Weaver's Week 2022-12-18

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"It felt so surreal! None of us could believe it!"


Junior Eurovision Song Contest

AMPTV / EBU, 11 December 2022

Junior Eurovision Song Contest

"Space man" in May, up in first place amongst the juries.

"Lose my head" in December, up in first place amongst the televoters.

We conclude that the BBC is doing very very well.

But Freya Skye didn't claim overall victory for the debutant broadcaster. That went to old hands France Télévisions, and "Oh maman!" performed by Lissandro.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Je suis en haut: première place, man.

The key to victory proved to be Lissandro's performance. The song, written by JESC regular Barbara Pravi with Frédéric Chateau, is about living your dreams – in this case, rocking out your Elvis impression on stage in front of watching millions. Good song, made great by the spellbinding way he sung, he emoted. Lissandro acted like the consummate professional on stage.

Showmanship and charisma, and that high note at the end, that's what won it. The press conferences tell us Lissandro is a very funny guy, both in French and other languages. He was able to work with the songwriters and make a song to fit him like a glove. In a contest of small margins, this proved to be the winning advantage.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Lissandro performs.

Our hosts came second, "Dance!" was performed by Nare (representing AMPTV, "Armenia" on screen). The lyric tells us how stars fall from the night sky, and inspire Nare to lift herself above the clouds through the medium of dance. It's the one where the backing dancers wear discoballs on their head, quite the fashion statement. While the song is a bit familiar, it is performed really well, and the juries rightly gave strong marks throughout.

Third place went to "I believe", representing GBP ("Georgia"). Mariam Bigvava was the performer, and it's another striking performance from the Junior Eurovision powerhouses. The staging was chock-full of symbolism, headpieces in a traditional design and excellent choreography helped to amplify the song's intensity. "Slightly unsettling" is not an emotion we usually associate with JESC, this performance secured something from every jury.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Instantly identifiable as Georgia.†

The broadcast opened with the common song, "Spin the magic" – it's very much in the tradition of JESC openers, easy to pick up, staged with verve and gusto, and not so good as to overshadow the competition songs coming up.

Junior Eurovision itself had opened with a public appearance in Republic Square the prior Monday evening, all of the contestants went down a red carpet, they turned on the Christmas lights, and a draw for first and last and host's position. Tens of thousands of people were in the square, hard evidence that the people of Yerevan have taken Junior Eurovision to their hearts.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest The group song put performers on platforms.†

O solas mio

Fourth place went to "Solas", performed by Sophie Lennon for TG4. It's a spectacular result for the micro-broadcaster.

TG4 is a tiny company. It does for the Irish language what S4C does for the Welsh language: brings a culture to a linguistic minority, and invests in the industry of a marginalised group. The channel gets about 2% of the available viewers, and has specialised in music, documentaries, and sports coverage.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Sophie Lennon does TG4 proud.

TG4's budget for the whole year is about €26 million. The budget for this year's Junior Eurovision contest was about €11 million.

TG4 might not have a big budget, but it has a very large imagination. It didn't matter that nobody understood what the lyric said, it mattered that we connected with "Solas", a song about light and hope. The presentation reminded us of "Banshee", TG4's entry here three years ago. The content reminds us of "Lumen", the seriously under-rated interval act from the 1995 senior contest.

Whatever the memories, this song stirred emotions. It resonated! People approved of it, they were motivated to pick up their device and vote for it! More of that! It's a massive shot in the arm for TG4, they'll rightly be chuffed by this excellent result.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest More sunlight than certain RTÉ entries.

And it raises a question: could RTÉ send "Solas" to Liverpool in May? Should RTÉ send "Solas"? OK, that's two questions. "Could" is simple: the song was published after 1 September, is less than three minutes, and would surely meet the definition of "song" for the Reference Group.

"Should" is another can of worms. The broadcaster at Junior Eurovision is Irish-language TG4, financially and legally distinct from polyglot broadcaster RTÉ. Would RTÉ accept a song commissioned and published by someone else? Have they already set wheels in motion for the 2023 entry? Would the Eurovision board accept a Junior song, or would that be taking the michael?

There's a more general point. For whatever reason, RTÉ has been very very reluctant to send Irish-language entries: from this side of the sea, we might suggest that they've a policy to avoid Irish. It is certain that RTÉ's English-language entries have done tremendously badly of late. If the BBC understands the brief for Junior Eurovision, RTÉ no longer understands the task on Senior Eurovision and is marked down.

Statistical and academic research suggests that ethnic entries tend to be marked up, in part because they stand out from the mush of anglophone pop. If there's another flat failure in Liverpool, RTÉ would not be faulted for a complete reset. Sending a song in the national language of Irish would be a very clear reset.

The Skye Vote Song

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Freya Skye with the televote winner.

In a universe not too far from our own, the BBC did the double this year. It's a universe where the invasion of Ukraine never happened, it's a universe where Freya Skye was not struck by a nasty cold / cough / throat infection and could perform "Lose my head" as she would have wanted it.

Luck was not on Freya's side, she missed the whole second rehearsal, some of the lead vocal was transformed into a backing vocal. We fear that the performance was compromised, not quite what they'd wanted to show us. For our money, the revised version worked brilliantly, a call-and-response between Freya and her little posse allows the rest of us to feel more involved.

The choreography was on point, the vocals were absolutely fine for the arrangement. But they weren't as good as ideal, and the juries will have trimmed their points a little. In a contest of fine margins, we can understand why they did so.

And we can understand why the voting public liked this more than any other song. As we've said all along, Freya is savvy and sassy and acts like the big sister all of the viewers want (or wanted) to have. She's on your side, she's got your back. Viewers like that sort of thing, and reward it.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest It's a game of large chairs.

Fifth place is a tiny disappointment, better luck would have given a medal position. But let's look on the upside: this is a tremendous first attempt. If you had said to us at the start of the year, "BBC to get fifth in Junior Eurovision", we'd have called 'Deal!' faster than light.

Six, seven, and eight

The other top-half performances. Sixth place for "Señorita" (Carlos Higes for TVE "Spain"), a wonderful video backdrop, but far too many shouts of "C'mon Europe" to be enjoyable, and this column fears the lyric may not be entirely age-appropriate. In seventh, "La festa" (Luna for AVROTROS "Netherlands"), drew first, got the party started, easily overshadowed the common song.

In eighth, "Anos 70" (Nicolas Alves for RTP "Portugal") The token rock number stood out like a redhead in a crowd, and Nicolas committed to the stylings and sounds of his grandparents' generation. We could have heard a lot more of this, and it got one of this column's votes after the show. (We also went for "Solas" and – on a literal coin flip – "Svet bez granica". From rehearsals, we'd voted for the ones we most wanted to see in full – "La festa", "Lose my head", and "Dance!")

The rest of the show

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Iveta Mukuchyan with a small fraction of the crowd.†

The crowd was loud, and present, and happy. They cheered everyone to the rafters, including the interval acts. Maléna performed her new single "Can't feel anything", which we don't expect to hear again. Rosa Linn gave a version of "Snap", we will have much more to say about her when we cheer for our heroes of the year next time.

And there was a parade of as many former winners as they could get. We got the nonsense "Bzzzz" on BBC1! Dr. Ralf Mackenbach, the leading plasma physicist, sung his winner! Finally, finally, we get to hear "Not my soul" on network telly, shamefully omitted from the 2016 Senior final.

The hosts were Iveta (performed at Senior a few years back), Garik (competent and solid), and Karina (from JESC 2019). They were also joined by Robin The Robot, a traffic cone with eyes, and billed as the first non-human host of the show. In terms of entertainment, he's twee and has left Hacker T. Dog something to tilt at.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest The hosts' entry sported the latest fashion: mirrorball head coverings.†

Technically, we spotted a couple of flubs in the show – a strange pause just before the opening song, and the director got lost around the voting script. Still very very good. So was the BBC's commentary: Lauren Layfield and Hrvy were upbeat, positive, insulted nobody, and still got across the songs they particularly loved. An excellent piece of work.

Precautions against the lurgy seem to have been dropped – all the performers joined the winner on stage for the reprise, we've not seen that happen since 2019. Did they not do backup tapes this year? For all that Freya's performance on Children in Need last month was a work in progress, it may have been preferable to the revised version we saw on Sunday. Worse luck for Katarina Savić, as illness completely prevented her from performing on Sunday – they used a rehearsal version of "Svet bez granica" (for RTS "Serbia") and that may have hindered her.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Katarina Savic performed "Svet bez granica", and earned all of the doots.

The televote was flat. This is by design, where there isn't a runaway winner (like, this year), nobody takes advantage. From "Lose my head" in first to "Solas" in eighth place was just 18 points, one-and-a-half juries. The juries need to ratify a runaway televote winner ("Anyone I want to be" won in 2018, Fource's "Love me" didn't in 2017), the televoters can veto a runaway jury winner ("Voice of the heart" was noped in 2017).

But the televote wasn't expected to be flat. According to the Eurovision cognoscenti, "Nezlamna" was meant to run away with the public points. The fan expectation was that they'd get at least 100 points, one vote from every three forms submitted. The fan expectation was that people would vote for their home entry, their favourite entry, and the entry labelled "Ukraine". It's what happened in May, it must be what happens in December, right?

Wrong. 64 points, 7th place, approximately one vote from every five forms submitted. It's about what "Nezlamna" deserved. The performance reminded this column of Ravel's "Bolero", heightened emotion designed to scrunch up your programme and leave it a sopping ball of pulp. Zlata Dziunka sung UA:PBC's entry perfectly, we couldn't ask for more from her. It was a great song on a night of superlatives.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest Zlata Dziunka with all of the emotion in the world.

(A quick throwback to Senior: it's not impossible that "Stefania" only took about 1/15th of the total continent-wide vote. Because the Senior televote is disaggregated, and split across 25 entries, 8% could well be enough to top the poll in many reporting areas.)

This column's fourth choice of a televote – loser of the coin-toss – was "To the moon" (Laura for TVP "Poland"). It reminded us of the space pop that brought us to Yerevan, though the video effects annoyed us and might have cost our vote. TVP had been fancied to do well on the televote, but finished 9 points behind "Solas" in mid-table. At one time, TVP was the only broadcaster to show Junior Eurovision on their main channel – now TVE, France Télévisions, RAI, and the BBC all do it. Might that explain why the televote is so flat – everyone's voting for their own entry? Do they need to allow four votes again?

Another dropped favourite was "Jer-Ana (Mother Earth)" (David Charlin for Khabar Agency, "Kazakhstan"). Bottom of the jury vote, second-bottom overall. It's not the result we expected, the Kazakh broadcaster sent their usual highly-polished song with lavish staging, but it completely failed to connect with the audience. Too much presentation, not enough emotion.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest One for the ITV commissioners.

RAI ("Italy") got the emotion, "Bla bla bla" was sung by Chanel Dilecta and a bunch of cartoons, both on the backdrop and the stage. It's where Junior Eurovision was when ITV left in 2005, it's not really where Junior Eurovision is any more. The show is confident, celebrates and encourages talent, and if you're not smiling after a performance they've done it wrong.

France Télévisions confirmed within minutes that they'll organise next year's contest. Location and date to be confirmed, and if it's half as good as last year's it'll be utterly compelling television magic. Will the BBC be there? Nothing's set in stone, but the Beeb have intimated that this year's appearance is not a one-off. We certainly hope that they'll be in Lyon / Marseille / Toulouse / Lille / a small Gaulish village by Toutatis.

In other news

Junior Eurovision Song Contest I'm up in first place, man!

More good news for Sam Ryder, as he has the number one album this week. "I'm Up in Space, Man!" outsold the new one by Taylor Swift, and festive records by Andre Rieu and Andrea Bocelli. Ryder becomes the first former Eurovision contestant to have a best-selling album since (er) Cliff Richard two weeks ago. He's the second contestant to top the albums list in the same year as he did Eurovision – the first was Michael Ball in 1992.

Take a chance on me Feels like years since we had one of those musical casting shows, where Andrew Lloyd Webber would float into view on a cloud of hot air and pompitousness. After so many years, it'll be back to basics for Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream (Thames and Littlestar for ITV), searching for new talent to play Sophie and Sky in the London theatre production of Mamma Mia!.

This week we learned:

  • Hergé's character Tintin was originally called "Toto". Don't think we're in Belgium any more, Snowy. (Mastermind)
  • A clue they didn't use on Only Connect: "One moment in time" was also a cover version. Songwriter Albert Hammond is, er, not going to get the gig at the end of Schlag den Brig.
  • Everyone who has ever appeared on Only Connect has a Bacon number no higher than 3. Kevin Bacon was on BBC Breakfast with Bill Turnbull in 2005. Some years later, Bill was a celebrity contestant on Only Connect, so Victoria is the next degree.
  • Delphi, Easter Island, Cusco, and many other places have been described as the "navel of the world". Does that make Athens Airport the belly button fluff of the planet? (University Challenge)
  • Mars, the confectionery company, makes local products around the world. Brazil gets a bacon flavour Snickers bar, and there's a version with pistachio and almond in India. (Financial Times)

Quizzy Mondays

Blake Robinson won Mastermind, taking Torchwood as the specialist subject. Eleven in each round is a strong performance, and more than enough to win this week.

Crustaceans took Only Connect by nine points. They scored a single point on every connection except one, and got a sequence on the faces of a Rubik's Cube. As a sidequest, one of the Croot Family was handed an actual Rubik's Cube to solve during the rest of the show.

Our friends at I Got That One noted early in the season that there weren't any incorrect interruptions. Be careful what you wish for, this week's University Challenge had more bad signals than the railway company. Bristol picked up four incorrect interruptions in the first five sets of questions; in spite of this handicap, they beat Oriel Oxford by 35 points. Jacob McLaughlin's buzzer worked well, and he always made sensible guesses – a lot wrong early on, a lot right later in the show.

Christmas highlights

Sunday: The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge (C4) makes big fun from small things. We've also a new ep of Epic Gameshow: Child's Play and Got Talent: Magicians (both ITV).

Monday: Christmas House of Games (3) and Christmas University Challenge start (both BBC2). Scotland's Home of the Year goes festive (BBC1 Scotland).

Tuesday: World's Strongest Man kicks off with Giants Live (C5).

Wednesday: A celebrity edition of Portrait Artist of the Year (Artsworld).

Thursday: End of the line for The Traitors (BBC1), and a celeb Sewing Bee (BBC1).

Friday: Finals day for Countdown (C4). Pointless Celebrities and The Weakest Link have Christmas specials (BBC1). Masterchef has celebrities (BBC1), and more from Only Connect (2) (BBC2) and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (C4).

Christmas Eve: it's the festive editions of In for a Penny and Catchphrase (ITV). BBC1 has Blankety Blank, and Channel 4 offers Lego Masters and Bake Off. Comedy Central gives us new Guessable.

Christmas Day, and Ant and Dec's Limitless Win (ITV) is the equivalent of those too-complex board games. We might be more in the mood for Strictly Come Dancing and The Wheel (BBC1). The Chase (ITV) has celebrities, and it's the final of Canada's Drag Race vs The World (BBC3).

Boxing Day: will Radzi do a happy dance on The Chase Celebrity Christmas Special (ITV)? Who wins The Voice Kids (VM1 and ITV)? Can Sue Perkins host both The Greatest Snowman (C4) and Just a Minute (Radio 4)? Anyone want to take a walk on Am Dro! Selebs!, or play Pen/Campwyr (both S4C)? So many questions: maybe Steve Wright has the answers as The Big Quiz (1) (Radio 2) gets in before The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (C4).

Holiday Tuesday: World's Strongest Man begins its finals (C5).

Wednesday: It's the Only Connect Championship of Champions (BBC2, not NI)

Thursday: Breaking the News (BBC Scotland) looks back on all the news of 2022, at least five year's worth.

Friday: It's a Eurovision special of The Weakest Link (BBC1), and the grand final of Christmas University Challenge (BBC2). Hope they don't mix up the piles of questions.

New Year's Eve: Pointless Celebrities and The Weakest Link (BBC1), The Chase The Bloopers (ITV), and Sam Ryder Rocks New Year's Eve (BBC1).

New Year's Day: Start 2023 right with Het Groote Eurovisiesongfeest (BBC1). The Masked Singer (ITV) goes against New Year Bake Off (C4), with Taskmaster's New Year Treat for afters.

We'll be back around the new year's weekend with our Best Bits of 2022. Which is the best daytime show? What about primetime quiz on ITV? What's the best import, and what export can we big up? What shows surprised us, in a good and a bad way? And what will we do because ratings figures are no longer in the public sphere? All, some, or fewer of these will be answered.

Until then, may we wish you a happy, healthy, bright, and warm festive season.

Junior Eurovision pictures - and the one of Sam Ryder - are mostly © EBU / Corinne Cumming, used under the EBU's general promotional release. Those marked † are from transmission, EBU / AMPTV / NPO / AVROTROS

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