Weaver's Week 2015-11-29

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Before this year's Junior Eurovision Song Contest, three questions were asked. What was Minsk like at this time of year? What was Yerevan like at this time of year? And what was Malta like at this time of year?


Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2015

BNT for Eurovision, 21 November 2015

The answers are "bella-russian", "Ar-mazing", and "have you forgotten since last year, don't make me cross". These three broadcasters were favoured to win the Junior contest, now in its thirteenth year.

The first three Junior Eurovisions were shown on the ITV network, then they withdrew because The X Factor audience was being cannibalised. After seven years in the wilderness, and two years on obscure community radio stations, this year's edition went out on Fun Kids radio across southern England. It wasn't a flawless broadcast – the signal to Bulgaria went down for about five minutes during the interval – but it's so much better than nothing.

RAI of Italy won last year's contest, but passed up their option to hold the contest this year. Bulgarian National Television were runners-up, and won the selection at Eurovision HQ. "Discover" is the motto for 2015, and the art motif is a dandelion. We think that's appropriate for a particularly ephemeral contest, where we hope the competitors will learn much and make memories for life before dispersing on the four winds.

And dandelions are a whole lot of fun.

But we have a contest to discuss first. The performances are all online; rather than embed 17 videos, we're put them behind the broadcaster's name.

After the opening ceremony (parade of performers), we began with RTS Serbia. "Lenina pesma" was performed by Lena Stamenkovi?. It was a very ethnic Balkan ballad on the radio, and needed a spectacular stage performance. It got a girl in a red dress, standing on a stage full of dry ice, and it got too much zooming out to show the stage itself.

Next up was GPB Georgia. "The virus" was performed by Gabede, and filled the Euro-bonkers quotient. Radio commentator Ewan Spence said this was a miniature Austin Powers being chased about the stage by three fembots. We found it loud, lairy, and as mad as last year's entry by GPB. The Georgian broadcaster has a reputation for this sort of thing.

Another quiet night in Tiblisi.

The producers decide most of the running order, and "Prva ljubezen – First love" of RTVSLO Slovenia went in slot three. Lina Kuduzovic performed this year's ice ballad – almost literally, her backdrop was a fairytale castle in a snowstorm. This is a high-quality song, one that would fit directly into Senior Eurovision, one that we could see turning up on BBC The Voice of UK in 2017.

Defending champions o'clock! RAI Italy sent "Viva", performed by Chiara e Martina. The two girls turned up in this season's must-have outfit: red party frocks and Doc Martens. The duo sung at each other from a very short distance, respecting the Eurovision cliché. The vocals lacked a little power at time, and we weren't surprised that RAI didn't win.

Two-fifths of the Peppermints?

Junior Eurovision is a big thing in the Netherlands, broadcaster AVROTROS can get massive ratings for the children's talent shows. Shalisa won this year's tournament, performing "Million lights". She's singing at a piano, there are a couple performing an interpretative dance on one of the satellite stages, backing vocalists on the other. It's very pretty and very worthy, but we think it might be too subtle for a first viewing. Like Íctimai Azerbaijan's recent entries at Senior, it deserves a second viewing and that's why it won't win.

G'day SBS Australia! "My girls" was performed by Bella Paige, and showed the professionalism of every previous SBS entry (Guy Sebastian in May). The video screen turned into a pyro curtain of victory, Bella switched from throat to chest voice, and delivered an anthem of female empowerment. The lyric was perhaps a little trite ("can't you see that hate is the enemy") but Bella delivered a fine debut.

Bella and her girls.

After this came the first commercial break, drumming with robots, and some flame-throwing. Works brilliantly on the radio.

Another debutant came next, TG4 Ireland sent "Réalta na mara" performed by Aimee Banks. Being outside of the Fun Kids area, we had to rely on internet audio, and we suffered from some nasty buffering during this song. It benefits from the visuals: Aimee stands in a turquoise dress, she sings her ethereal soprano, a CGI ship sails on the video screen, and we're left wondering if there's room for a new Enya. Deserved a bit more than it got.

Subtly and gently Irish.

RTR Russia sent "Mechta (Dream)", performed by Mikhail Smirnov. Like every entry from RTR at the senior contest, it's a worthy ballad of peace and love and global unity, performed by someone who doubtless had grumpy uncles across the continent asking "is that a lad or a lass in a power suit?" He was accompanied by a dancer who started by sitting on a crescent moon; unlike the Dutch entry, she didn't overpower the singer.

MKRTV Macedonia gave us "Pletenka – Braid of Love", performed by Ivana Petkovska and Magdalena Aleksovska. This song stood out for two reasons, neither of them good. First, it's weaker than the others, after the verse and chorus, there's still two minutes to fill with repetitive dance beats.

Oh, grief.

The second reason: it's childish. Junior Eurovision is trying to find its place in the world, and seems to have found a niche, a show aimed at children of about 14. It's sufficiently cool to not embarrass young teens, and sufficiently aspirational to entice slightly younger viewers. MKRTV's entry was five girls skipping about and singing weakly, they looked like a naff commercial for something or other. They didn't fit with the slick image of the rest of the show.

Compare and contrast against "Volshebstvo (Magic)", Ruslan Aslanov's entry for BTRC Belarus. He's another young entrant, but held his own on the stage. He found the camera almost every time, and performed a song that felt much more mature and sensible. We can see ten-year-olds wanting to be like Ruslan when they're a bit older, they'll want to stop being Ivana and Magdalena quickly. He also had a far better CGI gimmick than Mans Zermelow, holding out his hand in the finale so he could appear to unfurl a butterfly.

Beat that, stickman.

Was that our winner? We'd find out in a moment, after Mika's performed. ARMTV Armenia sent a song "Love". It's the most fabulous 50s throwback we've seen in a very long time, Mika in a pepto-pink zoot suit, his backing dancers with shoulderpads large enough that they might take off at walking pace. It's a confident and self-assured performance, and would make for a worthy winner.

He could be brown, he could be blue, he chose this.

After two favourites, NTU Ukraine were on a losing tip. Not that "Pochny z sebe (Start with yourself)" wasn't a good song, not that Anna Trincher didn't sell it well. It's just that we only remember the gimmick – Anna emerging from a flowerbud – and the waterfall staging. We don't remember the song. This entry wasn't helped by the running order, but it wasn't a winner to begin with.

The second commercial break followed. Viewers to the webstream were treated to beatboxers playing ping-pong, or something.

Hosts BNT Bulgaria drew position 13. "Colour of hope" was performed by Gabriela Yordanova and Ivan Stoyanov. Gabriela is exiled to the satellite stage for most of the song, while a rhythmic gymnastics performance takes place on the main stage. Ivan only walks on stage in the final minute, this chap in a tuxedo is interrupting the gymnastics as though he's the new Little Neil Patrick Harris. For all the hand-hearts, for all the rainbows and fairies, this stands out as one of the few childish songs.

Another very good tune from San Marino.

SMRTV of San Marino pulled a few favours this year. Having sent all the country's children in their last two entries, they've been allowed to bring in Kamilla Ismailova from Russia. Her song "Mirror" is universal, the chorus goes about "Mirror mirror on the wall", a fairytale trope since before Alexander Rybak. It's a minor-key work, mystic and ethereal and gently unsettling. We can hear it in a Disney Channel remake of Snow White, so passes the Cool test. We can hear Eastern echoes, which will help the Eastern bias of the contest. Her dress, yep, features a fractured mirror. Good song, slightly weak vocals, perhaps deserved better.

Last year, PBS Malta wrote the textbook on how to stage Junior Eurovision. They'd been plotting to stage a Eurovision event for years, and all that hard work showed. "Not my soul" hoped to take the win, Destiny Chukunyere the performer. The song is a superior 70s soul pastiche, perhaps a little too close to a Cee Lo Green track at times. The video wall turns into an interpretive doodle, a crown appears in the lyric and on screen. Being in English, this song could fit straight onto a UK radio playlist. Being utterly brilliant, it won't.

Oooh, this is a bit good.

RTSH Albania tried to follow that, "Dambaje" was performed by Mishela Rapo, an homage to the huge African diaspora in Albania. Junior Eurovision entries are only allowed 25% of the lyric in a "foreign" language, but Albania appear to have been allowed to declare scat breaks as fluent Albanian. It helps comprehension, viewers across Europe know what "di-bi-di-bi-dum-bay-yea" sounds like, even if they don't know what it means.

RTCG Montenegro drew the last slot in a random draw. Jana Mirkovi? performed "Oluja", an upbeat singalong track that sounded it was going to continue in a conga line out of the studio.

That was it. Seventeen songs presented in an hour and a half, a model of efficiency and not messing about. That was to follow: the Active Voting Window went from 8pm to 8.20 UK time, containing the recaps and interval acts – most of them didn't make the radio feed we were following.

Just a part of the interval act.

The voting sequence was complete in 20 minutes. First came the Kids' Jury, former performers and tastemakers nominated by the competing broadcasters. The Kids' Jury is rarely wrong, and gave top points to the favourites. But in what order? 8 to Belarus, 10 to Armenia, 12 to Malta.

And so it proved to be. Armenia and Malta pulled ahead of the pack. Malta had an increasing the lead, until Russia's voters gave a six-point swing to Armenia. The votes from Macedonia gave Armenia the lead for the first time.

Slovenia won the "brr, it's frozen" contest.

The voting moves quickly because all of the spokespeople are in the hall, they just stand on their mark and read out the scores. No "thank you for a wonderful evening," they can say that in person after the show has finished. No graphics to build a bridge from Austria to Estonia. No satellite links to Estonia that might fall over. When it's finished, after the reprise and the credits, the show will come out about 15 seconds early. Senior over-ran by 24 and a half minutes.

How's the score going? Armenia gave 12 to Malta, Malta returned just 7 points, and it's all going to come down to the final voters. Seven from Montenegro to Armenia, then we see 10 to Malta.

And so PBS wins again. The undisputed masters of Junior Eurovision have won again. AMPTV finished second, and RTVSLO's ice ballad came in third. BTRC finished fourth, and RTSH took fifth place. The debutants of SBS came 8th, and TG4 finished 12th.

Destiny: winner.

By mostly using children of 13-14, the show is credible to that age group, and it's something younger children can aspire to. We remember contestants on Raven saying they'd wanted to do the show for years; we hope that Junior Eurovision inspires such dedication from some competitors.

There are two very good things about PBS winning again. 1) We know they'll put on a good show. 2) We have a very good idea what that show will be like. Junior Eurovision has been in transition for a number of years, these last couple of years show that it's a solid and reliable format. Bluntly, if Junior Eurovision turned up as some filler on CBBC next year, no-one would bat an eyelid. It would be a gamble for Channel 4, but that's what we ask Channel 4 to do. It was more professional and less divisive than the singing-and-shouting contest on ITV.

We're no longer at the point where Junior Eurovision needs to explain itself to UK broadcasters. Next year, broadcasters need to explain why they're passing up this opportunity.

Countdown Update

Since mid-October, much has happened on Countdown. Zac Goodman recorded five wins, losing to Andrew Irvine (he had two). Hazel Drury notched up four victories, Andrew Poulton-Smith took a teapot, and Keith Kan won two. None of these players looked likely to challenge for high honours.

Matthew Tassier did: he won eight on the spin, including five centuries. His style is to pick four-large numbers games, which tended to increase his lead at the expense of his raw score. Fifth seed at the moment. Margaret Fatih won two matches, and James Richards has five victories so far. Another win and he'll be favoured for finals week, which runs from Tuesday 15 to Wednesday 23 December.

The top eight seeds:

Thomas Carey 8 wins 923 pts
Jonathan Wynn 8 922
Stephen Briggs 8 883
John Hardie 8 845
Judy Bursford 7 603
Liam Moloney 6 745
Matty Artell 5 541
Rhys Benjamin 5 494

This Week and Next

The British auditions for Junior Eurovision 2017 have been announced: ITV will stage The Voice of Holland of UK Kids when it gets control of the format at the end of next year. ITV will also hold its own version of BBC The Voice of Holland of UK, presumably to fill the gap between the end of The X Factor and the end of The X Factor winner's career.

Good news from the senior contest, as the broadcasters of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Bulgaria have said they're back in the contest. Slovakia are said to be considering their position, after their men's football side failed to qualify for next summer's continental tournament. Confusion reigned in Germany, after NDR said they'd agreed to give the performance to Xavier Naidoo, a homophobic racist and anti-semitic rapper. Chastened by this error, NDR withdrew the invitation, and invited the German public to suggest more appropriate performers.

Winners at the BAFTA Children's awards last Sunday included Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes, the best Entertainment Presenters; Swashbuckle, the best Entertainment show. Splatoon won the critics' choice as Game of the Year, Minecraft won the Kids' Vote Game, and CBBC the Channel of the Year.

File:Square BBC 3.jpg

The BBC Governors have decided to close BBC3. We said back on 9 March last year that this was an error, and little has changed. Viewers in rural areas will face great difficulty seeing the shows, and the only television channel to skew towards working class households is to be closed. It's odd that no-one has suggested closing Radio 3 or BBC Parliament. We'll have more to say on this in a couple of months.

We hear that ITV has bought a series of 500 Questions. From the write-up on Buzzerblog it sounds like a quiz made more complex than it needs to be. ITV's order is for four nights, and will be produced by Laura Turner from the revival of Television's Toughest Quiz Fifteen-to-One.

The press release left us confused.

Wall to Wall chief executive Leanne Klein added: "There was a big buzz around 500 Questions when it aired in the USA this year. I can’t wait to bring television's toughest quiz to the UK."

Hmm. This is at least the sixth quiz to be described as "television's toughest". Which is, actually, television's toughest quiz? We will have to investigate.

Quiz Update

Southampton and Liverpool met in University Challenge: once again, the repêchage winners are meeting a team we saw in an early heat. Like last week, the heat winners took a small early lead and never looked like being headed; like last week, the repechage team gave a very good account of themselves and are a trifle unlucky to go out. Liverpool won, 190-155.

File:Square UKTV G2.jpg

Wayfarers and Builders met on Only Connect, the "Call me Dave" edition. We are enjoying the opening Connections round at the moment, many questions have wit ("Joe Bloggs" in foreign idioms) or artistic merit (events of 22 November 1963, drawing attention to the many problems of downtown Dallas's one-way system). The Wayfarers claimed three points on versions of the Windows operating system, the Builders clanged the Five Point Klaxon with a combination of tennis slams and golf majors.

Strength on the walls gave the Wayfarers a six-point lead; Builders cut it to two in the first Missing Vowels set, where it remained. Had the Builders been able to find the group of "sisters" on the wall, they might have been on the right side of the game. As it was, the Wayfarers did enough to progress, 21-19. The Builders can count themselves unlucky to be out at this stage, they've had ill fortune in both losses.

By comparison, a pedestrian edition of Mastermind. Bruce Horton won the game; he only scored 8 on his specialist subject (Hong Kong 1841-1997), but soared with 15 points on general knowledge. That was enough to beat Alyn McFetridge, Rob Webb, and Lottie Houghton – their combinations of hot and cold rounds were all a little more lukewarm. Only two heat winners have scored more than 15 on general knowledge so far this series.

BARB ratings in the week to 15 November.

  1. Strictly Come Dancing continued to soar, with 11.7m seeing the performances on Saturday.
  2. I'm a Celebrity launched with 8.3m on ITV, bigger than any 2015 edition of The X Factor (this week: 6.1m). Children in Need recorded 7.95m on Friday night, expect a series. The Apprentice had 7.55m.
  3. Changing of the guard on BBC2: Masterchef The Professionals blasted into the top spot with 3.6m. University Challenge slipped to 2.9m, The Apprentice You're Fired 2.6m.
  4. 1.26m saw Celebrity Juice on ITV2, 960,000 the top Come Dine with Me on Channel 4 – and the top-rated edition of the year. 615,000 for Get Me Out of Here Now on ITV2, but The Xtra Factor failed to make ITV2's top ten.
  5. In the minor channels, Masterchef Australia had 300,000 on Watch, Junior Bake Off whipped 270,000 to CBBC. Lip Sync Battle appeared on the pay channel Comedy Central, 250,000 viewers is more than the show got on Spike. Bigg Boss (Big Brother India) had 110,000 on the pay channel Colors. Million Pound Drop reruns intrigued 90,000 on the Challenge channel.

This week, we have the latest remix of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (Radio 4, Monday), and the finals of Fferm Ffactor (S4C, Wednesday) and Britain's Strongest Man (C5, Friday). Saira Khan and Jeff Salmon appear on Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat), celebrity couples play Catchphrase (ITV, Saturday), and Kaye Adams does The Chase (ITV, Saturday).

Photo credits: EBU (Elena Volotova / Vladimir Dudakliev)

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