Forget a good 5 cent cigar. What this country needs is Eurovision
Anyone who thinks that European television is anything like British exports - BBC announcers with plummy U accents, period pieces like Downton Abbey, the original version of The Office, Alastair Cooke, and Monte Python, hasn’t spent all that much time watching TV in Europe.
British imports aside, much of what I’ve seen over years of grabbing an occasional glance at the local fare when the Sky Network is unavailable makes The Dukes of Hazard look like the latest incarnation of Death of a Salesman, and America’s Got Talent sound like The Ring Cycle at The Met. Admittedly, there’s generally a language barrier, but schlock needs no translation, and much of what I’ve seen on “foreign” TV is schlock de la schlock.
And the schlock de la schlock de la schlock has got to be Eurovision, a souped up talent show in which every country gets to send one act.
The contest is held each year in the home-country of the prior year’s winner, which means that this years version – which had its grande finale last weekend – happened in Baku. For those who don’t recognize the name, Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, a country presided over by a tin-pot strongman of the personality-cult variety. So it’s unfortunate that an annual feel-good (feel-silly) festival would be held in a place where oppression reigns. There’s always the hope that, having hosted such a grand event, and been placed on the public stage, a country will come around. We’ll see what happens in Baku and beyond.
Eurovision’s sponsors won’t have to worry about oppressive regimes next year, as Sweden was this year’s winner, with Loreen’s song, Euphoria, taking the first prize. I could live without the cheesy moves, but the girl has decent enough pipes. (If she doesn’t exactly look like your classic Ingmar Bergmann Swede, she’s or Moroccan-Berber heritage.)
Most Eurovision winners don’t go on to do much of anything. The most notable winners of all time were Loreen’s fellow Swedes, ABBA. Other than that, the biggie to come out of Eurovision was the song Volare (Nel blu dipinto di blu), which was a major hit in the fifties.
Among the acts that Loreen had to beat out was one singular re-tread: Engelbert Humperdinck. Seriously, if the Brit’s want to win, they could at least have resurrected Tom Jones singing an updated version of What’s New, Pussycat? Humperdinck wasn’t Loreen’s real competition, however. The real heat came from the Russian runner ups:
As it happened, my mother was a baby-babushka emigrant, not from Russia, but from a German enclave in Romania. In the family passport photo, my grandmother is wearing headgear that looks pretty darned close to what the Buranovskiye Babushki are wearing.
Of course, if my grandparents hadn’t had the prescience to pack up my mother and get the hell out of Volksdeutsche, Romania, in the 1920’s, she wouldn’t have grown up in Chicago and met and married my Irish-American father. Nor would my Aunt Mary – who, lucky girl, got to be the first American born Wolf-child – have grown up in Chicago and met and married my Irish-American uncle. Thus, the Rogers and Dineen girls wouldn’t have been us.
Still, when I look at those Buranovskiye Babushki, all I can say to Kath, Ellen, Mary Pat, Laura, and Trish: Hey, girls, that could have been us. (Everybody dance.)
Anyway, I think the U.S. is missing a trick by not having an Amer0-vision contest. I’m not talking American Idol, here. I’m talking a representative from each of the 50 states – the clogging grandpappies of Kentucky, a resurrected Jan and Dean to represent California, the bow-tied a cappella snobs from Massachusetts.
Forget blue state/red state. This could be great fun.
Come on, what are we waiting for?