Weaver's Week 2005-05-29

Weaver's Week Index


One Amazing Evening - 29 May 2005

'Iain Weaver reviews the latest happenings in UK Game Show Land.'

"You're a slapping queen."

Junior Mastermind

(1730 Saturday, BBC-1)

(Er, 1535 Sunday, BBC-1)

We're particularly unimpressed with the BBC this week. In last week's "Next Week's Television," we noted that the Beeb hadn't covered the possibility of extra time in the football match they were covering. Something had to give, and rather than chop the rubbish out of Julian Clary's show (ie all of it), they shifted the Junior Mastermind final to Sunday afternoon. Great.

The final:

Sam is the Plantagenet expert, and he's moved on to the Stuarts, who he thinks were a fairly poor bunch of monarchs. 12 (0) is not a poor score.

Joseph was the Famous Five fan, now he's on the books of Roald Dahl, and he's been to the Dahl Library. Very little on Mr Dahl's adult books, and 14 (2) keeps him in the hunt.

Emma took Howard Carter and Tutankhamun last time. This time, she offers "The Saga of Darren Shan," a series in the Scary literary genre. An assured performance takes her to 14 (1).

Andrew progresses from the "Star Wars" Trilogy to The Simpsons. His short film is more about Andrew's experiences with Asperger's syndrome; his score of 15 (2) takes the lead, at least for now.

Robin moves from "The Vicar Of Dibley" to Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events." Again, he storms ahead in his specialist round, making a superlative 16 (0).

Tom's work with Alexander Graham Bell got him here; to win, he'll work with Cezanne. It's an even better score, 17 (0).

Unusually, we're seeing the contestants again in the same order. Sam is first up, and he takes it steadily, finishing on 21 (1).

Joseph starts well, but confuses his Meccano with his Lego, and comes a little astray. He makes 27 (7), it might just do.

Emma did very well in her last general knowledge round, and does so again today, finishing on 28 (2).

Andrew doesn't have the best round, making it to 21 (9).

Robin goes hell-for-leather through most of his round, coming a little unstuck towards the end. 30 (4) may just make it.

Tom also does well, he finishes on 30 points - but, crucially, has five passes. Robin has won by a single pass.

The Eurovision Song Contest Final

(BBC-1, 2000 Saturday)

An academic in Bristol has compiled a list of the ten best Eurovision songs ever. Curiously, all ten seem to be winners from their particular year; does the best song always win? According to this expert, the ideal Eurovision song contains: pace and rhythm; an easily memorable song; the perfect chorus; key change; a clearly defined finish; dance routine and costume.

That top ten in full?

10 Charlotte Nilsson, Take Me To Your Heaven (1999), Sweden

9 Dana International, Diva (1998), Israel
8 Johnny Logan, Hold Me Now (1987), Ireland
7 Salome, Vivo Cantando (1969), Spain
6 Bucks Fizz, Making Your Mind Up (1981), UK
5 Bobbysocks, La Det Swinge (1985), Norway
4 Teach-In, Ding-A-Dong (1975), Netherlands

3 Sandie Shaw, Puppet On A String (1967), UK
2 Celine Dion, Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (1988), Switzerland
1 Abba, Waterloo (1974), Sweden

Any piece of research that rates Ding-a-dong the fourth best song ever is bound to be controversial. Any piece of research that reckons Bosnia-Herzegovina is a shoo-in for the title this year is surely wrong.

Het Grauniad reported on Saturday that "Terry Wogan will be Ireland's only representative at tonight's finals." Most unfair on Marty Whelan, RTE's genial guide.

Anyway. The semi-final votes showed Romania won, with Moldova, Denmark, and Croatia doing well. Latvia squeaked the final place, just four points ahead of Poland. Had qualification been determined by Condorcet voting, in which the important thing is the songs' rankings relative to each other, Poland would have progressed to the final; 15 countries preferred Poland, compared to 11 backing Latvia. The guys from Riga qualified with 22 points from the two Baltic neighbours (and six more from Ireland), plus a very handy 12 from Malta. Poland scored a few points from most juries, her best was 10 from Greece.

Lithuania finished last of all, securing 8 from neighbours Latvia, and a 5 and 4 from those well-known Baltic bloc countries Ireland and the UK. Ireland also gave points to Estonia and Switzerland, clearly suggesting some sort of kinship. The UK gave nothing to qualifiers Croatia, Switzerland, Macedonia, and Latvia. Sixteen countries picked up maximum points from someone, with everyone but Lithuania being someone's first or second favourite.

On to the final, and commentary by finishing position.

24) Germany, 4
23) France, 11
22) UK, 18

21) Spain, 28

And the big four shall be the last four! This is a pretty poor showing from the big guns, the countries that pump the money into the EBU get this to show for it. France and the UK had pre-planned excuses that their draws were atrocious - France played last, a position that has meant instant relegation since televoting came in; the UK performed second, never a winning slot. Both songs were similar, a middle-eastern beat and some interesting dancing - indeed, the official CD places the UK next to Greece, and it's almost the same song. The UK benefited from Ireland's 8, France had fives from Andorra and Israel.

Germany sounded like they might have had a decent modern rock song in there, but the vocal mix was unusually poor and all the television audience could hear was the high screechy notes. Twos from Moldova and Monaco were all they got. Spain sent Las Ketchup in flamenco skirts and some men shouting "Lay, lay, lay." They have fewer excuses, and were helped by local voting (12 from Andorra, 8 from Portugal) but none of the big four have cut the mustard.

20) Ukraine, 30
19) Sweden, 30

Ouch. This will hurt. Ukraine would have expected more from home-field advantage, but they did send a melodic protest shouty rap, and got the lot from Poland. Sweden's traditional fifth place is off for another year, with a song that would have been perfectly placed in a thriller drama. Seven from Denmark was the top score here, and it's the first time Sweden's been in danger of missing the contest proper since withdrawing in 1976.

18) Cyprus, 46
17) Macedonia, 52
16) Albania, 53
15) Russia, 57

Cyprus was notable for having the mirror blocks from the back of the stage come forward and attack the singer; twelves from Malta and (the night's biggest shock here) Greece were the majority of the points. Macedonia is the lowest-placed of the qualifiers, clearly a one-view wonder, except in Albania, where 10 was the best score. Albania came after a gripping Moldovan performance, which can't have helped; her 12 came from Macedonia. Curious, that. Russia sent a thinly-disguised criticism of recent military interventions; winning the war of protest songs won't bring the contest to Moscow any time soon, even if Belarus will send the only 12. Russia has qualified directly from the last five contests.

14) Bosnia Herzegovina, 79

13) Turkey, 92
12) Hungary, 97

Bosnia sent a song about the fiftieth anniversary of Eurovision to the fiftieth Eurovision. And they made the best ABBA pastiche since - ooh, last year's semi-final interlude. The majority of points came from "traditional" Eurovision countries, not neighbours. Turkey sent a song very representative of her culture, neighbours and German-speaking countries accounted for almost all the points (bar 12 from Finland.) Hungary opened the show, the cross between Ruslana and Riverdance felt more like an interval act. Twenty-two countries voted for Hungary, but only Poland gave a 10.

11) Croatia, 115
10) Denmark, 125
9) Norway, 125
8) Switzerland, 128

7) Serbia and Montenegro, 137

By the last few votes, we knew who would win, but not who would miss out on the last automatic qualification place. For much of the voting, it looked like Serbia's epic song evoking high-rise mountains and rolling fields would fall short, but the Balkans voted in the final countries, and they came through - Switzerland, Croatia, and Austria supplied 12s, with three other former Yugoslav republics sending 10. Croatia sent one of just four slow songs to the contest, and will rightly feel unlucky to finish in eleventh place again. Slovenia and Bosnia sent 12s, but ten of her 22 votes were ones and twos.

Denmark played their boy-band reunion immediately after the commercial break, and beat the odds to make tenth place - top marks from Norway, second from Scandinavia and Moldova. Norway's heavy metal get the higher place by virtue of picking up more votes across Europe - top marks from Iceland, Denmark, and Finland. Perhaps the biggest losers of the night were Switzerland's Vanilla Ninja. The first famous act to compete at Eurovision since Tatu avoided everything that cost the Russians victory two years ago. The Ninja were professional, in tune, on spot, in sync with each other - and completely safe. It's Switzerland's best placing in twelve years, but they're going to carry around the tag of "Couldn't win Eurovision." A pair of nothings from the UK won't help the band to move into their largest untapped market; Estonia and Latvia sent the douzes.

6) Moldova, 148
5) Latvia, 153
4) Israel, 154
3) Romania, 158

Moldova sent a completely barking performance, with bonkers lyrics to boot, and clearly a fun performance. Had they performed 23rd rather than 7th, we'd be calling Chisinau the new Harrogate; only neighbours Romania and Ukraine sent top marks. Latvia and Israel both sent ballads, and both were clearly more polished performances than in the semi. Israel benefited from not following another big ballad from Monaco. A second win of the decade for Latvia was on the cards half-way through, but the Balkan bloc vote was yet to arrive This was her third top five finish this decade - only one country has done better. Romania has her best finish ever; performing fourth and bashing steel drums was clearly the way to go. Spain, Portugal, and Israel sent the top mark to Romania, Israel's only 12 came from Macedonia, and Latvia got the big one from Moldova and her Baltic neighbours, Lithuania and Ireland.

2) Malta, 192

All four big ballads finished in the top half of the show, this the biggest. Chiara had a roller-coaster ride against Dana International in 1998, finishing in third, but less than one jury from the win. Chiara may look like she'd be more at home on a cruise ship, but by gum can she sing! It's Malta's third top three finish in eight years, and second runner-up slot in four. Only one top-score, from Russia, but six second spots.

1) Greece, 230

It's been coming; a top three finish every second year would, inevitably, lead to a win. Helen Paparizou's performance was a mix of Ruslana and Riverdance, and had that certain indefinable something that made it the pick of Europe. (Read: this column didn't particularly like the song, but what do we know about modern popular music?) And she's an old hand, having been part of Antique four years ago. Ten top marks from around Europe steered Greece home, including maxima from Turkey, Sweden, and Germany. Oh, and Cyprus, unusually.

Condorcet voting would not have changed the winner or who qualifies for next year, though Moldova would be fourth. Only having the finalists voting would have put Serbia fourth, and would have relegated Switzerland and Norway in favour of Croatia and Hungary. Only allowing the semi-finalists to vote in that contest would have clearly put Latvia through, and seen Andorra finish bottom.

How was the show? Patchy; the hosts Pasha and Masha were a bit wearing, the crowd were a little subdued at times, and Ruslana popped up once too often. However, the staging was as good as we could hope, and the sound quality problems that have plagued Eurovision were mainly absent. BBC television commentator Terry Wogan called the hosts "Ant and Shriek," which would have been a very good pun, only Masha looks exactly like Dec. His radio colleague, Ken Bruce, referred to the boxing champions Vladimir and Vitaly Klitchko as "the Chuckle brothers," proving once again that the best commentary (and the best sound mix, for Germany fans) is on the radio.

The after-show on BBC3 was little more than Paddy O'Connell talking to some of the people in the green room and a tent afterwards, mostly asking "Why did the UK score so badly?" We'd far sooner have seen Lorraine Kelly, Liam Jarnecki, Joe Mace, Carrie Grant, and a couple of other fans dissecting the show. Liquid Eurovision had great humour; any show where the highlight is two stage-hands being unable to open a door has to be a come-down.

The songs this year were, in the main, pretty good. But the voting went on, and on, and on, and on, and on. So long did the voting last that BBC television cut away from the winner's reprise part way through, so that there were very few credits. Poor show, chaps.

Next week: the reaction from around Europe, and some thoughts on the voting.

Countdown Update

We left Countdown with Ross Allatt completing his octochamp run; he scored 741 points, at a handy +30 to Par. We then had a long run of short-lived champs. David Ryan (one win), Kieran Copping (three), Sally Bassinder (two), Bob Beckett (one), Michael Edwards (two), Rick Hughes, and Caroline Ambrose (one each) could all have gone on for quite some time, but the standard of play this month has been particularly high. John Brackstone did become the fifth octochamp of the season last Monday, totalling 822 points at +27 to Par. Dominic Marsh won the empty title on Tuesday, losing to Anthony Endsor the following day. He's the defending champ when Countdown returns from its cricket break on Tuesday.

John Brackstone becomes the 1st seed for next month's finals - ahead of John Mayhew and Jon O'Neill on points but not Par, ahead of Ross Allatt and Judith Young on both counts. Chris Hunt (6 wins) cannot now be caught, Fred Reynolds (also 6) may theoretically miss out, but is surely now through. Frank Mulvey and Brian Roles (5 wins) occupy the last positions, with Toni Ryan (4 wins) the reserve.

This Week And Next

Counting all the series, last Friday saw the tenth run of Big Brother commence. We'll begin an appropriate level of coverage next week.

New series this week include Back in the Day, in which Clive Anderson reviews recent history, 4pm weekdays Channel 4. And Our Survey Said is the channel's latest game show retrospective. It's now set to air at 10.15 next Saturday night, and Let's Get Quizzical has fallen from the schedules.

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