Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Moscow 09 in Review: The Voting

There has been no talk of bloc voting this year. Given the size of Norway's victory and the consistency of it's voting-earning from all nations (everyone gave him points and apart from Turkey, Portugal and sections of Eastern Europe just about everyone had him in their top three) it is fair enough to say that everyone agrees the right person won.

Some of the old biases were in evidence - Cyprus giving 12 points to Greece, Andorra giving 12 to Spain - but generally we saw a return to votes being earned by good performances and publicity efforts. The UK scored its best result in seven years after Jade Ewen completed a 13 nation tour appearing on talk shows and variety shows across Europe - oh, and singing very, very well on the night.

After a closer contest (perhaps Oslo in 2010) we may be able to verify if the return of juries has finally slayed the Neighbourhood Watch scheme which has undermined several contests. One concern we have is that the juries make their scores after watching the dress rehearsal on the Friday night! This does seem very wrong - if a performer misses a note or has a sore throat on Friday, but nails it on Saturday at the Final, they will get marked down on 50% of their score for a sin committed off-camera.

Is it asking too much for the juries to watch the Final and make up their minds during the 15 minute interval? Like the rest of us.

Moscow 09 in Review: Stankiest Performance

For the second year running, Ukraine made us want to have a hot shower.

Moscow 09 in Review: Raise the Double Standard

We always learn a little about the host nation from their presentation of Eurovision and 2009 was no different. Russia clearly wanted to make an impression on Europe and despite the GFC hitting them worse than most, forked out a staggering $55m on the stage and show. The stage was quite simply the most amazing thing ever! 2,000 square metres of LED (apparently 30% of the globe's LEDs were there) broken into wings, back drops and moveable circular pieces meant most contestants got live footage superior to their video clips.

But among the technical achievement were a few strange or worrying moments. As not mentioned by SBS, Georgia was forced to withdraw from the contest for having the words Put and In next to each other in their crappy disco track. The reference to Putin was clear and deliberate, but nothing in the song lyrics was political. It is safe to assume Russia put pressure on the EBU to ban it on the grounds of political comment. So what were we to make of the Russian military choir chanting "They're not gonna get us" along with tATu as the interval act at Semi #1?

And then we get to appropriate standards of dress and 'traditional values.' Germany scored a coup by enticing burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese to perform on stage as the titular Miss Kiss Kiss Bang. Unfortunately for them, she was a bit more titular than Russian authorities could handle at the dress rehearsal on Friday - her low-cut corset revealing most of a boob when side-on (though with pastie covering any nipple). Although Dita replaced her corset with one that covered more boob, the Russian broadcasters avoided putting her on screen until the very end of Germany's performance (apparently taking 2 and bit minutes to spot the new corset).

Standards are one thing - it's a family show after all, right? Well, boobs are banned, but apparently groins are great. We can recall at least two close ups of groins (Turkey and Ukraine) and plenty of up-panty angles. In the interests of accuracy we will go through all six hours and note all instances, maybe taking screen shots. How can one be OK and the other not?

To quote Dita herself: "What about the oiled up guys in loincloths?"

Moscow 09 in Review: The Hosts

It is not often the hosts from the Semi Finals have everyone talking - but it's safe to assume it's never going to be good when they do. Alsou and Ivan Urgant did a great job at the Final - polished, well-dressed, nothing silly. As Graham Norton said before they appeared on stage: "Unfortunately... they're quite good."

This was in contrast was the first Semi - hosted by model Natalia Vodyanova and journalist Andrey Malakhov. Natalia has not presented on TV before, which means throwing her before 30 million viewers with a week's training was a bit optimistic. Making her speak in French was inviting disaster. Clearly upset by her stumble on the French introduction when we next meet Natalia she's quite bubbly, the time after that she is clearly swaying (nice job Andrey, trying to make it look like you were both dancing side to side) and from there on she was a Whoo! girl punching her mike in the air and making some weird, substance affected comments. Like:
  • "I don't push buttons on the catwalk, I push buttons off the catwalk"
  • "Where are your buttons, Andrey?"
  • "In the end, I am a lady"
  • "Oh my god" (noteable for the number of times she yelled this out), and,
  • "Stick with Andrey, he knows how to party" (so that's where you got the stuff!)
Andrey displayed clearly that workplace and sexual harrassment laws have yet to arrive at Russian TV networks (a bit like Ch 9!) by attempting to mount Natalia throughout the night. His most priceless contribution for the night was on Israel making it to the Final:
"The most political correct song of the Contest"

Moscow 09 in Review: Coverage

Following an amazing broadcast by Russia and a remarkable victory by Norway (averaging 9.4 votes from every nation) we turn our eye to the highs and the lows of the contest.

2009 marks the first year for three decades with no Terry Wogan commentary via the BBC. SBS have attempted in previous years to introduce some Australian content to the commentary - for purposes which have never seemed apparent (it clearly weren't broke). With Terry's departure the network understandably decided to use local commentators to fill the vacuum.

Well known SBS identity Julia Zemiro and less-known 3RRR host Sam Peng were sent to Moscow with both of them commentating for the three nights. And it got off on the wrong foot - a cartoon about how Julia loves Eurovision. We don't care. It's not about the host - particularly not the one we already know - it's about the contest. An intro on who Sam was would have been useful, but we instantly found out he was there to carry Julia's bags (literally and metaphorically).

Sam displayed some knowledge of the contest and contestants (basis stuff from the notes the EBU would provide each commentating team) and some wit on the few occasions he was allowed to get a few words in. Yet each time he attempted to add some information or explanation he was told off for being a swot or having done research.

Julia on the other hand continually provided timeless quips and observations like "Yeah", "That was good" and "Who's next?", whilst labouring a few personal favourites (we get it, you liked Belarus, now move on). By way of establishing her reputation as a Eurovision commentator, Julia decided to eat into the mike and appeared tipsy at the second Semi. Knowing that Julia has been involved in Eurovision: The Musical (which displayed a deep knowledge of the contest) we assumed she knew more about the show: if not spotting half of Eurobandid (Iceland 08) in the backup singers for Yohanna, then certainly that Alsou came second in 2000!

We opted to download the BBC coverage with Graham Norton and watched this the day after. The differences were quite clear - a far greater engagement with the audience, more detailed intros, slightly saucy comments after a song, and most noteably the BBC commentators talk over the audio track where SBS turned off the contest's audio whenever Julia and Sam spoke, meaning we kept missing hosts' dialogue or having the music drop in and out.

From the comments at SBS's Eurovision website, the fan reaction is overwhelmingly negative - and somewhat confused. Terry's retirement was never explained - the t-shirts at the end 'Terry's not doing it tonight' were unclear and have led some viewers to think SBS decided to not use Terry's coverage or that he'll back next year. A bit of recognition to the guy on his retirement after 25+ years of commentating would have been polite and avoided viewer confusion. Still, the night got nearly half a million viewers, up 12% or so on last year's coverage.

Constructive feedback: Share the commentating duties next time. One commentator at a time: Sam can do the two semis and Julia the Final - having them both talk was inefficient, the schtick got old quick, and their banter was forgettable. Sam's use of information and delivery of comments will be suited to the semis as we meet 35 nations for the first time. At the Final, some knowledge can be assumed, and more barbed comments made by Julia. If the audience has a preference, then splitting the duties will make it come clear.

Alternatively - save the money and just use the BBC commentary - even post-Wogan it remains brilliant.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Overheard at Rehearsals

PUTIN: I have something you might wanna put in.
AY SEL: Er...
Berlusconi told me to try that line.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dance with Me

For Australian Eurovisionaries wanting to join a crowd during the SBS coverage, here are some locations in Sydney & Melbourne:

Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Lang Road, Moore Park
17 May - starting 7pm
Cost $15.00

Eurotrash Bar, 18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne (small lane between Lonsdale & Lt Bourke Sts, near Russell Street)
Cost: $25.00 - includes basic drinks during the broadcast.

EDU is happy to add any other venues hosting a screening to the blog or EDU website, just drop us a line.

Push the Button

For those night owls wanting to stay up overnight next Saturday night/Sunday morning and watch ESC live on-line, an extra bit of fun commentary will be available via the 'so hot right now' Twitter.

Brilliant UK comedy writer Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books, IT Crowd) and the TWUMPET team will be hosting a live Eurovision Twitter ‘Happening’’ at:

Partners in Crime

The hosts for the Semi Finals have finally been annouced - not a moment too soon! A TV personality and a model will host the two Semis, with the Final to be hosted by a former Russian entrant and 'the best dressed presenter on Russian television.' (Think Megan Gale, Andrew O'Keefe, Vanessa Amorosi and Eddie McGuire). Get ready for style to grind substance into the ground!

Semi Finals

Natalia Vodyanova -a model since she was 16 years old, part of Calvin Klein's 2002 campaign.
Andrey Malakhov - a former journalist on Channel One TV who presents several talk-shows.

Ivan Urgant - an actor and singer, who has worked in radio stations and on MTV. He presents a number of shows in Russia.
Alsou - represented Russia in 2000 with "Solo" (finishing second). Since then she has worked with Enrique Iglesias, Jon Bon Jovi and Nelly.

Lose Control

In what may be the greatest news in Eurovision news ever - Germany has announced that their stage show for the very cool and very swinging 'Miss Kiss Bang Bang' will include the world famous (and utterly wonderful) burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese.

Obviously Dita has to keep it clean - but even so, it will be a huge highlight to an already impressive live performance. Should Ms Von Teese do something outrageous on the Saturday night the EBU will use the footage of the Friday night dress rehearsal. That is the EBU's guarantee against any act pulling something political or distasteful each year.