Yes! We're back again! Minute after painstaking minute of live Eurovision coverage, courtesy of Mu Beta1. This year's wines, specially selected for me by the bargain bucket at Morrisons, are a Bodegas Palacio Rioja Crianza (down to £4.99 from £7.99) and a Namaqua Shiraz (surely a bargain at £3.49, whatever it tastes like). As usual, I will be assisted, but mostly hindered, by the rambling drivellings on askh2g2's long-running Eurovision thread, tonight featuring the likes of fords, Deakie, Ferrettbadger, and the terminally short-of-a-social-life Croz, among many others.
Following attempts at self-scoring which have mysteriously failed to pick a winner in the past, this year I have developed a scoring system based on four categories: 'Fwoar' Factor, Eurovision Stereotypes, Credibility and Kitsch, each one scored out of 5, followed by an Integer Total out of 20. I hope to make the Mu Beta 'FECK IT' system the standard for all future Eurovisions.
OK...on with the commentary:
7:55 Lady Admiral Ayeka confuses Euro 2008 with Eurovision. Easily done, I suppose: we've got an equal chance of winning both of them.
7:57 No terrorists on the Lottery draw again! What is the world coming to?
7:58 The BBC broadcast an apology for last year's voting scandal. Surely they'd be better off apologising for the forthcoming three hours?
8:00 Terry says 'good evening' in Serbian - nice start, and promisingly slurred. Although, having said that, I'd forgetten that we'd have to sit through the ghastly winning entry from last year. Comparisons are drawn to Tucker Jenkins. Now, let's see about this Rioja...
8:03 This year's drinking game will be to drink every time someone in a silver dress appears. I will be abstaining of course: as your host it is unthinkable that I am anything but sober.
8:06 Time for the hosts. A reasonably tasteful pair this year, I feel, although they both have comedy Eurovision accents. Apparently the chap's an accordionist - that's Serbian bling for you.
8:08 Terry complains about unavailibility of booze. Good call, Tez.
8:09 Romania Clearly Michael Buble has had a big impact in Transylvania. This started off pretty well until a ghastly woman in a twinkly dress waltazed on and started singing like a foghorn. Lots of wrong notes: it reminds me of The Mary Whitehouse Experience's take-off of Shakespear's Sister.
F: 2 E: 1 C: 2 K: 1 IT: 7/20
8:12 UK Good idea - get the pain out the way quickly. Lord knows why Mr Abraham is dressed like a bus conductor, but it's a passable bit of Hot Chocolate disco kitsch. An entertaining backing band, including comedy fat man on bass and motionless drummer. Not at all memorable, though.
F: 0 E: 2 C: 3 K: 3 IT: 8/20
8:16 Albania I'm quite enjoying the dancers on the insert clips, more entertaining than usual, I have to say. Albania have managed to wheel out a pretty little cute thing: she belts out minor-key-Eurovision-Afro-rock with minimal enthusiasm, although the energetic wind-machine operator clearly has her in his sights.
F: 4 E: 3 C: 3 K: 2 IT: 12/20
8:20 Germany We've been able to rely on Germany for something a bit entertaining of late. Sadly, rather than Country & Western or jazz, they appear to have wheeled out the German All Saints (three ugly ones and a cute blonde) this year. Despite some sensuous writhing and some very short skirts, it's exceedingly bland, with a few mis-pitched notes for good measure. Yuk.
F: 1 E: 2 C: 2 K: 1 IT: 6/20
8:24 Armenia Armenia? Really? ... They're a good few years out of date and still plugging the Middle East belly-dance sound. Thankfully the lead singer's sweet with some good energy, there's an unexpected flute solo, and the male dance troupe are exceedingly camp. Passable by the poor standards so far.
F: 3 E: 3 C: 3 K: 4 IT: 13/20
8:27 Bosnia and Herzogovina Terry's intro bodes well, and indeed Bosnia have really grasped Eurovision silliness with both hands yet again. I can best describe this as Andy Pandy meets Bride Of Frankenstein, and even that wouldn't be enough. It's got insanely bad dancing, old women knitting in wedding dresses, about eight different tunes, and a washing line! Insane genius.
F: 0 E: 5 C: 2 K: 5 IT: 12/20
8:31 Erp. The hosts are back. Amazing how quickly it becomes annoying, isn't it?
8:33 Israel The Israeli songwriters have gone all serious on us this year; more so than their wardrobe master, leastways. It's a big flag-waving power ballad sung by gusto apparently by an off-season Premiership footballer. Massive drums thrown in to hit a cliche.
F: 1 E: 1 C: 4 K: 1 IT: 7/20
8:37 Finland 'Where All The Men Ride Forth', eh? Another good Finnish rock band, I'm delighted to say. Bare chests, cowbell,the Metallica songbooka and comedy drumming all add up to a good bit of Lordi resonance, and the lead singer is suitably tongue-in-cheek. "There's manly" says Terry.
F: 2 E: 4 C: 5 K: 4 IT: 15/20
8:40 Croatia Best named singer so far: '75 Cents', indeed! So, what do we have here? Old men in silly hats playing a bizarre Spanish ballad with a dance like the duo from There's Something About Mary. The very old man does an odd little rap and scratches a gramophone, which explains his name, I think. The effect is rather spoiled by a woman in a Flamenco dress cavorting around. Nice to see we're descending into madness after such a tame start this year.
F: 1 E: 4 C: 3 K: 4 IT: 12/20
8:452Poland There's no way this one's Polish - she's blonde and has a tan. To be honest, even despite the amount of cleavage on view, she's being depressingly serious about the stringy ballad she's been given3. It doesn't bode well.
F: 4 E: 2 C: 2 K: 2 IT: 10/20
8:48 Iceland Could you do better than to name yourselves: "Euroband"? Well, to ameliorate that, you could plug a fairly standard bit of Euro-dance, sung by a young man with a silly quiff, and a woman wearing pink shoes. You suspect that High School Musical has just reached Iceland and that Eurovision halted about 12 years ago.
F: 2 E: 3 C: 1 K: 3 IT: 9/20
8:52 Turkey Fair play to the chefs on the intro clip who made the Turkish flag out of sweet kebabs: I said these clips were good. The Turkish appear to have dragged up Indie warblers Space as an influence. The song is far too straight, despite the guitarists' attempts to dance in an extremely homosexual manner, but it's far from offensive, and the drummer has a fair whack at some musical credibility.
F: 1 E: 3 C: 4 K: 3 IT: 11/20
8:56 Commercial break - time for more wine. Thankfully, I miss two gurning idiots in the green room.
8:58 THIRTEEN countries remaining? Bloody hell...
8:59 Portugal It would appear that the Portuguese equivalent of Jade Goody has been wheeled out for this one. Her backing dancers appear to be dressed in togas, and the song is a dire peace-anthem style. Unremittingly poor - Portugal never seem to have got the hang of this competition.
F: 0 E: 1 C: 0 K: 1 IT: 2/20
9:03 Latvia Latvia's pirate-themed entry is supposed to be one of the favourites - possibly through Bloc voting more than anything. It's basically a pirate song written for 4-year-olds, and the lead singer looks less like Johnny Depp than Tim Curry in Muppets Treasure Island. It's destined to become a gay club classic.
F: 2 E: 5 C: 2 K: 5 IT: 14/20
9:06 Sweden The Swedes are tipped to do pretty well. Their reptilian singer is very oddly made-up to be lacking in sex appeal, but she and her backing singers are revealing some very shapely legs. The song's a good European vote-plugger: it's got a bit of drive, and a Bonnie Tyler-esque refrain. It's no patch on Latvia or Finland, but I could see it winning.
F: 3 E: 2 C: 3 K: 2 IT: 10/20
9:10 Denmark Denmark have been the grown-ups of Eurovision of late, but if by any chance 'Hi-Ho Silver Lining' is still under copyright, then Jeff Beck might want to consult his lawyers. It's about as good as Jeff's song, which makes it almost a hit by Eurovision standards. Another silly hat, too.
F: 3 E: 2 C: 4 K: 4 IT: 13/20
9:13 Georgia Terry on good form: name dropping Wilson, Keppel & Betty. Georgia's entry is a suprisingly good slice of darkness: the lead singer is disguised beneath shades and silly jewellry, and the backing dancers are going for some sort of eighties robot manoeuvre, but the song's produced with gusto, and a bleakness that we don't often see. Brave.
F: 2 E: 3 C: 4 K: 0 IT: 9/20
9:17 Ukraine Terry has this tipped to win, which means it almost certainly won't. It's by no means a bad tune though: a poor Eurobeat start belies a fairly powerful build into a good disco chorus. Choreography is brilliant in a way that only Eurovision choreography can be; if the men coming out of the mirror were a nod to A-Ha's 'Take On Me', then I'm very impressed indeed.
F: 4 E: 3 C: 4 K: 3 IT: 14/20
9:22 France The French have high hopes; surely they've too much nous than to actually try and win. Sebastian Tellier is a singer I've actually heard of: not only is he singing a brilliant Bowie/Roxy Music number, with some backing singers all wearing copies of his beard, but he may well be actually bringing some camp cool to Eurovision. This gets a thumbs-up from the pessimists in the Eurovision thread: hotly tipped by us.
F: 2 E: 4 C: 5 K: 5 IT: 16/20
9:26 Azerbaijan This must be Western Asia's answer to Marilyn Manson. There's a lot of heaven/hell imagery and some desperate falsetto, and the hint of BDSM goes down well in some quarters. A shame the song doesn't have anything much to recommend it.
F: 4 E: 3 C: 1 K: 4 IT: 12/20
9:30 Greece Well, Greece will take home the mismatched costume award: the singer is wearing a ra-ra skirt, and the backing dancers have jazz suits. The song, naturally, is slightly Middle-Eastern and minor key and therefore suits neither. Extra marks for somersaults, mid-song costume changes and showing a lot of leg, though.
F: 4 E: 3 C: 2 K: 2 IT: 11/20
9:34 Spain Every year, there is one song that defies description. Despite Bosnia's strong contendership, Spain take the award here. I can best describe it as a man in a Rolf Harris costume singing a Macarena, throwing in as many Euro-pop references as possible, backed by four very tasty ladies, one of whom is inexplicably pretending to be ratted off her face. Weird to the extreme. Lots of boos ring out around the audience - not quite sure why.
F: 3 E: 2 C: 4 K: 5 IT: 14/20
9:38 Serbia Serbia have carefully gone middle-of-the-road in an effort not to win twice running. It's a pretty ballad, sure, with a touch of the Irish in their Eurovision pomp, but it's easy to see that no-one is trying too hard.
F: 2 E: 2 C: 3 K: 2 IT: 9/20
9:41 Russia 'My Lovely Horse' is (yet again) being name-dropped on the Eurovision thread. Russia, on the other hand, have put in their answer to Ronan Keating. Comedy drumming appears to have given way to comedy fiddling4 and comedy ballet from a man who looks like a cross between Boris Johnson and a Bond villain. Dreary, all told.
F: 1 E: 4 C: 1 K: 2 IT: 8/20
9:45 Norway Norway have turned in a good 'un this year. Straight away, it's got the touch of our modern female divas - there's a classy backing track, and she's got an engaging style in a Kate Garraway-sort of mould. There's not much in the way of gimmickry, but the song is good enough to hold up on its own.
F: 3 E: 2 C: 5 K: 2 IT: 12/20
9:49 Right, that's it for the songs. I'd be happy for Spain, France, Ukraine, Latvia5 or Finland to win, although I think we can count out the first two on Bloc-voting grounds.
9:53 On second listening, I wouldn't object to Bosnia, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark or Croatia winning, either. It's not been a terrible turn-out, all told. No doubt none of those nine will win, and I'll be left cursing another 'wasted' Eurovision.
9:58 Half-time break. Time for a pee.
10:04 The Greek entry6 didn't really do anything for me at the time, and it still doesn't, but I find it's oddly stuck in my mind. My tip for a win, possibly.
10:07 General consensus on the askh2g2 thread is that Latvia or France deserve7 to win. The halftime entertainment (loosely, a polka band) transcends 'ghastly'.
10:17 Surely the highlight of the night! The hosts ask Terry to give them a wave. Live on Eurovision!
10:19 Voting time: brace yourself.
10:20 For some reason we're first up in the voting chair. 12 points to Greece - don't say I didn't warn you.
10:21 Macedonian host wears tank top and ridiculous tie.
10:25 Lady Admiral Ayeka: "Russia could have a 12 year old boy playing a satsuma and they'll still come in the top five at the end of the night." It looks suspiciously that way. The UK is on zero while Greece narrowly leads.
10:28 Can somebody explain to me why San Marino's votes get the same weighting as, say, Germany or France?
10:30 Just opened the Shiraz. For three and a half quid, it's not bad - slightly smoky and oaky with a vanilla edge. Greece still winning - you heard it here first.
10:34 Let's see who Cyprus will vote for, shall we?
10:34 + 10 seconds Greece still in the lead, then.
10:35 Moldova are living up to their Eurovision reputation as their host turns up pissed off his face.
10:38 Terry: "I'd like to be associated with Romania". Yes, looking at her, so would I.
10:40 Russia have eased into a slight lead. For heaven's sake: I picked ten songs to win, and still none of them are there. I'm pinning any remaining credibility I may have on Greece, now.
10:44 Seriously: do real people actually vote on this?
10:48 It looks like the skating Boris Johnson has it sewn up for Russia. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic hostess makes a complete arse of reading out the names of three countries - broadcast live all over Europe.
10:54 Drunk people all over Ireland have voted for the silly pirate song, God bless 'em.
10:58 That spells the end for Greece. It will take a statistical anomaly to stop Russia winning now. The Swedish host is clearly competing with Moldova for off-his-head-ness.
11:03 I really shouldn't be surprised, but I'm disappointed with how poorly the France song is doing.
11:04 Civil war threatens to erupt in Serbia as Montenegro deliver their votes. A 12 to Serbia is not really a diplomatic surprise.
11:07 Well, I shouldn't be surprised by the Bloc voting. What does surprise me is the decent song from Finland has finished fourth-bottom, ahead only of Germany, Poland, and the UK (again).
11:09 Terry signs off with "do we really want to do this again?" It's not an optimistic sign on a night where musicality has taken second place to politics.
My overall impression is that good kitsch is still being created by Eurovision. But something desperately needs to be done to shake up the format, otherwise - as El Tel is increasingly hinting - it may no longer be a contest that concerns us here in the UK.
Lord willing (or Lordi willing, possibly), I'll see you all next year: Eurovision 2009 live from Moscow.
Stop Press Special Offer: I am compiling a 'Best Of Mu Beta' Eurovision CD and rather foolishly prepared to give away copies for free. If you would be interested in a copy, please get in touch. My email address is ben dot bateson at gmail dot com