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Eurovision 2009: An open letter to Bjorn Erichson, Director, Eurovision TV

May 6, 2009

An open letter to Mr Bjorn Erichson,
Director, Eurovision TV
EBU Towers
Lucerne
Switzerland

Please forward to Eurovision Central in Moscow, Russia

Dear Mr Erichson

It has come to my attention, that former BBC Eurovision commentator Terry Wogan has made an appearance at one of your special gatherings of the great and the good.

According to Guardian correspondent Leigh Holmwood, Terry Wogan is reported to have said to everyone there that European broadcasters should stop taking the Eurovision so seriously as “everyone knows it is rubbish.”

In light of me being British and because of my obvious love of this long-running light entertainment show, you won’t be surprised to learn I found this report quite distressing to read.

First and foremost, I am obviously most distressed to discover that Mr Wogan is on a two week break from his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show, especially given that it happens to coincide with the two weeks of intensive rehearsals for the 54th Eurovision Song Contest. Of all the times in the year that Mr Wogan is on leave and it’s at this critical time. Of all the places he goes on holiday, it’s the heart of Eurovision. You know what it’s like when someone isn’t doing the job they’ve done for years. They just turn up and start bugging people. I’m really very sorry.

As an ardent Eurovision fan, I this hope this letter goes some way to apologise for this grave administrative error. Whilst I myself have absolutely no control over the arrangements Mr Wogan makes for his leave and vacations, I would like to reassure you that if I was the administrator responsible for signing his leave form, I wouldn’t have signed it. I would have insisted he remained at work for the entire Eurovision season – perhaps even banning him from the radio studio just for good measure. Indeed, I would have also made arrangements to ensure our security forces would have stopped him from leaving the country just in case he slipped out from under my nose. In light of their failing to, I will write to Prime Minister Brown asking for an investigation. The Prime Minister isn’t that busy at the moment, so I’m sure he’ll be able to devote sufficient time to sorting this mess out. 

I should also like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks (on Mr Wogan’s behalf) for the very kind gift of a cuckoo clock you gave him at the event he attended yesterday. I see absolutely no irony in the gift you offered and hope you felt Mr Wogan extended his sincere thanks for receiving it. If he didn’t, please let me know. Us here in the UK have a number of measures at our disposal to guarantee the delivery of a suitable thank-you note. I can make this happen.

That said – and as distressing as I find this to say – there are a number of things Mr Wogan says I find myself agreeing with.

Some of us do feel a little cut off from the rest of Europe. True, this may possibly have something to with the fact that the UK is physically cut-off from the rest of Europe (God only knows how Ireland feels), but sometimes I personally do feel slightly out of step with my European neighbours.

It’s not for want of trying. In my 36 years I have visited Lithuania, Spain, Italy, Portugal, The Nertherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey. I enjoyed every single trip.

True, there were a number of countries where my grasp of the native language wasn’t as good as it could be and their grasp of sarcasm needed some refining, but I did still enjoy my time in these countries.

What I’m saying is that I do rather like Europe. I certainly don’t hate it. And yet I still feel a little cut-off. Or, to put it like Mr Wogan did, where Eurovision is concerned, I do feel a bit disenfranchised.

Our recent poor performance is in part to blame for that. I too winced when I saw our 2003 pair Jemini hit the wrong notes and then continue to hit the wrong notes during their now ironically titled “Cry Baby”. It was a painful experience for me. I went to Riga that year to see it live. I paid an enormous amount of money to go. I was certain we’d done well. It was only when I returned home exhausted and watched the entire programme back, I realised our slightly technical hitch.

Subsequent years saw us present reasonably good singers with reasonably good songs but nothing came of it. Then we sent Daz Sampson. Nobody liked that. Then we sent Scooch. Nobody understood them. Some of us back home hung our heads in shame.

We tried with Andy Abraham last year with his song “Even If” but personally I feel it’s too soon to pass judgement on that. I’m not sure where I am with that.

This year however, we’ve pulled up our socks and made a bit of an effort. I’m sure you’ll agree that our Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (whilst not necessarily that easy on the eye) does know how to write a good tune. He’s also got a good eye for a singer having saved our girl Jade from certain death (in the UK we publically crucify our Eurovision failures by beheading them and placing their heads on spikes parading them around the capital – even those who don’t make it to the Eurovision stage) and helped her on her way to a victory in late January.

Our Lord has written the song with Diane Warren and some of us more sentimental fools have clapped our hands together like excitable queens as a result. Some of us are really rather pleased about it.

What I’m saying is that some of us do rather think we’ve made an effort this year. We’ve met Europe half way. We’re playing ball. We hope everyone else thinks so too.

But there’s something else I should say (and yes, I’m painfully aware that as a Director of Eurovision TV you’re probably busy and this letter is running at around 900 words).

Us Brits do like to have a bit of a laugh. We do like to pass judgement. We like to giggle. And sometimes we do like to ask ourselves “What on earth is that meant to be?”

We’re sorry. That’s kind of what we do. It’s what we do when we watch X-Factor and it’s certainly what we do when we watch Big Brother. Some of us have been known to sit in front of the TV screen and scream at BBC soap EastEnders from beginning to end. That’s what we do. It’s also what any TV viewer does. That’s what watching TV is all about. And .. come to think of it … that’s kind of what listening to the radio is about. If I’m not screaming about what I’m listening to or watching, then it’s not worth listening to or watching.

That’s why I’m confident in not being particularly keen on the Netherlands entry this year. Neither am I keen on Ukraine’s or that Quartissimo thing. It’s also why I’m dubious about Sakis’s performance for Greece and also why I’m ridiculously behind Hungary’s entry and begrudgingly behind Norway’s Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale wotnot (could you persuade him to pluck his eyebrows perhaps?).

We like to have a laugh. We like to giggle. We like to have someone to back. We also like to have something we don’t like. That’s not a British thing. That’s a human thing. We’re OK being human and we hope you’re OK with it too.

We’re sorry about Mr Wogan and those unfortunate comments about the Danish presenters, but we have made an effort this year and our girl Jade is alright. We like her.

If there’s anything else I (or my compatriots) can do to ingratiate ourselves to you or the rest of Europe please let me know.

In the meantime, be congratulated on what I’m sure will be a fantastic series of shows. Some of us are really very excited about it all.

Fluff, respect and adoration

Jon Jacob
thoroughlygood [at] gmail.com

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