Sunday, 1 April 2012

Terry Wogan and a coffee table . . .

Hurrah! So the warmer days have arrived then. Fair enough, they have more or less disappeared overnight and the doom merchants at the Met Office are forecasting a White Easter. Oh well, it will bring me joy to see kids morosely looking for chocolate eggs under three feet of snow.

For me, Easter and sickly confectionery always heralded a high point of the Eurovision season. Yes folks, the songfest is on the horizon and some countries have been busy preparing their ditties. As is common song contest practice, they have also produced an accompanying preview film with which to whet the appetite. These tend to be slick, MTV-standard offerings but that wasn't always the case . . .

"And from Turkey this year, the Modern Folk Trio, a quartet"
Back in the 1980s, I would almost vomit in anticipation of the Easter goodies on offer from the BBC. Over two consecutive Sundays, the joys and horrors of that year's Eurovision would be laid bare. The action would take place in a depressingly small, and often beige, BBC studio. The camera would home in on Terry Wogan and a coffee table. Wry grin and best wig in place, Tel would meander through the entries and surpress a chuckle at the international preview videos. Looking back over those halcyon years, it would be easy to stereotype the films offered by many of the participating countries. For example . . .

Entrant wearing the pelt of some slaughtered animal, wandering around in the snow. Backng singers would emerge from pine forest and form a line behind her.

40,000 people gathered in an aircraft hangar near Munich, clapping politely as a hausfrau belts out a Teutonic anthem

Luxembourg and/or Monaco
Woman in vile evening dress superimposed against a backdrop of Monte Carlo or, oh the glamour, Luxembourg airport.

Singer is shown against a backdrop of white Orthodox churches on Mykonos and then later, bobbing around on a boat withe an eye painted on the prow.

Usually filmed in very weak colour, the singer is seen pararding around an eerily deserted Dublin Zoo or stranded by a waterfall. In the rain.

Young woman, given a make-under by a make-up artist with conjunctivitis, staggers out in front of a screeching violin-dominated cabaret band, wearing a brown or mustard-coloured frock. Centre parting optional.

The stuff of which nightmares are made. Woman travels down the side of a hill in a basket, jumps out, rolls the rest of the way down to a beach, jumps over a camera to reveal her undergarments and then settles down and lights a fag.

All performers are dressed in white and must re-enact Hava nagila at high speed. The set usually consists of numerous pieces of plastic on bits of string, violently swinging.

United Kingdom
Singers are seen in some dull part of London i.e. the Embankment, clutching umbrellas or wearing M & S macs. Against grey, leaden skies they do anything other than actually mime to the song.

Filmed in garish colour, the entrants are forced to pose with, on or under the Bosphorus suspension bridge before mysterioulsy pitching up in Ephesus where they emerge from behind 1000 year old stone pillars.

A tedious head and shoulder camera shot of the singer wearing over-sized earphones and reading the lyrics to the song from a piece of paper. Apart from 1992 when they didn't bother with any video and just submitted an elderly picture of the singer.

Singer shown in soft-focus due to their advanced age/humungous girth/receding hairline. Lots of meandering down side streets before huge plugs for Air Malta for the remainder of the film.

Sadly the BBC preview shows were axed many years ago. The last of the Wogan Euro shows was in 1994 and was filmed in front of a live audience and, oddly enough, yours truly was on stage with him. Why? Well, that's another story.

Of course, it's all much more professional now and this year we have been treated to some stark mini-drama from Iceland, a Bosnian woman on a steel girder playing a piano and a Montenegrin bloke running amok with a donkey. Somewhat reassuringly though, Italy's Nina Zilli is resplendent with over-sized earphones and a page of lyrics. She gets my vote . . .

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