Weaver's Week 2018-12-02

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Junior Eurovision Song Contest

BRTC for EBU, shown on S4C and Fun Kids, 25 November

Junior Eurovision Song Contest From the Twenty Minutes in the Future Zone...

"Virtual reality" was the theme of the postcards, and the opening number. While the audience waggled their silver plates, and dancers on stage promoted the local silver foil industry, this year's contestants walked through as though it was just another day at the office.

Helena, Zena, and Eugen hosted the programme: one to cover the green room, one to be suitably funny, and one to handle the difficult voting bits towards the end. All three filled their roles well.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest It's our hosts, Helena, Zena, Eugen.

Indeed, this show had a tremendous pace throughout: the introduction was to-the-point, the 20 songs were presented in two blocks of ten, the interval was just long enough without threatening to be tedious, and the voting worked quickly because all of the jury spokespeople were in the hall. You know how you could have watched Harry Hill's Alien Fun Capsule during the interval in May and still not missed a thing? Doesn't apply at Junior Eurovision, there's barely time for the Alien Fun Capsule outtakes reel.

The Minsk Arena was huge, 15,000 seats and full to the brim. The crowd contributed a tremendous energy, cheering for all they were worth. It'll be interesting to see how much atmosphere there is in the smaller arena they propose to use in Tel Aviv.

— "And the last shall be first"

— "Great news for Wales"

Let's get this out of the way. "Perta" came stone last, Manw finished twentieth out of twenty. And we can just about understand why.

What S4C got right: they found the right singer for the song. Manw strode the stage like a dragon in her home lair. She hit the right notes, she found the camera every time and looked awesome. The four backing dancers – forest nymphs, we think – hit their marks, and the cartwheels were a particular highlight. One of the dancers over from Wales fell ill, and had to be replaced by a stand-in they'd used in rehearsals; such was the stand-in's professionalism that no-one noticed the change.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest A conflabulation of arms and legs.

Part of the problem was the song. "Perta" is a china doll of a song. It's pretty and it's innocent and it just sits there looking lovely on the shelf. And you're scared to play with it because it's so fragile that it might break. Now, there's nothing wrong with pretty and fragile songs – just ask Salvador Sobral – but they've got to have a call to action.

For this column, "Perta" lacked that call to action. The juries didn't see anything compelling – there's no great vocal range, no dynamic technique. The staging is not memorable, and there's no reason for viewers at home to click on and vote for this song.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest The memorable moment: the cartwheels.

Make no mistake, this was a magnificent performance. Just by turning up to the contest, it's the best-performing entry from the "United Kingdom" since Manw was in nappies. Most of the joy in Eurovision contests – and Junior Eurovision in particular – comes from the friendships, the bonds formed across cultures. For one evening every May, half the world is watching the same television programme. For one week in November, there's a hothouse of excellence, and Manw was amongst them.

For S4C, there's a further achievement – they've promoted the distinctive Welsh culture and language on an international stage. At a conservative estimate, we reckon that 95% of last week's viewers didn't know about Wales, or that Welsh existed as a separate language. Just from those three minutes on stage, S4C has done its bit to promote its values. Somewhere in Europe, there is a child who will be inspired to go and think, "Actually, that Welsh sounds interesting", and in five years time will turn up at Lampeter University.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Manw was brilliant.

Ultimately, we think the problem boils down to this: S4C chose a song, then found a singer and a style to fit it. This limits the performance, it's always going to be someone else's words, someone else's emotions. "Perta" was a pretty song, performed well, but it never had that oomph, that authenticity. None of the final three in Llandudno made the song their own. A song that can be twisted into different styles will always be suspect, it never knows its proper form. We hope that other broadcasters will learn from this experience, and not replicate it next year.

We completely understand why S4C made this artistic decision. There isn't a huge population of Welsh-language songwriters, and even fewer who are accustomed to write for young voices. We can imagine that a brand new teenage rock band screamoing in Welsh would be at the top of their genre just by existing. The annual song contest Can i Gymru shows where the Cymraeg songwriters excel, and it's a long way from where Junior Eurovision is at. S4C's job is to bridge these two streams, and it's proven harder than anyone expected.

S4C chose to concentrate its efforts this year, find an excellent performer and singer. Manw was an excellent performer and singer. This year's low placing tells us that the song wasn't right for Junior Eurovision. We cannot draw any more conclusions than that.

We hope and expect that S4C will learn from their many successes, and do what they can to address the songwriting gap. If we may make a modest suggestion, it's to involve the singer somewhere in the composition of the song, so it becomes their song. That would make the song more honest, more authentic. But you can win from other people's cast-offs...

Dum. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Roksana Wegiel sings and scores.

"Anyone I wanna be" said Roksana Wegiel: first place was where, This song hit all the marks – a contemporary song, with a massive hook in the chorus. Memorable presentation, the first verse is performed in black-and-white video, with fast cuts, deliberately missed focus, before it all snaps into place for the chorus.. The dancers never stopped moving through the three minutes, Roksana cut through them like a hot knife moving through superheated cocoa.

And just when the song was becoming a bit predictable, there was the puppet strings moment. The dancers pulled ribbons out from the back of Roksana's dress, made to move her like she was a marionette. Then the ribbons detached, and she was free. Even to the viewer who speaks no Polish, this was a clear explanation of the song's message.

Why did this song win? It's a stunningly good song, polished and buffed through the adult pop market. Sia turned it down. Rita Ora turned it down. Their loss: Roksana is going to perform it to around 200 million people on one night next May.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Who's pulling the strings?

The juries liked it, the internet voters loved it. Junior Eurovision has a strange online voting system, where you can vote for 3, 4, or 5 entries. They don't allow one vote, because that would be for your own entry. They don't allow two votes, because that would be for your own entry and the big country next door. Three votes is yourself, your cultural favourites, and a song that surprised you.

All of the online votes – from everyone – are put into one big pot, and points are divided according to how many votes your song got. Very roughly, 1 point in the contest came from 0.1% of the internet vote, or 1000 actual votes.

This system mitigates against diaspora voting – the emigrés from "Poland" are up against the diaspora for "Armenia" and those who pledge allegiance to "Russia", and others. The voice of the genuine fan will be heard, and heard with equal weight to those who vote for a particular flag.

It's true that there are a lot of people whose passports say "Poland", and would like to vote for their land. It's also true that a lot of viewers will have seen the song, liked what they saw, and been able to vote for it.

The EBU's voting system worked perfectly this year, after last year's failures. We were able to cast a ballot early in the Active Voting Window without any problems. And the truth of the vote was revealed in the first announcement – last in the online popularity contest was "Serbia". The label "Russia" only got 6% of the votes. The perceived bloc voting at Senior Eurovision can be stopped, all it takes is enough servers not to crash during the Active Voting Window.

New and Nearly New

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Bat-signalling for national pride.

"Ozine Sen" by Daneliya Tuleshova was the other entry from a debutant, Khabar Agency ("Kazakhstan"). The staging was subtle, they used the video walls to bring out the eagle and swirly bits from their national flag. She's bathed in a golden light to look like a winner – remember how this worked for "Only teardrops"? If we forget the staging and just consider the song, we have a single young girl in a white dress, standing stock still, and singing really well. Every note is hit, and the brief transition into English adds a lot to the song.

Two broadcasters returned after long absences. "Children like these", performed by Noam Dadon, represented KAN ("Israel"), their first entry since being formed from the ashes of the IBA. KAN will be staging next May's senior contest, and – like RTP last year – want to get as much experience of Eurovision contests as possible. This song was a gentle and timeless number, it owed a lot to the traditional klezmer sound, and could have come in at any time in the past years. Where's the call to action? Why should we vote for this? Scarcely anyone did.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest More bat-signalling for national pride.

"Jamais sans toi" from Angelina represented France Televisions ("France"), their first entry since 2004. Just like the "Kazakhstan" entry, this played to national symbols, a medium-sized bench to sit upon, a medium-sized lamppost to lean upon, a medium-sized ice-cream stall to serve refreshments, a large pink-and-white swirl nicked from Tout le Monde Veut Prendre sa Place. The song was a joyful concoction, a proper bop for everyone's entertainment. Possibly a little too young for the target audience, but bright enough and popular enough to finish second overall.

Battle of the Anglophones

The leading English language entry was "Champion", performed by Jael. It's the second entry from ABC Kids (flying under the banner of "Australia"), and covers suspiciously similar ground to last year's entry "Speak up!". Jael found the camera, connecting by pointing her body at the red light, she lifted her arms. But she was alone on stage, didn't move from her little podium, and didn't look like a winner. Nevertheless, this went down really well with the juries (60% music industry professionals, 40% children) and they made it the Saturday King of the Bungalow. Internet voters didn't agree, and the song finished third overall.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Lots of dancers, the singer is miles away.

"Marchin' on" by Ela finished second amongst the juries, lowly amongst the televoters. This was performed immediately after "Perta", and the two songs provided a stark contrast. Ela had grit in her song, the dancers made angular shapes, and had a harsh colour scheme – yellow X on black t-shirt, while Ela wore red. A strong jury note near the end earned reward. But there were strange staging decisions – Ela stood behind a wooden piano for quite some time, and ceded the spotlight to the dancers. PBS ("Malta") chose to put pictures of refugees on the video wall, flying close to the "no political messages" rule.

Battle of the Lovesongs

A small Battle of the Lovesongs was lost by "Samen" for Max and Anne. There was a lot to watch on the screen: the performers emoting their voices out – and hitting every note. On the video backdrop, more footage of our duo looking longingly into each other's eyes. And on the satellite stage, two older dancers interpreting the lyric through music. Age-appropriate, perhaps a little too sickly and unsubtle for its own good. AVROTROS ("The Netherlands") have won before, they'll win again.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest The visuals were confused and messy.

"What is love" won the Battle, as sung by Melissa and Marco. This entry told the familiar tale of a boy in a sharp suit, who sits on swing underneath a full moon, and sings his half of a sloppy love song. On the other side of the stage, a girl wearing a fluffy dress sings her half of the duet. Then they get together for the stirring second verse, during which a fairytale castle appears on the backdrop behind them. The finale sees them return to the swing, where the girl sits down.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest The visuals were clear and classy.

Why did RAI ("Italy") win this head-to-head? They told a story with a beginning (Marco's alone, Melissa's literally on the other side of the stage), a middle (they're twirling around in front of a fairytale castle) and an end (going back to the swing, only now Marco's not alone). The backdrop helps to bring out the song, but doesn't overpower it. And we don't have to think "well, should we be watching the singers, or should we be watching the dancers, or the backdrop?" The televote was even, the juries broke decisively towards "What is love". It's a simple song, too syrupy to hit the very top, but clearly the better lovesong.

These we loved

The EBU allowed two sets of internet votes from each viewer – one from the Friday rehearsals, and one during the Sunday final. This column used both votes; from rehearsals, we chose "Kazakhstan", "Netherlands", "Georgia", and "FYR Macedonia". In retrospect, we regret the vote for AVROTROS. On Sunday, we clicked on the buttons "Russia", "Azerbaijan", "France", "Wales", and a second click for "FYR Macedonia".

Let's explain the last one first. "Doma (home)" was performed by Marija Spasovska. We're pushovers for a really good Balkan ballad, and this was a really good Balkan ballad. Marija starts curled up on the floor, wearing a long black cloak like she's auditioning for Goth of the Year.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Blub.

Then she reaches up the stars, offers a hand of hope towards the light. On the walk from the satellite stage to the main stage, the cloak disappears to reveal a white puffball dress. Snow falls on the video screens, and we eventually see a bridge – two adults and a child stand waiting. The ending gets us every time, Marija kneels down and holds a light-up snowflake, the light turns from silver to gold, and we see a single word on the screen – "home". MKRTV left us in a puddle on the floor.

"Unbreakable" was performed by Anna Filipchuk, and a full junior house band. The song conveyed its message from the first thing we saw: while the other five bandmembers were dressed in identical red sweaters and jeans, Anna wore double denim with red trim and red boots. She looked different, and that emphasised the message of the song: how diversity and inclusion are important, how the bonds of humanity will not be broken. For the final chorus, the black video screens burst into life and show hundreds of children on coloured backgrounds. RTR ("Russia") won this contest last year, and perhaps didn't want to win again.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Very clear visuals show who is in charge here.

"I wanna be like you" from Fidan Huseynova was the other ecological message song, and the presentation intrigued us on Sunday. A young and vulnerable girl sits on a light-up box, singing and emoting with her arms. As the dry ice clears, we see the floor shows the Earth. Then our singer is joined by four other nymphs, and the whole song continued in a very pretty manner. If we're being picky, this entry had shown us everything after two minutes, the rest was reinforcement of the established message. Íctimai ("Azerbaijan"), there.

"Your voice" was an achingly up-to-the-minute song, performed by Tamar Edilashvili. We have massive respect for anyone who can sing while lying down on the stage, and she didn't miss a note throughout. The staging was mean and moody, a backdrop of city streets at night, and the stage made to look like a road. And the song was that passive-agressive dance sound so popular a few months back, coupled with the minor-key vocal magic we expect from GPB ("Georgia"). If this had come through from RTBF at the Senior Eurovision Song Contest, we'd back it to go top five. Here, it's literally too cool for school – third in the juries, an also-ran on the televote.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest We will slip this onto playlists. Be very ware.

Battle of the Rest

First up was "Say love", performed by Darina Krasnovetska. It's a strident peace anthem, a solitary girl in tattered dress, against an aggressive red backdrop, shouting her message through a megaphone. The song's message was reinforced by captions on the video screen in Latin and Cyrillic script. That delivered for NTU ("Ukraine").

Junior Eurovision Song Contest It's all very retro.

"Gosto de tudo (ja nao gosto da nada)" from Rita Laranjeíra was perhaps too high-concept for this contest. It's a song about social media, and all of the message was on screen – we saw Rita rewind time a bit, and filters appear on her smart phone. But if that doesn't make sense, all we've got is a girl in a pretty dress singing an uptempo disco number – and perhaps not singing it terribly well, she got quite breathy towards the end. Not a winner for RTP ("Portugal").

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Yr fave Spamchops filtr?

We have little love for "Barbie", Efi Gjika's song. Junior Eurovision tries to target the 13-16 age bracket, and the lyric of "Barbie" fits into the themes of empowerment and independence that are crucial at that age. The presentation was badly off-kilter, a young-looking girl, dressed in a bright pink minidress, and dancing in front of a cartoon figure. It's appropriate for Efi's age, but looked painfully juvenile after the sophistication of Rita's insta-filters. Such was the entry from RTSH ("Albania").

Junior Eurovision Song Contest It's a bit pink.

"Time" performed by Daniel Yastremski answered one question that's been bugging us for a few years. Remember Stick Boy from the "Heroes" presentation? Where does he live? What does he do all day? Daniel took us into the Stick World, all bright computer graphics and a CGI basketball court. It's a wonderful presentation, but "Heroes" only won because we could remember the song, and hum along to it even before it had finished. "Time" didn't stick in the memory, ensuring disappointment for hosts BTRC ("Belarus").

Junior Eurovision Song Contest The heroes de nos jours.

"IOU" was done by Taylor Hynes, and it was bright. Gaudy. Vivid. Psychedelic colours and a jaunty song expressed Taylor's respect for his parents, and the debt he feels to older generations. The song's structured in a very Western model, major keys and an upwards movement in the title phrase; Junior Eurovision is still mostly an Eastern European contest, where music sounds different. Wonderful while it lasted, but we'd forgotten about the TG4 ("Ireland") entry by the ad break four minutes later.

"Svet" was performed by Bojana Radovanovic. Bojana wears one of those bizarre fascinators on her head, and performs in front of a fairytale castle. It felt like the sort of song they'd ask an honoured guest to sing at a wedding, all warm and inclusive – at one point, she blows glitter to the camera. Warms and fuzzies, and we reckoned a surefire jury hit for RTS ("Serbia"). We were wrong – just 2 from the jury, and bottom of the televote.

"Levon" from Levon got lost in the shuffle towards the end. Green suit and trumpet and gold on the backdrop left us feeling a little queasy. On the night, we put this down to the wow-factor of "Doma" and nervous excitement for Manw; re-viewing late in the week confirmed it's the performance. The entry from AMPTV ("Armenia") was contemporary, but not the sort of song we'd choose to hear.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest A muted trumpet in a song that looked loud.

Presentation matters

A quick word on the voting spread: tiny. The bottom televote songs scored 28 and 29 points, the winner 136. A score of 53 – plus or minus 25 – covered all but three entries.

The jury marks were much more varied, two songs failed to trouble the scoreboard, the winner had 148 marks. A mark of 80 – plus or minus 25 – covered half of the entries, excluding seven clear losers and three favourites.

Our takeaway is that it was a flat year: the juries liked some songs, the public had different tastes, and the final adding up showed the public had the casting vote. Last year, it was the other way round, the jury vote proved decisive.

Radio Six's English-language commentary had technical problems, connection wasn't established for the first few minutes, and intermittently dropped out during the contest. This didn't particularly hurt the show, the only thing we missed was an interview with Jon Ola Sand.

The common song was omitted from S4C's coverage, they'd rather show commercial breaks. They also inserted a break after the Paris park bench scene, which meant the abrupt transition to Balkan ballad was blunted, and they were running about 4 minutes behind the live show. On the upside, S4C showed Polina Bogusevich's solo performance of "Wings", as excellent as we hoped.

Two regrets. One is that the organisers took #LightUp too seriously, and made a show full of flashing and strobing lights. "Perta" and "Wings" are about the only performances with the right sort of shiny.

The other regret: the show over-ran a little, and S4C cut off before the winner's reprise began. In fairness, they were showing live rugby, and that's a top ratings banker in a way Junior Eurovision isn't. And the winner's reprise – featuring all the contestants in a show of togetherness – is always messy television, and this year was total disorder.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest A massive huddle for Roksana and her crew.

It all ends in a massive group hug, a celebration that we're all in this together. Mae sylfaen yfory'n ein dwylo. We can be anyone we wanna be.

Countdown Update

Remember back at the start of this series, when we were worried they wouldn't find a single octochamp all series? Forget all that, they've found a full Finals Week of octochamps.

Chris Sturdy didn't quite make it, he lost a superb match to Alan Duval, and Alan would hit his eight wins before retiring. A total of 674 points is low, but we saw his expertise on the conundrum at the end of each show.

Paul Copeland won a couple of matches, before running into Andrew Jackson. Eight wins, three century scores, and a very solid performance. He's currently third seed, with a close semi-final against Mike Daysley likely.

There's just enough room for a ninth octochamp – Friday's winner Julie Gray or Monday's opponent – before Finals Week begins on 13 December. We'll look back on those games – and the first in the Championship of Champions – at the start of next year.

This Week and Next

Democracy season is upon us! The BAFTA Children's awards were handed out last Sunday evening. Channel of the Year was Cbeebies, pirate cheers all round. Justin Fletcher won the Presenter award, Paddington 2 the feature film, and Joe All Alone the drama. Entertainment was dominated by game shows, and it was a great night for Prosiect Z, a BAFTA winner.

Prosiect Z

RTS Craft and Design awards had their ceremony on Monday. Best trails award went to the BBC's snowglobes for Mark Pougatch's The World Cup, and there was a multi-camera award for the wonderful pictures of May's wedding in Windsor. Two game show winners: Nikki Parsons (multicamera director on Strictly Come Dancing), and Peter Bingemann (production design on ITV's Got Talent).

Nous regrettons que TV5 Monde ait quitté le guide du programme KYTV, et qu'elle quitte The Cable Corp au début de la nouvelle année. La chaine diffuse des séries comme Questions Pour un Champion et Fort Boyard. Cela semble être un résultat indirect de l'attitude xénophobe à l'heure actuelle à Whitehall, et le refus continu du «gouvernement» de reconnaître une humanité commune à travers l'Europe et le monde.

We regret that TV5 Monde has left the KYTV programme guide, and will leave The Cable Corp early in the new year. The chain shows series including Questions Pour un Champion and Fort Boyard. This appears to be an indirect result of the xenophobic attitude about in Whitehall at the moment, and "the government"'s continued refusal to recognise a common humanity across Europe and the world.

BARB ratings in the week to 18 November.

  1. Television has a new number one. I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! started with a bang (ITV, Sun, 14.15m). It's the biggest audience since they cancelled Mark Pougatch's The World Cup.
  2. Strictly Come Dancing drops to number two (BBC1, Sat, 11.65m). The X Factor retains third place (ITV, Sun, 5.4m); as tired as X Factor is, ITV couldn't get that many eyeballs every weekend for three months with any other show.
  3. Above four million this week are Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat, 4.6m), and The Chase Celebrity (ITV, Sun, 4.4m) and Civilian (ITV, Tue, 4.05m).
  4. Masterchef The Professionals leads on BBC2 (Thu, 3.3m), beating Celebrity Hunted (C4, Tue, 2.85m). Quizzy Mondays still resolves with Only Connect ahead of University Challenge (2.47m to 2.44m).
  5. A Children in Need special of Mastermind did well (Fri, 2.75m). The original did not (Fri, 900,000) and is behind House of Games (Thu, 1.15m).
  6. Top digital shows: I'm a Celebrity Extra Camp (ITV2, Sun, 1.18m), and More4's Sunday repeats of Four in a Bed (340,000) and Come Dine with Me (290,000). Next big commissions are Landscape Artist of the Year (Artsworld, Tue, 260,000) and Your Face or Mine (Comedy Central, Wed, 210,000). The BAFTA-winning Prosiect Z (S4C, Tue) got 10,000 discerning viewers.

The finals of The X Factor (ITV and TV3, Sat and Sun), of Lego Masters (C4, Tue), and Landscape Artist of the Year (Artsworld, Tue).

Photo credits: BRTC / EBU, Boom Plant

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