Tonight sees the first part of seven and half hours of live TV coverage this week marking the culmination of the Eurovision Song Contest for 2016. As usual Britain hopes that its entry will attract enough votes to avoid the final being another night of national embarrassment in front of a huge audience. And this year, to be fair, the British entry has shown some signs of doing a little better. Better than recent years that is.
However the Swedish producer of this year’s contest, Christer Björkman, has put the blame for Britain’s attitude – amongst both the public and any potential performers – down to Terry Wogan’s commentaries. Björkman claimed that Wogan’s commentary style had raised a generation of viewers believing this was a fun kitsch show that had no relevance whatsoever.
And it is true that Wogan would snipe at the acts and the political manoeuvring in the voting but they were all light hearted, amusing comments.
When he retired from the role in 2009 Wogan himself said Eurovision is an exciting, camp, foolish spectacle. You can’t top it. It is fun, light entertainment. It is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world. It is not about politics or asserting your place in the community, not even about national pride. It is not an opportunity to show your neighbours how much you love them. It is about picking the best popular song in Europe. He described the annual contest as a triumph of appalling taste… Everybody in the UK knows it’s rubbish. I think I have brought the British public along with me and we now share an interest in it. Many of you may have heard my comments and don’t think I take it seriously enough and you are right, I don’t. But I am a friend of this contest, possibly its oldest friend. How do friends behave to each other? They tell each other the truth. They don’t indulge in idle flattery.
The Eurovision director of the time, Bjorn Erichsen, critised Wogan for not showing the contest enough respect, saying Terry Wogan is a problem because he makes it look ridiculous. I know he is very popular and maybe that is the reason why a lot of people watch. Views pretty much repeated last month by the current producer. But coming too soon after Terry’s death for some, Björkman’s comments seem to be those of a producer painfully aware of the show’s lack of mainstream music credibility.
So for a contest where the best entry for 2014 was a bearded Austrian drag artist – a camp, foolish spectacle seems to be a fair and accurate description.