Weaver's Week 2024-05-12

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Eurovision Song Contest

This edition was published mid-morning on Saturday 11 May, before the grand final. Changes to the final's running order happened after publication.

At the BAFTA Craft Awards, Nikki Parsons, Ollie Bartlett and Richard Valentine won the Director: Multi-camera category; and Julio Himede, Tim Routledge, Kojo Samuel, Michael Sharp and Dan Shipton won Entertainment Craft Team. Both awards were for the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.

How many awards will this year's contest win? Let's find out!


Eurovision Song Contest 2024

Thirty-seven songs. Two hosts. All the right notes, some of them in the right order.

Semi-final 1

Tuesday 7 May

Welcome to Eurovision's Greatest Hits. Over the next two and a half hours, they'll recap scenes from Eurovision history. We begin with "Fuego" from 2018, Eric Saade from 2011, and Chanel from 2022. Later in the concert, we hear what Benjamin Ingrosso has done since performing in 2018, and we'll be subjected to Johnny Logan and his attempts to remain "current" and "relevant" with a version of "Euphoria".

Eurovision Song Contest Our hosts welcome the crowd (Alma Bengtsson / EBU).

Petra Mede is the host, assisted by Malin Åkerman, with Martin Österdahl in laptop corner. Petra's the brunette in the orange suit, Malin is the blonde in her pink outfit. That the presenters appear to be sponsored by Duncan's Doughnuts is most unfortunate.

Other pieces of product placement popped up on the international feed, though were mostly edited out of the BBC coverage. They did keep in the nod from the stage designer to the original contest site: it's a big plus.

Eurovision Song Contest That joke is even older than Des Chiffres et des Lettres.

Yes, the stage is really out in the crowd this year – imagine a long catwalk like on a fashion show, with arms sticking out halfway along each side, and with people spectating from all angles. It's one of many changes for this year's edition, a lot of production decisions to shake things up.

Another change comes in the postcards, the little video clips before each performance. Usually, we'd expect the postcards to promote the local culture, show off the sights of the host broadcaster's area, or introduce the performer to us. Some years, the best thing about the show is the postcards. Not this year: 2024's postcards begin with clips from previous Eurovisions. Sandie Shaw! Sam Ryder! Look what you could be winning! And then we get a screenful of selfies, filmed by the performers at home using their own mobile computers. SVT say it's to "reduce the environmental impact" of the contest; that may be so, but it looks cheap and doesn't work.

Eurovision Song Contest Stills from Olly Alexander's postcard.

At the end of the postcard, they spend a lot of time showing the performer: their name appears in the stark and unfussy typeface used throughout this year's contest. They're promoting the performers a lot, as they're promoting the broadcaster's territory. The song title appears in teeny-tiny writing for about two seconds, because SVT think the song is less important than the performer or the broadcaster's territory. Our producers may wish to remember that this is the Eurovision Song Contest: the clue's in the title.

Who's not going through?

Eighteen performances, ten spots. Five must fall, because in SVT's world 18-5=10. Have they been taking maths lessons from autocomplete bots again? Anyway, five songs didn't make it to the final, and let's give them all a little bit of love.

Eurovision Song Contest A tottering tower of power (Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU).

"The tower" was performed by Luna, and represented TVP (shown on screen as "Poland", because TVP primarily broadcasts to Poland). The one with the chess motif: they turned the stage into a chessboard, had a black and a white tower, and dancers dressed like pieces in black, white, and (er) red. Luna also elected to be seen riding a red horse; as any Eurovision fan knows, that invokes the spectre of "My lovely horse", and puts a curse on your chances.

"The tower" is bright and breezy pop, if a little insubstantial. And that sheer pleasantness might have ended its chances here: the top half of this semi-final was stacked with very high-quality and unpredictable performances, and "The tower" represented the first chance to draw breath since we began. Would not surprise us if this came 11th, and only missed by a few points.

Eurovision Song Contest So wanted this to do better. (Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

In our preview on 24 March, we said "One milkali (one blood)" didn't feel particularly competitive, and much would depend on the staging. Sadly, the staging wasn't up to much, and Electric Fields (SBS, "Australia") took an early boat home. Zaachariaha and Michael are filmed against an orangey starburst backdrop, the two are alone on the stage until some dancers finally arrive on stage during the second verse.

Make no mistake, "One milkali" is a very good song, it's gone straight onto our fruit-based music player and it'll remain there for years to come. But it doesn't grab your televoter by the short-and-curlies and demand that you tap the app. If this semi-final were decided by jury and public, it may still not have gone through: we have a nasty feeling that it'll have finished plumb last, too exotic to connect to the Eurovision voters on a Tuesday night.

Nothing would have saved "Özünlə apar", the song was performed by Fahree featuring Ilkin Dovlatov, and was presented with a big giant head and big giant hands superimposed on stage in unconvincing effects. The slow song, performed by two blokes, was black outfits on a mostly black stage. It's another relative failure by Íctimai ("Azerbaijan"); they've never before sent a song in Azeri, and probably won't again for a long time.

Eurovision Song Contest Natalia goes for the Alexander Rybak vote (Corinne Cumming / EBU).

"In the middle" finished near the bottom for Natalia Barbu, representing TVM ("Moldova"). A very static song, where this woman in white performs as a tree grows and blossoms and birds fly about. While Natalia has got excellent stage presence, the song just wasn't as good as the others: it went verse-chorus-verse-chorus-instrumental break-la la la to finish. Again, it sounds like the sort of performance that juries would go for, but there are no juries voting tonight. It's just people, and there is no Moldovan diaspora to speak of.

"Scared of heights" was scared of Saturdays. Hera Björk only got the nod from RÚV ("Iceland") after the national final was whittled down to a final two, and the other performer said he wouldn't turn up to the contest if selected. The people of Iceland decided that they wanted to be represented, but also decided that it was no big deal if they didn't make Saturday night. The song was identikit disco, with a very late-90s club vibe, and we wouldn't be surprised if this came in a creditable 12th.

Eurovision Song Contest Hera Björk, there a Björk... (Corinne Cumming / EBU).

So, who did go through?

More late-90s nostalgia from Windows95Man, "No rules!" (YLE, "Finland") is quite the bizarre piece of performance art, featuring a proper song and some excellent visual comedy – though it may be a little too risqué for very young viewers. Risqué costumes may also require discretion for "Veronika" by Raiven (RTVSLO, "Slovenia"), a dark piece of pop-opera theatre about Veronika of Desenice who was accused of witchcraft and murdered for loving a man above her social rank. The producers put these songs in reverse order, perhaps there was a hope to memory-hole "Veronika". They're at positions 17 and 22 in the Saturday running order.

Producers certainly got to choose their opening and closing numbers. Opener "Liar" by Silia Kapsis (CyBC, "Cyprus") was a pleasant and inoffensive pop song, marked by the gentlemen removing their shirts during the last chorus. "Fighter" closed the show, Tali represented RTL ("Luxembourg"), complete with very unconvincing computer graphics of big cats and some deliberate video wobbles. This could be big.

Eurovision Song Contest Sorry, are we interrupting something? (Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU).

On the art-pop side of things, "Ramonfa" by Teya Dora (RTS, "Serbia") was the one with one woman and a rock with a split down the middle. "Teresa & Maria" by alyona alyona & Jerry Heil (UA:PBC, "Ukraine") was the one with two women and a rock to stand on. "Grito" by iolanda (RTP, "Portugal") was another monochrome entry, the female singer is supported by five dancers, all in stark white.

Bambie Thug may have been the breakout star of this semi-final. Bookies rated "Doomsday blue" as a borderline qualifier, perhaps remembering that RTÉ ("Ireland") have had one success in the past ten years. The presentation featured Bambie wrestling with a masked man, and performing most of the routine from within the confines of a very small circle of candles. Could be a bit scary for the youngest viewers, and is on about ten minutes before Olly Alexander, so be aware if you're watching with children. Online reaction was positive, even on those parts of the internet that don't normally go for Eurovision things. Does this portend greater success than our projection of "a bit below half way"? We'd love to be wrong and for this to be a smash hit.

Eurovision Song Contest Bambie Thug and friend (Corinne Cumming / EBU).

"Luktelk" is another sleeper hit: very little chatter amongst the fans, but Silvester Belt brought a lot of charm and experience to this pop song. The staging involves deep red and deep blue lights, so might not be to everyone's taste. LRT ("Lithuania") are following a couple of good results, and this should keep the sequence going.

The bookie's favourite also progressed, "Rim tim tagi dim" from Baby Lasagna represents HRT ("Croatia"). It's not to this column's taste, came across as a lot of noise and trying a bit too hard to replicate the success of "Cha cha cha" last year. But it is the favourite, and it is through to the Saturday final, and we expect it to be there or thereabouts on Sunday morning.

Eurovision Song Contest Baby Lasagna (centre) with Mini Macaroni and Junior Tagliatelle. (Corinne Cumming / EBU)

Other matters

This year's producers are shooting the whole programme with a "film effect" – normal cameras, but with the picture deliberately degraded. (Apparently, it's being shot as 25 full frames per second, but broadcast as 50 half-frames, so half the picture can never catch up.) This is a choice by the producers, and we're seriously unimpressed. Movement is jerky, particularly side-to-side pans, and it feels as if something is wrong with our telly, particularly in the green room segments. The BBC has mandated "high-definition" broadcasts for most viewers, and it's a shame that they're lumbered with a big "standard-definition" picture that isn't even "standard-definition". It might be fashionable, but so were glow-in-the-dark watches with radium hands.

Another choice this year is to show the automatic qualifiers during the semi-finals. Tuesday gave us "Dizzy" (Olly Alexander, BBC, "United Kingdom"), which appears to be filmed from inside a washing machine and will be interesting to watch. "Always on the run" (Isaak, ARD-NDR, "Germany"), this is fine. "Unforgettable" (Marcus & Martinus, SVT, "Sweden"), precisely the same as the music video.

Eurovision Song Contest Isaak rehearses (Corinne Cumming / EBU).

All of this added to the show length. Prolix opening performance, long chats with the hosts, elongated postcards, performances we can't vote for. Forty minutes into the show and we've still only had four competitive entries; this is not a slick programme, there's as much faffing around as on The X Factor. No surprise that the semi-final over-ran – but to miss the scheduled end time by more than 15 minutes is really very poor. They were meant to be running a shorter programme.

Loads of Österdahlings

Martin Österdahl, the EBU's Head of Song Contests, gave an interview to Swedish paper DI ahead of the contest. He continues to peddle the nonsense that the Song Contest is not a political space; if that's so, why is he still referring to songs by the territory served by the participating broadcaster, and not the song's name? Honestly, it's very simple, vote "Space man", vote "Cha cha cha", vote "(Nendest) Narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi". The host can't pronounce it? Don't believe you: Petra can pronounce anything with a little practice.

He's also spoken about the increasing commercialisation of the contest. A hair oil has been a sponsor for ages, there's an "official cruise line", and quite a few sketchy internet companies are involved. We're going to be realists, and acknowledge that the extra money is put to good use. But we are going to ask if the sponsorship has to be so heavy-handed and gauche: we joke that there's an "official partner" for the Terry Wogan Memorial Drinks Interval, but only because his favourite tipple is an "official partner".

Raise a glass – of whatever tipple – in the first commercial break, to those Eurovisionaries no longer with us.

Semi-final 2

Thursday 9 May

A snappier, less bloated show: even though they had one extra competitive song to show, they "only" over-ran by 10 minutes. Which still shows the producers are barely doing a professional job: they know exactly what's in the show, how long each item should be, and we'd hope they could give an out time accurate to within a few minutes. But evidently this is beyond them.

Self-referential jokes were the order of the day: a mickey-take on last year's winner "What's another year?" (SUB: please check), and interval song "We love Eurovision too much" was very Flanders and Swann, apart from the moment when it turned into Käärijä; like "The hippopotamus song" with a shredding axe solo from Sepultura.

Eurovision Song Contest "We just love Eurovision too much", and that's quite enough Linda Woodruff. (Corinne Cumming / EBU)

Nineteen entered, ten progressed, six fell by the wayside, and the ghost of Norman Lamont still haunts Eurovision HQ.

Bye, bye, babies

Eurovision Song Contest The press photos didn't give away "Pedestal"'s height gimmick. (Corinne Cumming / EBU)

Two songs particularly irked us by not qualifying. "Pedestal" (Aiko for CT, "Czechia"), brought down the cubes above the stage so we suddenly had restricted headroom – none of the other performances play with the vertical in the same way. The soft rock song showed great singing prowess, and would have improved Saturday's final by a tremendous amount. But it was asked to follow the pre-contest favourite, "The code", and appears to have been buried.

We're also annoyed not to see "11.11", Megara for SMRTV ("San Marino" on screen). The band perform in pink and black goth outfits, and throw absolutely everything at the performance. Even for those who don't like hard goth-punk, the band radiated enthusiasm and professionalism and were uncompromising in their art. It's entertaining, a little difficult to explain, and exactly where #Eurovision is in 2024. Because it's from the unfashionable San Marino, it's left in the semi-final and that's most infuriating.

Eurovision Song Contest Look at what you could have won. (Corinne Cumming / EBU)

"Loop" represented PBS ("Malta"), Sarah Bonnici sung it. In our March preview, we speculated that this was going to have an interesting dance break. Reader, we got something right, there was a very interesting dance break. We apologise for this unexpected outbreak of accurancy, and promise it won't happen again.

Why didn't this go through? It's a great groove, and the presentation was decent, but the stage show had very little to do with the song. And there was a lot of fast movement, but much of it was literally glossed over by the producers' choice to use half-rate frames; what a bunch of quarter-wits. A good song, but there were ten better.

Eurovision Song Contest Loop at what you could have won (Alma Bengtsson / EBU).

Eurovision is a house built on "Sand", so says Saba for DR ("Denmark"). Is Europe ready for a song sung by a queer Black woman about how life is impermanent and transitory, so we may as well try to do good and enjoy ourselves while we can? Evidently not, it's another high-quality song left on the sidelines.

We were sure "Before the party's over" would qualify, RTBF ("Belgium") continued their reign of tremendous contemporary songs. Mustii was surrounded by all the microphones, turning his celebrity into a jail, which will be a familiar emotion to anyone with the smallest moment in the public light. "Before the party's over" builds and builds, adds to the emotion so we completely deserve the climax.

Eurovision Song Contest Mustii was a must-see - but not a must-vote (Corinne Cumming / EBU).

We can make a headcanon that five of the six non-qualifiers could have made 11th place. "Titan" (Besa for RTSH "Albania") is the one exception. Part of the song wanted to be an ethnic number, part of the song wanted to be a Western pop hit. The staging was also confusing, with a mermaid motif they didn't seem to commit to. "Titan" fell between a lot of stools, and if you try to sit between a lot of stools there's a grave danger you'll fall flat on your backside.

Progress to Saturday

To nobody's surprise, "The code" went through: Nemo and his incredible spinning dinner plate, with umpteen different styles of music represented in three minutes. They've thrown the kitchen sink at this entry, and it could just bring the contest home to SRG SSR ("Switzerland").

Eurovision Song Contest Nemo, a little baggy at the seams. (Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

The other pre-contest favourite is "Europapa", Joost Klein for NPO/AVROTROS ("The Netherlands"). Joost brings the comedy, his outfit features the biggest shoulder pads since the Dynasty revival, there's a bird wearing wellies, all sorts of levity – and it makes the climax to the song (which we won't spoil, because spoilers) all the more effective.

Eurovision Song Contest What's Dutch for "what is happening?". (Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

Very modern and contemporary entries have a place in the Eurovision final, but rarely get much above half way; that feels like the fate for "Zari" (Marina Satti for ERT 2.0 "Greece"). "We will rave" brought ÖRF ("Austria") back to the final, Kaleen throws herself into the early-90s feel with laser lights and Future Zone costumes. "Hurricane" (Eden Golan for KAN "Israel") also went through, it's an unremarkable slow number.

Eurovision Song Contest Even from this distance, "Jako" looks happy. (Corinne Cumming / EBU)

We're pleased to see "Jako" go through (Ladaniva for AMPTV "Armenia"), bright and colourful and very ethnic; it'll be catnip for the Armenian diaspora and might attract some televotes from people impressed with the performance. We hesitate to describe anything this bright as a "dark horse", but it could go further than anyone expects. "Ulveham" (Gåte for NRK "Norway") may have taken votes from "11.11", another hard rock performance, based on a folk melody and by a singer who looks a bit like Taylor Swift if you're not watching closely. Also in: "(nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi", the EER ("Estonia") song title is so long it pushes the band – 5MIINUST x Puuluup – off the stage. Loud and raucous folk-rap to entertain and amuse.

Eurovision Song Contest Dons done it! (Corinne Cumming / EBU)

Two broadcasters will be very pleased to make Saturday: "Hollow" by Dons for LSM ("Latvia") and "Firefighter" by Nutsa Buzaladze for GPB ("Georgia") both end long non-qualification streaks stretching back into the last decade. "Hollow" will soar because Dons has an incredible voice, and the blue latex suit is memorable. "Firefighter" didn't impress us, it felt like a weak copy of "Pedestal".

We also saw the final three auto-qualifiers. "Mon amour" (Slimane for France Télévisions "France") is an oh-so-French love song, literally singing to the camera, and with Slimane showing his vocal prowess by stepping back from the mike. "Zorra" (Nebulossa for TVE "Spain") was a great spectacle but didn't seem to have enough song. "La noia" (Angelina Mango for RAI "Italy") feels like a compromise winner if we need one: a great song, with a coherent visual spectacle based on vines and twigs, but not so far out there to scare off the centrist dad who's only watching coz the kids want to see Olly Alexander.

When do we get to see Olly Alexander?

Eurovision Song Contest He's coming soon. (Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU)

Song 13, so about 9.15. You know, roughly the time you lose on The 1% Club and pour a consolation glass of wine so Lee Mack seems funnier.

Er, yes. Full running order:

01 "Unforgettable" 02 "Teresa & Maria" 03 "Always on the run" 04 "Fighter" 05 "Europapa"
06 "Hurricane" 07 "Luktelk" 08 "Zorra" 09 "(nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi" 10 "Doomsday blue"
11 "Hollow" 12 "Zari" 13 "Dizzy" 14 "Ulveham" 15 "La noia"
16 "Ramonfa" 17 "No rules!" 18 "Grito" 19 "Jako" 20 "Liar"
21 "The code" 22 "Veronika" 23 "Rim tim tagi dim" 24 "Firefighter" 25 "Mon amour" 26 "We will rave"

Wrong sort of shiny warnings to pretty much all the songs. Almost everything has flashing lights, strobing images, or nasty colour contrasts. The least offensive songs are 02 "Teresa & Maria", 03 "Always on the run", 04 "Fighter", 08 "Zorra", 11 "Hollow", 15 "La noia", 17 "No rules!" (but implied nudity), and 25 "Mon amour". If you're OK for dizziness, add 13 "Dizzy" and 19 "Jako". We must assume that all interval acts are likely to contain repetitive flashing images, strobing lights, and/or Måns Zelmerlöw.

Looks like the producers want to bury songs 3, 6, 11, 18, and 24 – all directly follow one of the big favourites.

Eurovision Song Contest There will also be some interval acts. (Alma Bengtsson / EBU)

And we'll finish with a quick forecast: following a coronal mass ejection a few days ago, astrophysicsts predict a massive electrical storm in the ionopshere during Saturday night. If we're lucky, there will be a very nice glow at 1am; if we're very unlucky, it'll be so severe as to knock out satellite communications from places in northern Europe, such as Malmö. The Northern Lights was the staging theme, not a prediction for the space weather!

Whatever happens tonight - and there have been some wild rumours and half-sourced reports flying about - we'll try to make some sense of it next week.

In other news

16 November in Madrid, the date and location for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Is that a return to Saturday? That's a return to Saturday, after almost a decade at Sunday teatime.

What's cymraeg for "incredible spinning chairs"? Y Llais is coming to S4C, a Welsh-language version of The Voice of Holland of This Island, which ran on BBC1 about a decade ago. Blind auditions and a short final process to determine the winner. One of the judges will be Bryn Terfel, and Sian Eleri is the host. Boom Cymru will make the show, scheduled to air in 2025.

Like the ravens leaving the Eiffel Tower France Télévisions is to stop making Des Chiffres et des Lettres. The show, which inspired our own Countdown, has been in production since 1965. Get some letters, make a word out of them. Get some numbers, use them to make a target. Other duel rounds happen. But ratings have been poor, France Télévisions tried to move the show to weekends only, and even that hasn't been enough to renew the show.

It does mean that we have a target for Countdown to aim at: the year 2041 to overhaul the series by time, or about 4000 more episodes to exceed it by episode count. And that gives us an interesting idea for some Summer Filler – but more of that in due course.

What makes a good quiz question? Julia Hobbs is a question producer on The Chase, and she explains on the TV Show and Tell podcast what she's looking for in a good question. One single answer, and a lot more.

It's the Eurovision Song Contest final on Saturday (RTÉ1, BBC1, BBC Radio 2, RTÉ 2fm, signed on BBC Red Button). More talent on Sunday night as Côr Cymru concludes (S4C), and Glow Up finds its winner (BBC3, Wed)..

So that viewers don't miss out, ITV's Got Talent shifts to Sunday. The Fortune Hotel (ITV, from Mon) asks Stephen Mangan to keep tabs on white briefcases. Popmaster TV (More4, Mon, Tue) starts a new series with celebrity editions.

If you're looking for something calm to wake up to on Sunday morning, Desert Island Discs features Greg Davies from Taskmaster (Radio 4, Sun).

Coloured stage photo SVT/Peppe Andersson, black-and-white stage photo and postcard from transmission.

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