Weaver's Week 2017-05-14

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Eurovision Song Contest

Welcome to Just a Minute!


Eurovision Song Contest

NTU / EBU, shown on BBC4, 9 May

And as the Minute Waltz fades away, we welcome you to Kyiv, where our competitors will attempt to sing without hesitation, deviation, or repetition in the sixty second contest. What? Oh.

It's the 62nd annual Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision Song Contest Timur Miroshnychenko, Oleksandr Skichko, Volodymyr Ostapchuk.

International Hosts this year are Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie. No! It's Oleksandr, Volodymyr, and Timur. Olex, Vlad, and Timur, from here on. Timur is doing the green room backstage bits, Oleksandr and Volodymyr are front of house. Their script is written by the Daily Mash satire website.

At this point, we're going to give a Very Hard Stare at the EBU. The Eurovision Song Contest is a contest between songs entered by *broadcasters*. It's not a contest between singers, or nations, but a contest between broadcasters. The EBU has completely failed to disclose which broadcaster has sent which song. As we want this job done properly, we're quite clearly going to do it ourselves.

SVT – "I Can't Go On" – Robin Bengtsson. It's a guy in a sharp suit, with four of his friends – all in sharp suits. They come on stage, stand about on treadmills, and sing in front of a neon cityscape. This is exactly what we'd expect from contemporary pop from this territory, but seeing as how contemporary Swedish pop is absolutely everywhere these days, it's a lot less novel.

Eurovision Song Contest Love love peace peace, and five guys runnin' on the treadmills.

GPB – "Keep the Faith" – Tamara Gachechiladze. First shiny warning of the night comes before the reigning Junior Eurovision Song Contest champions. It's a woman in a red dress and cape, standing stock still while dry ice floods the stage. Then the power ballad kicks up a gear, there's pyro, there's a key change. It's going to go well with the juries.

SBS – "Don't Come Easy" – Isaiah. Wrong sort of shiny warning, though not sure why. Rotating into view as though he were a chicken, young Isaiah performs a very interesting song. It's vocally complex, showing the singing ability that won his local X Factor last year. And it's somewhat contemporary, the sort of quietly aggressive mid-tempo tune that's been popular for a few months. Even with a duff note near the end (and in the bit programmed for the reprises) it's going through, not sure it'll be another top five.

Eurovision Song Contest Peace peace love love, and the singer's own back-projection.

RTVSH – "World" – Lindita. More wrong sort of shiny warnings here. Clocks are the staging theme, there's one projected onto the video floor. Lindita is dressed in a white dress, and the song seems to be constructed around her extended high note about two minutes in. Big from the jury, will this connect with viewers?

RTBF – "City Lights" – Blanche. Another aggressive mid-tempo tune, aided by a very effective staging – Blanche stands in black against a forest of spotlights, then against a back-projection of cubes moving towards her. It brings out the lyric, "all alone in the danger zone". We understand that Blanche had some difficult early rehearsals, and there's a moment near the end where she sounds fragile and unconfident. We'd love to see this again on Saturday.

Eurovision Song Contest A final dab for Slavko.

RTCG – "Space" – Slavko Kalezic. The guy with a metre-long hair braid, mesh top, and long blue skirt. Which, in traditional BBC style, gets whipped off. The staging comes across as a Poundland Loïc Nottet, zooming on to the performer as he lies on the stage. The song is camp and trashy, which will appeal to a certain element of the Eurovision Song Contest fans. Can't see this doing well with the juries.

Joey and Jeffy are back to plug the Eurovision app. And then we're off to an ad break. The BBC doesn't take adverts, so we hear about Lucie Jones, the BBC's entry to this year's contest.

The stage design is large and symmetrical. It's got the usual video effects around the sides, and the video floor. Is it meant to look like the underbelly of a sailing ship, or an alien craft landing? There's a satellite stage some way to the front.

Eurovision Song Contest Not just the piano that's fuming.

YLE – "Blackbird" – Norma John. Lena and Lassi are dressed in black, and play the piano in their postcard. From that, we might expect the new Common Linnets, but we actually get some ethereal light opera. It's all performed in a sea of dry ice, many of the fans whip out their phone torches for the instrumental break. MELANIE! SHUSH! There goes the emotional climax of the song, tossed away by someone who cannot count to three minutes. Wouldn't catch Sandi Toksvig being this rubbish. (bangs countertop)

Íctimai – "Skeletons" – Dihaj. Other entries have a Wrong Sort of Shiny warning. This entry has a Wrong Sort of Horse warning: one of the band stands on the top of a stepladder while wearing a horse's head. It's a claustrophobic performance, the singer is trapped in a blackboard box, and though she writes on the walls, it takes other people to demolish them. Very artsy, and – as we seem to say every year about Íctimai – perhaps a bit too good for this contest.

Eurovision Song Contest We have to lose the stepladder solo.

RTP – "Amar Pelos Dois" – Salvador Sobral. Remember how GPB's winning entry to Junior Eurovision began with an overture, and was an oasis of calm after some madness involving Jedward? This is of similar calibre, a gentle jazz number, performed by an expert. It's got lighters in the background, it's got a fade to black near the end, and it's like climbing into a warm bubble bath.

Joey and Jeffy have made it into the green room, where they're reading out microbloggers from across the continent.

ERT 2.0 – "This Is Love" – Demy. Wrong sort of shiny warnings, and wrong sort of paddling pool warnings. The backdrop is also water, until the first chorus. The song changes from a pedestrian ballad into a disco stomper, the backdrop from blue to gold. Demy is joined by a couple of the water nymphs last seen when Emmelie de Forest performed "Rainmaker" in Copenhagen. Should go through, but won't do anything on Saturday.

Eurovision Song Contest Demy is joined by water nymphs.

TVP – "Flashlight" – Kasia Mos. More wrong sort of shiny. The staging is simple: woman in spotlight, only a violinist on stage for company. The song rhymes "fire" with "desire" and "higher", has gratuitous wind machine, and a long note at the end to beat the juries over the head. It does have doves flying off the stage, those video walls are even bigger than we expected. Twenty years ago, this would have been up for the wonning; in 2017, it feels a little old fashioned. It's been improving with every rehearsal, and the diaspora will push this through.

TM – "Hey, Mamma!" – Sunstroke Project. Shiny, wrong sort. Another throwback, to the band with Epic Sax Guy from 2010. Sharp suits for Epic Sax Guy, the singer, and Forgotten Fiddler; boating costumes for the backing singers, later turning into brides' dresses. The song is close harmony sing-rapping to a funky beat. Nothing outright wrong with it, but we are going to have forgotten this by the voting.

Eurovision Song Contest Will this get the public's X?

RUV – "Paper" – Svala. Back to the charts with another aggressive mid-tempo song. Svala compares her lover to paper, as it's easy to cut right through. Wind machine, woman striding about the stage in Emma Frost's low-cut white suit with cape. We'd love it to progress – but it's getting difficult to eliminate eight songs, and we have a nasty feeling that this one misses out.

Joey and Jeffy are back to plug the Eurovision app. The BBC are talking about Lucie Jones' slippers, and have a chat with songwriter Emmelie de Forest.

The postcards are styled "journey to Kyiv", mostly recorded locally rather than in the host city. They're bigging up the act rather than exploring Ukraine.

Eurovision Song Contest The best part of Martina's performance.

CT – "My Turn" – Martina Bárta. After the break, Olex and Vlad (as Joey and Jeffy are known to their mums) reprise the "confirm nationality of Ivan Lendl" joke from The Mary Whitehouse Experience circa 1992. The right era for this song, a paean to hope in major keys. Martina is dressed in a brown foil outfit, and though she's alone on stage, there are images of people projected onto the background. Can't see this going far.

CyBC – "Gravity" – Hovig. In the opening moments, we can see that he can walk the line, even when it's drawn on the video floor. Along with his backing dancers, Hovig can do that "standing still in a ridiculous position" fad from last autumn, and the "lying on the stage" thing from about ten songs ago. The video effects are simple, and combined with a strong beat prove to be hypnotic. People will either love this, or sleep through it.

Eurovision Song Contest Three people, one shot...

AMPTV – "Fly with Me" – Artsvik. Wrong sort of flashy and strobey, and some shaking images to boot. And a very red stage to begin with, before Artsvik's two backing dancers emerge. As BBC4 viewers know, they're clearly repurposing the Persian nonfigurative art of about 1000 years ago. BBC1 viewers will like the way a swoosh on the track is linked with a dramatic change of staging – repainting the background, or a cut from close-up to far-away. The song is in mid-tempo, though it's too different (ethnic, non-Western) to be "mid-tempo aggressive". We'll see this again, but it could fall between the cracks on Saturday.

RTVSLO – "On My Way" – Omar Naber. Wrong sort of shiny, again. A busker on the Underground, according to Mel. Looks a bit like one, too: smart suit, well-groomed, good vocals. It's a power ballad sung by a bloke with a really powerful voice. The lighters are back, there's a moment looking like a UFO taking off, and the song heads straight towards musical theatre. This would be the showstopper in any good musical. The juries should have loved this; we can see 20th on Saturday.

Eurovision Song Contest Look at what you've been missing.

LTV – "Line" – Triana Park. Shiny, wrong sort. Triana Park are a group, in the same art-rock vein as Brainstorm. For the staging, they've gone for NDR's anime character from last year, the female singer has her hair in bunches, there are neon characters on the backdrop as though they're in the SM:TV studio. We've heard this song quite a bit (Radio Skonto is great), but somehow the band don't connect with the audience. At all. Oh dear, this ain't going through.

Time for the Active Voting Window, open from 21.29 to 21.48 on Tuesday night. Get your own time machine. BBC viewers call 09015 22 52 xx from a landline, 62252 xx from a mobile, cost 15p (14 euro cent) plus any network access charge. Votes via the app call the short code.

During the voting window, Jamala performed "1944", with a stage full of backing dancers. The BBC showed – the same thing! Actually showing the interval act? Unusual. And then they're showing a short film starring Verka Serduchka, the meme-tastic glitter dancer from 2007.

Eurovision Song Contest Verka Serduchka, and retinue.

A major surprise to see Jamala's new song in full: we guess the BBC doesn't feel the need to show Mel Giedroyc's Guide to Kyiv's Confectionery. Timur has a quick chat to Isaiah; SBS are not taking an ad break, not at 7 o'clock in the morning tomorrow. The hosts have a chat to TVE's, BBC, RAI performers, and link into their rehearsal clips.

For us, the surprise came with the first announcement. "Hey, Mamma!", which we didn't rate at all. "Skeletons" demands to be seen again, as does "Fly with me". "Gravity" has both stage show and cool song. "This Is Love" and "Flashlight" will have benefited from the expat vote. "I Can't Go On" and "Amar Pelos Dois" are classics already. "Don't Come Easy" was left late, to ramp up the tension. We had no idea where the final place would go – "City Lights" won the spot, and may well have finished tenth in the rankings.

We're sorry to lose "Blackbird" and "Paper", and we could have had more of "On My Way".

Semi-final 2

NTU / EBU, heard on RTE Radio 1, 11 May

We've been very impressed with the ESC Insight podcasts this week. Recaps of the nightly finals, interviews with the stars. And some local colour, one correspondent goes to the circus, others pay a visit to the Chernobyl site. Worth a listen.

Eurovision Song Contest I'll send it to my greatest fan.

The show opens with a medley of recent Senior Eurovision Song Contest winners set in the traditional folk style of the region. The BBC hosts might witter over Olex and Vlad explaining the voting in French, but not Zbyszek Zalinski and Neil Doherty in Donnybrook.

Eurovision Song Contest Tijana's costume came through customs.

RTS – "In Too Deep" – Tijana Bogicevic. Wrong sort of shiny already. Tijana has a decent song, and a good voice, but the combination of the two simply doesn't work. The song sounds wonky, it lacks the clarity of "If love was a crime" from the same writers last week. Tijana performs in a flimsy white dress, and the video walls are filled with water. Might scrape through from diaspora and an OK jury vote.

ÖRF – "Running on Air" – Nathan Trent. Shiny, wrong. Nathan spends the first verse climbing over a crescent moon, like the guy from the Dreamworks logo. He's performing a decent and optimistic song. We can imagine Ed Sheeran writing this as a warm-up in the morning. The performance is bouncy, it looks effortless and fun.

Eurovision Song Contest If you believe, they put a man in the moon.

C1R – "Flame is burning" – Yulia Samoylova. Except it's not: after a dispute over whether Yulia could perform on stage, C1R decided not to show this year's contest, and as a consequence aren't competing here. Next!

Eurovision Song Contest A dark start to the next song.

MKRTV – "Dance Alone" – Jana Burceska. On the radio, this is a contemporary piece, a massive hook and just the right amount of bile in her snark. On the television, a wild staging involves a very short dress and very long boots. It makes Jana look like she might negotiate her virtue, and the staging doesn't tell any story. They could have done Jana rejecting a suitor, or many other plots.

PBS – "Breathlessly" – Claudia Faniello. A call has come in from 1987. No, you can't have your runner-up back, not for a few minutes yet. Claudia performs a yacht-rock power ballad, with plenty of wind machine, and while standing on the spot. Since 1987, the video wall has been invented, and Claudia misses no opportunity to put herself on her own backdrop.

Eurovision Song Contest What is the plural of glitter cannon?

TVR – "Yodel It!" – Ilinca and Alex Florea. Wrong kind of shiny, folks. A contemporary pop song, rapped verse and sung chorus. By "sung", we mean "yodelled". Not convinced by the staging – we hardly see Ilinca doing her titular yodel, lots of reaction shots and views of the colourful staging. The glitter cannon couldn't fire during the performance, because rules. But this is tremendous fun, we cannot stop smiling for the three minutes.

AVROTROS – "Lights and Shadows" – O'G3NE. Junior Eurovision graduates, the Vol sisters recreate the close harmonies of Wilson Phillips. Vocally, this is a winner. Presentation? Poor: the trio stand in a line for most of the song, and put the key lines on the video screens. Works on record, leaves us wanting much more on screen.

Adverts, or if you're stuck with BBC4, Mel and Scott try to solve a crime. "Who talked over 'Blackbird' on Tuesday?"

Eurovision Song Contest Joci and his friend.

MTV – "Origo" – Joci Pápai. Joci is on the main stage, with a big amphora drum, and a dancing girl in Roma costume. On the satellite stage, a violinist. The staging looks like a tale of forbidden love, singer and dancer kept apart until they say, "stuff it" and get together. Song is in Hungarian, and sounds like a hit.

DR – "Where I Am" – Anja. Shiny warning here. It's one woman in a red dress, pushing this song into the final by vocal capacity alone. She makes it look easy, she has the strength of Obelix. This is a heavy burden – a predictable song that The X Factor might blanch at. Delivering it to the Saturday final will be an achievement.

Eurovision Song Contest Brendan is ready for take off.

RTE – "Dying to Try" – Brendan Murray. It's a very cute guy in a white shirt, standing in the gondola beneath a hot air balloon. A dull-as-anything ballad, might get something from the jury, but we reckon the televoters will not vote for the song. "Very strong performance, I'm so proud" says RTE's Neil. He may not be impartial.

SMRTV – "Spirit of the Night" – Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson. Wrong type of shiny again. Wrong type of Valentina, back for a fourth (count 'em!) attempt to make Saturday. Another cheap disco number by Ralph Siegel that could be from any contest since 1982. Being a couple, they can tell a story with their performance, which puts them ahead of "Dance alone". The story they've told is "let's sing this song and then head backstage and come back in ten minutes with ruffled hair." They're not convincing.

Eurovision Song Contest Jacques, the door.

HR – "My Friend" – Jacques Houdek. Shiny, wrong. Jacques is an opera singer, performing light baritone opera while a basso profundo sings in the background. What? That's the same bloke?! Flipping between squeaky pop register and bass opera register like it's the easiest thing in the world? Artistic brilliance, and the show looks spectacular – when we realise what's going on at the first chorus, we join in the smiles and sunflowers.

NRK – "Grab the Moment" – JOWST. Some digital glitching on this performance. It's the first ultra-contemporary song we've seen tonight, the sort of skipping and broken beats popularised by The Chainsmokers. But Jowst doesn't quite look the part, whether it's the slightly twee hat or the clean white shirt, we reckon he's a fish out of place. The song features vocals sampled live, a technique at the limit of the current Eurovision rules.

Eurovision Song Contest Not everyone can wear yellow.

SRG SSR – "Apollo" – Timebelle. Bright staging: the singer's in a canary yellow dress, and stands on top of a small flight of stairs while pink shapes dance on the background. Mutter mutter big bird mutter mutter mister blobby. The song is a midtempo ballad with little to make it memorable. The highlight might have been the over-excited fan trying to crash the long shot.

RTE is early into the ad break, so misses the hosts suggesting that we all visit the bathroom in the next two minutes.

Eurovision Song Contest You're here, there's nothing I fear.

BTRC – "Story of My Life" – Naviband. There's two of them, Princess Serenity and Noel Fielding, on an airboat with fans behind them, while familiar motifs sail past on the background. This is a lovely song, we don't pretend to understand it at all, and it'll do well with all the Belarussian diaspora. (Where's got a big Belarussian diaspora?) (They withdrew.) Going through to Saturday, and a regular on clip shows.

BNT – "Beautiful Mess" – Kristian Kostov. Let's have a shiny warning. The youngest competitor this year, not that we'd know it from this assured performance. Knows his limits, plays right up to them. The song is another contemporary one, downbeat dance music with a certain hypnotic sway. Would fit right onto contemporary hit radio. This is going through, and it could easily contend for the top half on Saturday.

Eurovision Song Contest Effortless success for Kris.

LRT – "Rain of Revolution" – Fusedmarc. More wrong shinies. A huge red dress for the band's singer, fading into the red background. LRT spends most of the winter to come up with its entry, the viewers become very familiar with the performers and the songs. Perhaps something a little more instant might help.

EER – "Verona" – Koit Toome and Laura. Shiny, wrong. Very effective staging: Laura's in a white dress, Koit in a black suit, with Laura on back projection behind them. They don't share a shot until the first chorus, almost halfway through the song, and don't touch until the very end. EER are showing the distance between the couple. Unlike MTV's entry, the Romeo and Juliet motif is text, not subtext. Effective, and might have done enough.

Eurovision Song Contest Imri's shirt didn't all come through customs.

The Late IBA – "I Feel Alive" – IMRI. One last shiny warning? Let's. Imri is, literally, a fit guy – we see as much in the postcard. He's been a backing singer for the last two IBA entries, now steps forward to the main stage. There's fire, there's a bit in Hebrew, shame there's not much of a song. Just a beat, and some singing. A late draw and the eye candy vote might just push this through.

The Israel government closed the IBA for regular programmes on Tuesday night. The change is of funding: it's out with the television license and in with adverts. The late IBA has been kept alive until this year's Eurovision Song Contest has concluded, as the IBA's entry can't be taken over by new ad-funded broadcaster KAN.

The active voting window was from 21.29 to 21.46. Viewers in Ireland, SMS your song number to 53125, or call 1513 71 72 and your song number. Votes cost 50 cent.

During the voting window, RTE talked about the highs of the contest ("Lights and shadows") and the lows (many of the last songs). The BBC showed the second part of the Verka story. While RTE heard from the green room and the recap, the BBC showed Mel and Scott being bellhops in the "hotel Eurovision", and finishing their mystery.

Then it's The Apache Crew, a mixture of hip-hop and contemporary dancing. Doesn't work on the radio, so Neil and Zbyszek recap what happened on Tuesday. We remain with the television for the rest of the show, long wave is fading out badly now.

Viewers in Europe got to see Jana talk about her pregnancy, announced in her postcard, and her boyfriend offered to marry her. Viewers to the BBC saw Scott Mills rabbit on about nothing much. It's the one big miss from BBC4: apart from this, they had got the balance right. All of the substantive interval acts, none of the chat from the green room because it's almost always dull.

Eurovision Song Contest Anja tried a bit too hard, but gets through.

Going through: "Beautiful mess", "Story of my life", "My friend", "Origo", "Where I am", "I feel alive", "Yodel it!".

Then the tension break. "Grab the moment" goes through, followed by "Lights and shadows". Tenth place? Got to be "Running on air", surely. And it is.

To be honest, no tremendous surprises. We reckon "I feel alive" and "Lights and shadows" scraped through, perhaps nipping "Verona" by a few points.

Before the final

After the semi-finals, we can take a quick look at what people are buying. What's motivated people to spend 99 cent on a permanent copy of the song they've loved?

"City lights" sells well in Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and does exceptional business in Ireland. The people who buy singles love RTBF's track – is this a good omen for the televote?

"Amar pelos dois" does things in Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland. A widespread success for RTP.

"Blackbird" cracks it in Ireland and Norway, but this is not going to help it win on Saturday, as the song's already out.

"Don't come easy" also a hit in the Netherlands; "Gravity", "Paper" and "Hey mama" pick up sales in Sweden. They love all Eurovision songs in those territories.

From Thursday, "Yodel it!" sold into Ireland, Sweden, and the Netherlands

"Beautiful mess" sold into Ireland. "Origo" found buyers in Sweden, as did "Occidentali's karma" on a one-minute clip. "Running on air" charted in the Netherlands. "Light and shadows" and "I feel alive" sold well in Norway.

Eurovision Song Contest Blanche connects to the audience.

At this stage, we reckon "City lights" has very strong sales, and might attract casual televoters. "Yodel it!" seems to lead Thursday's crop, and that's going to get the casual televoter for whom it's a gimmick on Saturday.

This Week and Next

Radio 4's Brain programme had its fourth and last semi-final. It had a Most Excellent Start for Michael Frankl, scoring five in a row on his own turn, a bonus mark, and a huge round of applause. After a quiet start, Diane Hallagan scores five on one of her turns, adds a question about the Tour de Yorkshire, and it's given her the lead.

After the break, Diane Hallagan pulls further away, striking with her second five in a row. Ten questions in a row! That's a rare achievement! More than enough to win the contest. The final scores: Patrick Buckingham 2, Martin Hoskins 3, Michael Frankl 12, Diane Hallagan 21.

Things we didn't know: Henry I has been at a car park in Reading since the 12th century. He's not dead, just waiting for a gap in the one-way system.

Shirley Ballas will take over as head judge on Strictly Come Dancing. Ballas was a Latin American champion in the 1980s and 1990s. She will joins Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood, and Bruno Tonioli when Strictly comes back this autumn.

The death of Geoffrey Bayldon, best known as Catweazle in the 1970s drama. He crossed the world of game show in 1998, when he was the scatty and maddening Professor in Channel 5's version of Fort Boyard.

Good news for minor channels, as Pop Idle Us has been uncancelled. The series ran from 2002 to 2016, and hopped from ITV2 to 5-Star, and finished its life on 4Music.

BARB ratings in the week to 30 April.

  1. Britain's Got Talent (ITV, Sat) the top show of all, seen by 8.05m viewers. Line of Duty (BBC1, Sun) the top non-game show, 7.8m.
  2. Next biggest games were Masterchef (BBC1, Mon, 4.95m) and Have I Got News for You (BBC1, Fri, 4.6m). The Chase went on a break with 3m viewers.
  3. On BBC2, Bake Off Creme de la Creme (Tue, 2.5m) had a good score. Next best was the final of Me and My Dog (Wed, 1.1m). A Catsdown repeat on C4 (Mon, 900,000) beat a repeat of QI on BBC2 (Fri, 870,000).
  4. Taskmaster came back (Dave, Tue, 750,000). Couldn't beat Celebrity Juice (ITV2, Thu, 1.27m) but toppled Britain's Got More Talent (ITV2, Sat, 675,000).

The Eurovision Song Contest reaches its final (Sat: BBC1, RTE1, BBC Radio 2, RTE Radio 1). When Game Shows Go Horribly Wrong (C5, Sun) is a three-hour clip show. A full series of The Fake News Show (C4, Mon), and more Go 8 Bit (Dave, Mon). Your Face or Mine moves to Comedy Central (Fri).

New runs of Dickinson's Real Deal and Masterpiece (ITV, weekdays) and Just a Minute (R4, Mon). The final for Brain of Britain (R4, Mon), and Britain's Next Top Model (Lifetime, Thu).

Photo credits: NTU/EBU.

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