The first three entrants are all under 20, and (like on Britain's Got Talent) have to go early so they don't miss their bedtime.
LRT kick off tonight, "This time" is performed by Monika Linkytè & Vaidas Baumila. She hits a dodgy note early on, he stabilised the performance. It's a colourful performance, the lyric of "round and round and round" is brought out by the backing symbol of rotating suns. Not quite buying the song being timid and unsure of their relationship: those two have 100 minutes in the green room to, er... do whatever young people do in Lithuania.
RTE have "Playing with numbers" with Molly Sterling. A young woman at the piano, backed with a 'cello, drums, bass, and two backing singers. It's a tricky song, wants to be Tori Amos without the kook, we found it to be forgettable. Hope it does well, it should be good for juries (but we understand the jury performance yesterday was poor), will the televote help Ireland?
SMRTV submitted "Chain of lights", performed by Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini. Ah, we see the master plan, and it is genius. After three years of Valentina, we're now going to get three years of Michele And The Peppermints. This year, only Anita Peppermint is old enough to take part in the senior contest. By 2017, the whole band will be able to join her. A shame they've got to use Ralph Siegel's Best Bits, and can't re-work "Breaking my heart" into a duet for San Marino.
RTCG, "Adio", Knez. We're out of the Junior Eurovision section, and into the Balkan Ballad section. Zejlko Joksimovic is a massive name in the Balkan Ballad world, and the broadcaster puts on a good show. The splashing around in the puddles is interpretive dancing, not international sign language (you'll have to dig around on the intertubes for that). A great entry, if you're into Balkan Ballads, from Montenegro.
PBS are in the "Warrior" competition, their entry is sung by Amber. She's dressed in dark clothes, but while Nina was physical action, Amber looks to be a more subtle warrior, using magic – swirling the floor like water, calling up flames like a phoenix. It's another slow number, more grow than show, so we might not come back to Malta.
While the rest of Europe takes an ad break, Conchita chats with some of the competitors. Then there's a piece of product placement by the sponsoring mobile telephone.
NRK sent "A monster like me", performed by Mørland and Debrah Scarlett. The first verse is taken by the Jamie Theakston look-a-like, the second by Merida. (Or Ginny Weasley, if you must.) It's dark, brooding, gothic, palpable tension as they walk around each other. There's a moment when they call "Just go!" when we'd like to have a massive zoom in from the back of the hall to see their tonsils, but ORF haven't provided suitable equipment. Could do a little better for Norway.
RTP have "Há um mar que nos separa", performed by Leonor Andrade. It gets the first Shiny Warning of the night. She owned the walk up to stage before the singing began, she's got a black cape flying behind her. Spare a thought for the jurors last night, who had to hear this twice due to a "technical problem". We're sure the song makes sense and tells a story in its native language, but most of us don't live in Portugal.
CT are back, with "Hope never dies", performed by Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta. She's from Die Happy?, the alt-metal band from the late 90s, and their song rocks. CT haven't graced the Eurovision stage since 2009, and haven't scored since 2008, but should do well with this. They start on the sides of the stage, and advance towards the middle, where some fans are waving flags to completely ruin the spectacle. Just as they finally deign to touch, Marta throws off her shoes, and like in The Hungry Games, things are getting serious. See you on Saturday, Czechia!
IBA give us "Golden boy", performed by Nadav Guedj. He's the champion of Rising Star, the hit* international format that we all remember from its successful run on ITV earlier this year. He's come with all-male backing dancers and singers, and a pair of golden shoes. Muffed notes in the opening verse and about three songs cut out and pasted together. Easy to see how Rising Star has done so well for Israel.
LTV submit "Love injected", Animata. A woman staying in place and belting did well for TVE last year, a very contemporary dance beat makes this a gently seductive number. We could have hit rewind to hear this again. A bit too esoteric for mass appeal, so we might not be heading to Latvia.
Ictimai send "Hour of the Wolf", performed by Elnur Hüseynov. It's the first in a short run of songs based on Exceedingly Popular Childrens' Fiction. Here: Elnur hunts down and tries to eliminate the humans in wolf's clothing. The staging begins with an eclipse, then we have he-wolf and she-wolf circling him, but he can stop them from meeting by simply holding out a hand. Can his dream self overcome the fears of nighttime? The contemporary dance performance continues, and we're loving it, until the eclipse ends, and we're wondering if it's too soon to go back to Azerbaijan.
RUV have "Unbroken", with María Ólafs. We can see her footsteps in the stage floor, and she sings "Let it go, let it go" while dressed like a stereotypical fairytale princess. The only problems: she's missing the notes, the audience for Frozen are tucked up in bed and should be sleeping soundly (glares at LRT's bedroom). And snowmen can't vote outside Iceland.
And. At this point, a commercial break. Mel Giedroyc goes to the ambassador's party with the BBC representatives; RTE has cars to sell. Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque has a broken vase, Cars of Ireland have cars.
SVT gave us "Heroes", performed by Måns Zelmerlöw. Though it's Wrong Sort of Shiny, it's got an interesting presentation: Mans makes a cartoon man, who animates on the projection screen behind him. There are butterfly wings, and the song has lots of hooks, and it's got to be going through, and winning tonight, and quite possibly on Saturday, just as they like in Sweden.
SSR SRG give "Time to share" from Mélanie René. Follow that? She tried, with a song that completely passed us by. Sorry, Switzerland.
CyBC have "One thing I should have done" from Giannis (John) Karagiannis. Hipster glasses, arty black-and-white start, bloke singing his heart out on stage. Technically proficient, and the question isn't whether we'll see it on Saturday but if they can afford to host the contest in Cyprus.
RTVSLO put over "Here for you" performed by Maraaya. With the wrong sort of shiny, we're not getting this. Could it be the sound; even on squeaky old long wave, this sounded wrong. She's here for us, but everyone's cutting themselves off from the outside world by wearing headphones. Is this some sort of parable about people isolating themselves needlessly? The violin player has not brought her instruments, neatly avoids the uncanny valley of miming that derailed on Tuesday. Usual good-but-not-ace quality from Slovenia.
TVP are "In the name of love", performer Monika Kuszyńska. She's singing from a wheelchair, the backdrop looks like a washing powder commercial. Later, the video screens show Monika walking before the accident that paralysed her. To be brutal, this is an above-average slow number relying on personal tragedy as its gimmick, and we're calling 2 Up 2 Down for Poland.
And so we're to the Active Voting Window, it ran from 21.25 to 21.40.
Viewers in Ireland! 60 cent for SMS votes and the app, "slightly more" for phones. Call 1513 7172 xx, or text the xx to 53125.
Viewers in the UK! Pay 16p from a mobile or BT line (other networks may vary). Call 09015 2252 xx from a landline, or 62252 xx from a mobile. App voting is 15p, but the BBC remains unconvinced that SMS voting works.
"And now, a filler piece about Australia". After the recap, during the Active Voting Window, the BBC cuts to Mel and Scott touring the city; he has the guidebook, she has cake. RTE advertises Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.
Now, rather than showing us the interval act, what are they going to witter on about this time? Actually, they are going to show the interval act: a compilation of voting failures from the past 58 years. Then an interview with Electro Velvet, who give a brief performance on a miniature guitar. But rather than talk to Il Volo (might actually win) the BBC prefer to talk with Warrior Number One and the BBC's retained commentator Paul Jordan, "Doctor Eurovision".
With a little less faffing about at the start, we can give the winners with a little more fuss. Going through: LRT Lithuania, TVP Poland, RTVSLO Slovenia, SVT Sweden, NRK Norway, RTCG Montenegro, CyBC Cyprus, Ictimai Azerbaijan, LTV Latvia, and IBA Israel.
"No reflection on Molly, she did a fantastic job," says Shay Byrne. Don't agree; she lost it with a poor performance last night, when 52% of the votes were awarded. Agents are also booking planes to Malta, Portugal, Iceland; and coaches to San Marino, Switzerland, and (shame!) Czechia.
Beware: the opening is gratuitously delayed. Transmission begins at 8, but it'll be around 8.20 before the first performance begins. We wonder if Radio 2 Eurovision will fall off air (at midnight) before its aftershow can begin.
Performance order, as billed on screen:
01 Slovenia* / France / Israel / Estonia
05 United Kingdom / Armenia / Lithuania / Serbia*
09 Norway / Sweden* / Cyprus / Australia
13 Belgium* / Austria / Greece / Montenegro
17 Germany / Poland / Latvia / Romania
21 Spain* / Hungary / Georgia* / Azerbaijan
25 Russia / Albania / Italy
Shiny warnings for nations marked with a *; we're going on arena reports for the direct qualifiers.
Note that there's a huge run of slow numbers between Austria and Spain, it's a very flat third quarter with only Latvia to entertain. The producers have themselves to blame, they could have had a random draw but chose to manipulate the running order. All the duets crowd into the first nine entries, most of the serious male solo entries follow, with the solo women late in the second half.
Slightly more than half the points were allocated in last night's jury final. From what we hear, Israel and Serbia delivered poor performances, and Italy might have made things more difficult for themselves.
This column's view on the BBC entry: reasonable song, great singing, but from what we hear it's going to be ruined by incompetent staging. In one of the rehearsals, there were neon arrows to point out Bianca's elbow. Compare the slick story told by ERR Estonia with the mess from the BBC.
Voting begins with Montenegro and Malta, both reliable panels for RAI Italy. There's a long run of eastern bloc countries, presumably to advance C1R Russia; SVT Sweden's allies are scattered through the order but the last votes come from Norway.
This Week and Next
Pat Sharp is to re-run the fun. Fun House is returning — but not to television, it's a publicity stunt with a chain of pubs. Move along, nothing to see here.
BARB ratings in the week to 10 May.
- Britain's Got Talent remains the most popular show, down to 9.05m viewers.
- Have I Got Election News for You led on BBC1 with 5.4m. Pointless had a good week – 4.6m on bank holiday Monday, 3.95m for Celebrities, and 2.8m followed it to BBC2 on Friday.
- Ninja Warrior continued with 3.7m viewers, Play to the Whistle had 2.4m.
- Eggheads had an interesting week: 1.4m on Friday after Pointless, 1.2m on Monday at 6.30, 1.1m in between.
- Celebrity Juice topped the multi-channel charts, beating Britain's Got More Talent by 1.2m to 1.1m. Young Dancer had 460,000 on BBC4.
- Bonus note! BBC News Channel averaged 505,000 for its Election Night programme. For two hours filmed from the front of a canal barge, BBC4 averaged 515,000. Expect a series.
The Eurovision Song Contest (BBC1, Radio 2, BBC Red Button, RTE1, RTE Radio 1, Sat) generates a celebrity special edition of Who Dares Wins. Live semi-finals on Britain's Got Talent (ITV and TV3, weeknights), with the final on Sunday 31 May. There's cookery in The Box (BBC1, weekdays), and a new run of America's Next Top Model (UK Living, Thursday).
Photo credits: ÖRF / EBU, BBC.
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