TV reviewer James Waller-Davies runs the rule over the thrills and spills of the Eurovision song contest...
There was only one television event last week and that was the repository of all European bad taste: The Eurovision Song Contest - 2014 (BBC1).
It had all the makings of a three-hour UKIP election video. It worked.
Terry Wogan used to mock the over-the-Channel contributions with warm, avuncular wit. Graham Norton is more in the Oscar Wilde mould of Anglo-Irish satirical lambasting. His back-handed put-downs had the snap and whip of a wet tea-towel.
The acts themselves were a circus of kitsch. The songs were secondary to an eclectic sideshow from Cirque de Stupid. There was the Ukrainian man-hamster, who ran in a giant wheel for his three minutes. Trapeze artists, trampolines and a girl who seemed to be lost as she ice skated in and out of camera shot all made an appearance.
The British entry was just too normal to be in with any serious chance of recognition. Our evening’s victory would come later against the French.
The Russian twins’ entry had a symbolic start with their unity-laden message personified with their intertwined pony-tails. Half-way through though, they did their ‘Bucks Fizz moment’ and pulled them apart, thus bringing their political symbolism up to date. Mainly, I didn’t like the Russian act because they didn’t have a decent beard between them.
Some countries suffered from good taste and a half decent song. Malta’s entry seemed pretty tuneful to me, having echoes of 1980s bands Del Amitri, or Hothouse Flowers. Even a tad of Traveling Wilburys. They even had one and a half beards.
Iceland had what looked to be a member of ZZ Top with his foot-long beard as a backing-singer, but it turned out he was just an Icelandic MP.
They got my vote with their rock-a-billy three minutes about us all being the same because of trigonometry, or something.
I liked it: it wasn’t deep, or pretend moving and it didn’t make me think. It was just men with poor dress sense and beards.
And then Austria. The Sun got a week’s worth of headlines. The Daily Mail just locked itself in a cupboard, turned the light off and opened the gin.
If the songs were act one, then the voting was act two. And it proved that liberated Europe has no prejudices against a woman with a beard.
The Russian-speaking satellites knelt with tributes of maximum 12 points at the feet of Moscow, whilst carpet-bombing western Europe with ‘nil-point’. All the other national cliques just swapped points. A few, possibly hoping for a seat at football match, gave us a few points too.
The former colonial powers of the UK, Germany, Italy and France all languished in the bottom right of the tables, whilst those without even a foreign office lay smug on the left.
Britain was the real winner. Most, but notably not the French, sang in English, showing our cultural domination. So there, Nigel - do you still think we have no influence in Europe? And we beat the French, who came last with a mere ‘deux points’.
In truth, France lost it in the facial hair battle. All they wanted, as their song went, was a moustache, but really it was a night for beards.