We are going to need a new approach to Eurovision
The international song contest seems to have moved on without us in a way we don’t understand
IT IS strange, perhaps nowadays unheard of, to watch Eurovision without a remote. You have a remote, and you have a gay man on speed dial, if not at the end of the sofa. These are the laws of Eurovision, which have evolved seamlessly down the decades for anyone with the patience to watch it.
Because there are some things you don’t want to see all of: seriously, you don’t think those Russian grannies have been trafficked, do you? And poor Engelbert, out-grannied and wearing black, and then having to go first, never had a chance.
Sometimes it’s best just to have a quick look and to flick as fast as possible. Flicking is such an integral part of the Eurovision experience – flicking between commentators, flicking to news from other countries, flicking blooming anywhere during the Albanian song, which we came to love – that not being able to flick, having to watch the whole thing the whole way through without interruption, is extraordinary.
The reason that the use of the remote control was out of the question is not entirely clear. Something to do with having paused live television in a digital way, and then trying to catch up on the live broadcast. We put ourselves in the hands of the youngest person present – “She’s a sort of TV whisperer”, said her sister respectfully – and everything turned out fine.
We had started the evening well, by singing Jedward’s last Eurovision song “Lipstick, de, de, de, de Lipstick!” in the kitchen, with some spirit. During the brief technical hitch, we were able to regale the youngsters about the days when the youngest person in the room had to run upstairs to another room, or possibly to the attic, to change cables in order to change channels. Later on, families had hour-long rows about who would cross the living room to change channels on the television set itself.
Ah yes, the only time we saw television remote controls was on television; we gazed in wonder as they were used by characters in American dramas in some of those strangely pleasing instances of television infinity.
The remote control was like the white telephone – the very acme of glamour. Eric Polley, who invented the remote in the 1950s, died in the States last week at the age of 96.
The thing is, superior technology has ruined Eurovision. Time was when you could rely on at least one international connection breaking down and a whole continent sweating bricks on its collective sofa as a man in a dinner jacket with perspiration standing on his forehead went “Hello, Paris? PARIS? Your votes, please.”