Monday, April 21, 2014

EuropeCrazy's Eurovision Preview Part 2: Semi-Final 2

Malta - "Coming Home" - Firelight

It would appear though that there is only a limited amount of song titles which you can use in Eurovision.  It seems no time since the last "Coming Home" and here we are again. 

You need levels of Olympian stamina to get through the Maltese national finals process so I just had a quick look in on the final and was very pleasantly surprised by this result.  At the time I described it as Mumford and Sons meets Gary Barlow's "Let Me Go" (now if the UK had submitted that song, it would have been a runaway winner!) and all these weeks later I still think this is one of the better songs in this year's competition.  Like last year's "Tomorrow" it has a natural feelgood factor.  It could have done with a stronger chorus though, as that just consists of the title; as there is no obvious hook, I just wonder what section of the song they will use for the recap video?  (You can tell you've been watching too much Eurovision when you listen to a song and try to imagine what section they'll use for the recap..!)

Qualifier: YES

Israel - "Same Heart" - Mei Finegold

She's coming on like angry Amandine's equally angry Israeli cousin.  I preferred last year's song by Moran Mazor, and if that didn't qualify then I doubt this will either, thanks to the combination of the draw-from-hell and a little too much attitude.  I am not particularly fond of this song and consider it to be one of the weaker entries in this semi-final.

Qualifier: NO

Norway – “Silent Storm” – Carl Espen

Minimalism is not usually my thing, and this is not the type of song I go for - it's similar in mood to that remake of "Mad World" from a few years ago, which I really couldn't stand. 


This is the song which will make everyone stop what they're doing and listen for three minutes.  This is chills down the backbone, raw, intense emotion.  Most of all, it seems 'real' and unforced.  Some fans have suggested that his appearance could be a drawback, but for me it actually enhances the song.  So what if his performance might be too 'fragile' - that's the song's unique selling point.  

Qualifier: YES

Georgia - "Three Minutes to Earth" - The Shin and Mariko

Georgia is one of those winners-in-waiting countries, and I wouldn't object to them winning either as they've given us some pretty good entries since 2007.   

This is not one of them. 

Georgian TV can breathe a sigh of relief as it won't be Tbilisi 2015.  Never mind three minutes to earth, it will be a three minute toilet break for me, as I'm struggling to find any redeeming features in this proggy-folk number.

Qualifier: NO

Poland - "My Słowianie/We Are Slavic" - Donatan and Cleo

This song has had a lot of attention due to its large YouTube view count.  I only recently listened to the song for the first time and on first listen, I felt this was 2014's answer to "Igranka", only a helluva lot more messy. It's a mash-up of hip hop and traditional styles, and yes it is very catchy with all the clapping going on, but if you've seen the video then you'll know that it's a little bit too risqué for the traditional Eurovision viewers.  I wonder if they will dare to recreate that on the night?  I can't see this qualifying, but on the other hand I won't really be that surprised if it does either.

Qualifier: NO

Austria - "Rise Like A Phoenix" - Conchita Wurst

Prepare for the "prepare for the wurst" puns as Miss Conchita prepares to 'drag' Austria into the final.  I think her image might polarise certain, more conservative sections of the ESC juries and televoting public across the continent but let's just focus on the song here.  It's the great lost Bond theme, it's a big old-school Eurovision ballad which would have been a runaway winner in the 70s or 80s, say.  But although it may sound dated in the context of 2014, the contest is every bit as much about the visuals/performance as it is about the vocals and the song.  Happily, Conchita has nailed both of them and will provide one of this year's major jaw-dropping talking points in the media. Regardless of her final result, this is sailing to the final.

Qualifier: YES


Lithuania - "Attention"  - Vilija Matačiūnaitė

Sorry to keep comparing ESC entries to other songs, but that's what I do.  In this case, every time I listen to this, I hear "I'm gonna make you, make you work" from "My Humps".   Lithuania probably had one of the longest selection processes of any country this year, and this is what they came up with?  This song is annoying beyond words, it has the worst opening section of any Eurovision entry this year, and it's like being smashed over the head with a mallet for three minutes.  Despite all that, Lithuania have a reasonably good qualifying record in recent contests, so that is purely the only reason I'm tipping it to qualify, and to subsequently bomb in the final.

Qualifier: YES

Finland - "Something Better" - Softengine

One of the first songs to be chosen this year, and it's nice to have a guitar band representing Finland.  The lyrics are a bit profound/nonsensical (delete as appropriate), but it's a catchy chorus with 'Viva La Vida'-style oh-oh-oh refrains towards the end of the song.  They are a very young band but if they give an impressive enough performance in the semi-final then I think this will be enough to qualify, helped by a reasonable draw position. 

Qualifier: YES

Ireland - "Heartbeat" - Can-Linn feat Kasey Smith

Kasey is probably one of the prettiest female contestants this year, however it will take more than good looks to convince the juries and televoters to get this one to the final.  Ireland's Eurosong final achieved notoriety for all the wrong reasons this year ("you are an odious little man!"), which overshadowed the eventual winning song.  Which probably speaks volumes, as "Heartbeat" really isn't much to write home about.  It's very clearly influenced by "Only Teardrops", which immediately destroys any of the song's credibility, and there's a bit of Irish dancing going on in the background.  And that's about it really.

Qualifier: YES

Belarus - "Cheesecake" - Teo

I watched my first ever Belarus national final live on the internet this year and dare I say it, I really enjoyed it - and even though the parade of interval acts felt longer than the actual song contest, it was a good show.  I wasn't too excited about the song to start with, but it's grown on me over the last few months to the point that I can't get it out of my mind, no matter how much I try to.  Teo's tongue is firmly in cheek (I hope), the lyrics are just plain daft, but it's going to be one of those songs in the semi final which will bring some light relief and that'll translate into televotes, although it will probably bomb with the juries. 

Qualifier: YES

FYR Macedonia - "To The Sky" - Tijana

Macedonian Pink.  This song is just a little bit too mediocre, never mind 'to the sky', it doesn't really go anywhere for me.  I would have preferred Lozano to come back this year with something more spectacular than this, and preferably sung in the native language.  She does have a distinctive image with the wacky spectacles, but that won't be enough to get this one through.

Qualifier: NO

Switzerland - "Hunter of Stars" - Sebalter

So you are probably wondering at this point why I haven't just published one but three pictures of Sebastiano Paù-Lessi aka Sebalter.  Or maybe not.  For Seb (can we call him Seb?) is, for me, the major eye candy of this year's contest.  "Hunter of Stars" is a catchy folky whistle-fest with incomprehensible nonsensical lyrics.  And I bloody well love it.  I think a lot more people will love him, and the song, too - you don't usually find the words 'Switzerland' and 'finalist' in the same sentence, but this year could prove a welcome exception. 

Qualifier: YES

Greece - "Rise Up" - Freaky Fortune featuring RiskyKidd

Winner of "A Mad Show" but will Europe go mad for this one?  Absolutely!  It's modern, it's dancey,  and it's got a reasonably hot young Greek man singing it.  What's not to like?  It's even down with the kids with a bit of rapping by Rizzlekidd, sorry RiskyKidd, and the musical feel is like a Greek take on We No Speak Americano or 'when I go bom bom bom'.  Amongst all the ballads, this will provide some light relief.  Add that to Greece's perennial ESC popularity and at least a top 10 finish in the final is a certainty.  I can't get this tune out of my head now. 

On the down side, there's maybe too much repetition of the title.  I can imagine my mum watching the final and quipping "Is this song called Rise Up by any chance"?  In fact, I'd put money on that. 

Qualifier: YES 

Slovenia - "Spet/Round and Round" - Tinkara Kovač

I always feel sorry for Slovenia at Eurovision, as they never seem to do very well, (although on the other hand I have never really liked any of their entries apart from "Stop" and "Mr Nobody") and don't seem to have 'guaranteed'/diaspora votes.  I wasn't particularly excited about "Straight Into Love" last year although it did grow on me over the summer.  Hannah Mancini also co-wrote this year's song, which is a quite nice mid-paced blend of folk and pop.  I would agree with some other fans who have noted the similarity in the tone and style of the song to "Parachute" by Cheryl Cole, but I prefer this song to that one.  It's nice, but lacks that certain special something to get it to the final. 

Qualifier: NO

Romania – “Miracle” – Paula Seling and Ovi

After 2010’s excellent “Playing With Fire” cemented the love for P and O in ESC fan world, many of us will have been delighted with the news that they were coming back this year.  High expectations, and disappointment to follow.  I would put this one up there (or down there?) with Cascada’s entry last year – the most generic form of contemporary EDM dance-pop but in the end, lacking in substance.  I didn’t like the visual presentation of this at the national final :  the visual effects were a bit too ‘meh’ for me and Ovi and Paula's vocals were just too strident and shouty.  Tone it down will you!  They will need to come up with something very special in Copenhagen, but this is qualifying regardless.

Qualifier: YES

So at the end of semi-final 2 here are my predictions to qualify to the final: Malta, Norway, Austria, Lithuania, Finland, Ireland, Belarus, Switzerland, Greece, Romania.

Coming soon, my final part of the preview, looking at the Big 5 + 1.

EuropeCrazy's Eurovision Preview Part 1: Semi-Final 1

Finally, it’s about time that I published my Eurovision previews for this year.  Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve had some very important stuff going on over the last few weeks, and the period before my mum’s illness was also a very busy time, so there’s a very good reason why I haven’t posted until now.

It's hard to believe that it's just over two weeks to go until the first semi-final. Where did the time go since the national finals ended?  I found 2014 national finals season rather unsatisfactory as it was too 'compressed' - with hardly any activity in January, everything was crammed into February and early March, leaving us with some difficult choices to make about which ones to watch and which ones to miss. 

I managed to watch part or all of the following national finals:

·         Albania
·         Azerbaijan
·         Belarus
·         Estonia
·         France
·         Germany
·         Latvia
·         Norway
·         Romania
·         Sweden

For almost everything else, there’s the Web TV section over at although with one significant omission – the DMGP final L
(Maybe I'm just not looking in the right place, but if anyone has a link to the full DMGP final either on YouTube or DR's website then this would be very welcome.)

So we’re finally heading into the last lap of the speculation/ranking period where fan forums and Twitter are filled with top 37s and thoughts on who will succeed Emmelie de Forest as this year's winner.  The overwhelming favourite over the last few weeks, if YouTube viewings and betting odds are anything to go by, has been Armenia’s “Not Alone”, which coincidentally is my first song up for review, as it will be the first song in semi-final 1.
Armenia – “Not Alone” – Aram Mp3

So is this the pre-determined favourite then?  Well, the guy has a great voice and I was previously impressed by his take on “Only Teardrops” which IMHO is better than the original (I’m sure EdF fans will strongly disagree!!).  This was one of the last songs to be revealed.  It starts off as a controlled and classy ballad, rdelivered in warm, reassuring tones reminiscent of, say, Michael Buble - but then goes into far too much repetition of the title in the middle of the song, which becomes a bit tiresome after a while.  Then the dramatic dubsteppy bit comes in. Pretending to be a casual viewer for a moment, I'd say that his vocals are a little too grating in the second part of the song, and there is no distinctive hook.  For this reason, crucially I still don't see this as an ESC winner.   He is a great singer though, and this is probably going to get Armenia's best ever result.  If Armenia does win, then they will succeed where the EBU have failed: we'll see the back of Azerbaijan next year, and not before time. 

Qualifier? YES
Latvia - "Cake To Bake" – Aarzemnieki

The Latvian national final is always another annual must-see.  This year's theme was "Made In Latvia" only accepting submissions from Latvian-based songwriters.  Dons was hotly tipped to win with "Pēdējā vēstule" but it was the madcap, amateurish acoustic posse, Aarzemnieki who won, and from that moment on, "Cake To Bake" has polarised ESC fan world.  This song is the Marmite of Eurovision 2014. 

There is always a daft song in ESC every year which you need to lighten the mood, and you know you shouldn't like it but you do.  (Your guilty pleasure I suppose, although I always disagree with that phrase because no pleasure should be guilty). 

Especially this year, "Cake To Bake" might just stand out among the serious ballads, and get a Kedvesem-type result; or it could be killed by the draw position and the juries will show it no mercy. I really don't know how this song will do.  I played it to faithful travelling companion, and he was covering his ears in pain after 30 seconds.  If this doesn't make the final though, I think Latvia might just pack up and leave the Eurovision game, which would be a real pity.

Qualifier: YES
Sweden - "Undo" - Sanna Nielsen

Sweden missed the opportunity to blast off the schlager shackles once and for all, when they failed to send Ace Wilder to Copenhagen.  OK so "Busy..." might not have been to everyone's taste but it has the international hit-quality which the contest needs.  Instead, we got a Wrecking Ball-inspired ballad written by the king of rip-off songs, Fredrik Kempe.  Sanna will no doubt give it her all but I have never been a fan of her type of ballad singing, and have never liked this song from the beginning.  The "undo my sad" line still intensely irritates me, and even if they have changed a line and added a word, well it still irritates.  Putting a donk on it usually improves a song, but I heard a dance remix and I still hated it. 

(So, Laura, I'm getting the impression that you really don't like this song very much.....!)

By the way, after all these weeks, guess what's my absolute favourite and most played Melfest song of this year?  "Red" by EKO.  It wouldn't have done anything in ESC but I think it's fabulous.

Qualifier: YES
Iceland - "No Prejudice" - Pollapönk

I didn't follow this year's Icelandic national finals process with the usual enthusiasm of previous years.  And before you ask, no, it wasn't because of the absence of Magni (!) I guess this was probably the right winner - it packs a lyrical and musical punch and it has a memorable singalong chorus, whereas most of the songs in the national final were just a bit 'meh'. It's a 'message' song and you can't argue with the sentiment, however I'm not sure if they will be visually appealing enough to Europe's voters.  What it does have is heart, and lots of it, and the band's natural sense of fun and lack of cynicism. 

When it comes to Iceland at Eurovision I'm very biased, as they're one of my favourite ESC countries.  So of course I'll say that they deserve a place in the final, but the realist side of me isn't so sure.

Qualifier: NO  
Albania – “One Night’s Anger” – Hersi Matmuja
Back in December 2013, my reaction to this winning FiK was a bit muted, as (a) she’d beaten my lovely Luiz Ejlli and (b) It was a bit of a messy song.  However in the intervening months it has grown on me, the rough edges and jarring intro have been swept aside and it’s now a more palatable floaty ballad in the style of one of my old favourite floaty ballads, “Like The Wind” (Belgium 1999).  The vocals on the studio version remind me of Shakira.  In her live performance, she needs to cut down on the facial grimacing though.  Once again, I can see Albania failing to qualify, purely on the basis of its draw position, and competition in its semi-final. 

Qualifier: NO
Russia - "Shine" - The Tolmachevy Sisters

Shine?  Oh really?  I mean, how many times has that song title been used at ESC?  So here it is again.  Are the lyrics a thinly-veiled intention of Russian expansionism, or are we getting too paranoid here?!? I know we shouldn't mix politics and musical sport, but I feel very uncomfortable about Russia's presence in the ESC this year.  Feelings about that aside, this is a pleasant enough although dated song.  As ESC modernises year by year, songs like this just feel more and more dated.  They're trying the charm offensive by sending cute blonde twins but I hope that the voters look beyond that, but qualifying still looks like a certainty.  After all, they are Russia, for goodness sake, and they've never missed a final.  Yet.

Qualifier: YES
Azerbaijan - "Start A Fire" - Dilara Kazimova
You can probably guess my disgust about this particular country's behaviour at ESC, bringing our beloved song contest into the gutter with their *alleged* shenanigans. 
I'm not going to focus on that this time though, and just focus on the song and singer.  I even watched the final of "Boyuk Sehne" and was quite impressed by all three finalists, although Xana Hasanova was my favourite.  As usual, it was a singer-contest final rather than a song-contest and we had to wait a couple of weeks for the usual Swedish-written composition.

I've heard this a couple of times now, and for me, it's a complete non-song, and the country's weakest ever entry.  No doubt they'll throw everything and more at the staging, but unless they *allegedly of course* get up to their usual tricks, they could be looking at a top 10 rather than top 5 position this year.

Qualifier: YES
Ukraine - "Tick Tock" - Mariya Yaremchuk

After all that's been going on in their ravaged country of late, will Ukraine pick up enough sympathy votes to take the contest back to Kiev?  I can't really see it.  I don't care enough about this song, and it doesn't do anything to change my view that Ukraine hasn't sent anything decent since Shady Lady. One thing they always do well is the staging of their songs and I'm sure that they will do the same with this, to boost its chances.  It's not a winner though.

Qualifier: YES
Belgium - "Mother" - Axel Hirsoux

My poor mum isn't very well at the moment, and as if she hasn't suffered enough I decided to play a snippet of this song to her and asked her what she thought of the song, to get the opinion of a casual viewer rather than a year-round fanatic.  She rolled her eyes several times, and then said "I don't like this".  So this one isn't getting many votes from the EuropeCrazy HQ jury, but on the other hand, remember Paul Potts and how he became a star all over the continent.  Axel could have the Potts factor, and this could have a serious chance.  When you read the lyrics without listening to the song, they are quite touching and moving, and have a universal theme.  It's just the style of delivery which is wrong, and bizarre, as Axel whacks you into submission and destroys every aspect of sensitivity which this song could have had.  I'm a bit biased against this song as I'd have preferred "She's After My Piano" to go to Copenhagen. 

Qualifier: YES
Moldova - "Wild Soul" - Chistina Scarlat

This is their 10th year competing in ESC and they've certainly given us some variety over the years. Unfortunately I missed the Moldovan final, so I don't know if this was a worthy winner or not.  No sign of Pasha Parfeny this year though: instead it's a lady with a big voice singing a dramatic ballad with little dubsteppy bits.  After a few listens, I still didn't know what to make of it.  Moldova has an excellent record of qualifying to the final, but I can see this missing out this year as it's just not special or different enough to make an impact.

Qualifier: NO
San Marino - "Maybe" - Valentina Monetta

San Marino is everyone's favourite underdog at Eurovision: every year we're rooting for them to make the final, and every year brings only disappointment.  Valentina's making her third consecutive attempt with yet another Siegel-penned song, which is just not strong enough to get her to the final.  Of course it would be great if she overcame the odds, but this is just too dated to succeed.  It's a variation on a Bond theme, but if we're talking Bond-style-themes then there is a much better one in the second semi-final.  Oh, and what's with the English language?  I heard the Italian version which improved the song 100%.  This will be Valentina's final year; let's just hope that it won't be her country's last attempt. 

Qualifier: NO
Portugal - "Quero Ser Tua" - Suzy

Every Portuguese ESC entry is a missed opportunity, and here comes another one.  I understand there was a bit of a hoo-ha (a Quero Ser Hoo-ha in fact) when this won the national final.  This song's like the Lambada reinvented as a World Cup 2014 song.  It's very catchy and likeable, however her delivery is a bit too cabaret for my liking, and I can't see it progressing to the final.  Unless everyone gets bored with all the ballads and the intensity.

Qualifier: NO
Netherlands – “Calm After The Storm” – The Common Linnets

Ilse de Lange and Waylon make up the Common Linnets.  This gentle country/roots number is the most 'polite' song this year, and I've never heard a song title sung more quietly.  I really don't have a clue how this one will do: it's less-is-more, which can do well, but it's maybe just a little too 'less' for the general viewing public who may find the song a little too sleepy/boring on first listen, as it is a slow burner rather than an instant hit.  I'm hoping that they might stick a bit more vocal oomph into the live version and I think that might be enough to get it to the final.  The Netherlands are taking Eurovision seriously again, and I think they should be rewarded for that.

Qualifier: YES

Montenegro - "Moj Svijet" - Sergej Cetkovic

This guy has the same deep, rich vocal tones as Zeljko Joksimovic - close your eyes and you'd think it was him singing.  This has all the ingredients of a successful Balkan ballad at Eurovision, a very popular genre over recent years, and for that reason alone I can see it doing well.  In the absence of Serbia and Croatia, it will finally be Montenegro's time in the spotlight, and this (more conventional entry than their last couple of efforts) should effortlessly qualify to the final. 

Qualifier: YES
Hungary – “Running” – Andras Kallay-Saunders

It's very interesting that the first semi-final draw is topped and tailed by two of this year's biggest favourites. 
I always think that Hungary and Iceland are the two countries most deserving of a long-overdue ESC win.  Hungary is celebrating 20 years in ESC this year and wouldn't it be a nice anniversary present if they could bring it home with this song?  "Running" is certainly one of this year's favourites.  If you played this song to anyone they wouldn't think it was a 'Eurovision' song - it just sounds like a contemporary chart hit.  That's what I like about Hungary at ESC - they ditch the preconceived notions and just send what they like.  The subject matter is rather dark for a Eurovision entry, however I can't really see this being an issue when the majority of viewers/voters don't have English as their first language. 

This is a good, contemporary song, but lacking the greatness of "Sound Of Our Hearts" which still remains my favourite Hungarian entry.   

Qualifier: YES
So my foolish predictions for the first semi-final: Armenia, Latvia, Sweden, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, Netherlands, Montenegro and Hungary to progress from semi-final 1. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Eurovision Memories Part 5: Previews, cassette tape and a vow of silence....

OK it's time for another in my occasional series of random Eurovision memories which I like to share from time to time.
Let's face it, these days in the internet age we are spoiled rotten.  Whilst many casual viewers probably look on the Eurovision Song Contest as a one night only event - they probably don't even know about, or watch, the semi-finals - we fans know better.  It's a year-long event, with a little bit of off-season in the middle.  Every little piece of news, every song/artist announcement is shared, and thanks to the wonders of technology, we can watch national finals and follow the process from beginning to end.
Yet it's hard to believe, especially if you're a 'younger' fan who has embraced the contest in the internet age, that there was once a time when exposure to Eurovision songs was top-secret.  So it was in the 1970s and 1980s (and maybe even the 90s if I remember rightly) that Eurovision songs were chosen, then you weren't allowed to hear them again - apart from your own country's choice of course.
The only way of hearing Eurovision songs before the final was via the Eurovision Song Contest Previews.  In this country, there were usually two programmes, broadcast over two weeks, on a Sunday afternoon.  The previews would consist of a video clip from each country - either a 'music video' or a clip of the national final.  Even as a child, the Eurovision geek in me craved the national final clips, to see the song in a more honest, live form rather than the music videos which often doubled as a tourism clip.  You could bet your life that a contestant from one of the Mediterranean countries would either be walking along a beach, or climbing a mountain, and you could rely on the Greek artist to be wailing against the backdrop of some important ruins.  Over the years, the previews were presented on the BBC by then-TV-royalty, the likes of Michael Aspel, David Hamilton, David Vine, Gloria Hunniford and a certain Mr Terry Wogan, long before the cynicism set in.  The other absolute certainty in the previews was that the United Kingdom entry would be shown last, after all the other entries.
In 1977, I got my first cassette player.  Apart from taping the top 20 off the radio - admit it, we all did it! - I quickly realised that it would be a good idea to tape the preview shows off the telly.  Just stick the cassette player as near to the TV speaker and hey presto!  There were some conditions attached to this of course: if mum and gran were watching, they had to keep quiet so that I could just record the TV sound.  Amazingly, they agreed and would watch in complete silence while I recorded the show!  Once the recording was made, I would play the songs over, and over, and over again.  My 1977 favourites were "Telegram", "A Million In One Two Three" and "Mathema Solfege" which got more plays than most, however it would be fair to say that all of the songs got an equal hearing.
The preview-taping would continue for the next few years.  Later on, I would also record Ken Bruce's Radio 2 commentary, which was always very descriptive and informative, in the hope that I'd pick up some additional snippets of information about the songs and/or artists. 
All good things were to come to an end.  The BBC eventually stopped broadcasting the previews, so it meant that our first hearing of the songs would be in the final.  As I said earlier, it's hard to understand that fact in the internet era.
In the early 2000s, the BBC resurrected the previews in a new format, Liquid Eurovision.  This was an offshoot of BBC Three's daily entertainment round-up Liquid News, presented by the late, much-missed Christopher Price.  In 2002/2003 there was (by UK standards) pretty impressive coverage by BBC Three - back in the days when it was actually quite good - and even after-shows, which came in very handy in 2003 for the Jemini nil-points post-mortems.
Over the past couple of years, Chart Show TV has stepped in with their ESC preview videos - hope they'll be back again this year!
In 2014, we are completely reliant on the internet for our daily Eurovision fix.  It could be argued that there is no longer a need for a preview show.  Which is just as well really, as the BBC shows no interest in resurrecting the preview format.  But we can make our very own preview shows by watching the clips on YouTube, or at, or head on over to SVT Play to watch theirs.  The BBC has, however, announced a pop-up radio station, BBC Radio 2 Eurovision, broadcasting from Thursday 8th May.  This is quite an inspiring move, and hopefully the content will deliver.  (Although I hope they remember to put the shows on iPlayer, in case we won't be around to listen to all the shows as they're broadcast). 
And as for those cassettes?  Well, they survived for a number of years then I started digitising my music collection and unfortunately they were destroyed.  Happily, YouTube is a great source of archive national final footage.  Long may it continue - and it looks as if the EBU's plan to create a massive digital Eurovision archive is under way.  Bring it on!

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: March 2014

It was long-awaited (well, here at EuropeCrazy HQ it was anyway!).  Series 2 of Chris O'Dowd's  "MOONE BOY" finally arrived on Sky One, and if I'm honest it was a little bit patchy at times.  After all that first series was going to be a tough one to beat.  But when there are such loveable characters and enough surreal and absurd moments to keep us happy, you quickly overlook any minor deficiencies.  The legendary Bressie also turned up in a cameo role as the school PE teacher. Pity it was only for only one episode :( The good news is that there's a 3rd series on the way. 
Above: Bressie in "Moone Boy": sadly it was only for one episode.
Back in my February Square-Eyed post I forgot to mention that I had been watching "THE MUSKETEERS" (BBC1) although my initial reasons for watching it were very different from the reasons that faithful travelling companion was watching...he was in it for the historical aspect, the swash and the buckle.  As for me, I noticed that Santiago Cabrera (aka him off Heroes) was in it, then I saw a photo of Luke Pasqualino in a magazine and that was it for me :)))  Eye candy aside, it was a very enjoyable series, which I enjoyed so much that I bought the DVD last week.  There is a second series on the way, so at least that will be one show to look forward to in 2015...

Above: Mmmmmmmmmmusketeers.  Aramis and D'Artagnan, yum yum.

Above: Gogglebox's Steph and Dom.
The first series of "GOGGLEBOX" (Channel 4) managed to pass me by.  When the second series was due to start, there was a ridiculous amount of inescapable publicity, so it couldn't be avoided.  I tuned in for a couple of weeks and then the novelty wore off very quickly.  Yes, some of it was funny, but watching people watching TV?  More like watching paint dry.  Maybe I'm just missing some psychological subtext here, and I'm not entirely convinced that it's as spontaneous as it looks: in this age of 'scripted reality' I can't believe anything I watch on TV any more. 

And now for viewers in Scotland....whilst there's English football going on, STV will often fill-in with the usual repeat cop shows, obscure movies or boring documentaries.  For once though, they got it right with "FU LONG - LITTLE PANDA, HAPPY DRAGON" which turned out to be an Austrian TV documentary with English language voiceover about a panda born into captivity in Vienna Zoo.  Rather good it was too, and it's just got all of us looking very enviously at the lack of panda action at Edinburgh Zoo and counting the days till they finally get it together...!

BBC4 continues to be the home of foreign-language drama and films.  How often do we get the chance to see a Belgian drama on British TV?  Unfortunately "SALAMANDER" couldn't hold my attention beyond the first episode.  There was too much going on in February/March that too many demands were placed on my attention span, so I had to ration my TV time, and Salamander was one of the casualties.  I did stick with "BARBARA" which was a recent German-language film set in the GDR in the 1980s, about a doctor banished from Berlin to rural exile, Stasi surveillance and degrading body searches. The slow-paced film captured the bleakness of that period perfectly, and the heartbreaking choices which the lead character had to make.  Maybe not quite as brilliant as "The Lives Of Others" but highly recommended nonetheless.