And so, after a fallow year (actually, I was beyond the reach of even the European Broadcasting Union's powers of transnational transmission) it's the return of No Rock's Eurovision Liveblog. Back in 2007, I managed to upset someone from Norway (or wherever it was) because I failed to show enough respect to their between-tracks microfilms; given the fabulous intolerance of Muscovites - demonstrated by the crushing of today's gay pride march - I hope there's nothing in any way amusing about the telecast at all.
This year's event is being shown in HD, which is not so much of a leap forward as the programme going on without Terry Wogan commentating like a brigadier locked in a wine cellar awaiting the arrival of the Cossack hordes. Graham Norton is apparently planning to chair with dignity. Which is probably more than it would deserve.
The UK is fielding Jade, of course, with Andrew Lloyd Webber's terrible song. Or "Sir Andrew Lloyd" as hapless 2008 punchline Andy Abraham called him this morning. ALW is putting his reputation on the line for this year's concert. But since his reputation is as that "bloke who hasn't written anything decent in thirty years", it might well be not so much of a gamble.
What was Duncan Banatyne doing on the lotto show? Isn't he the sort of bloke what made it by hard work, sweat of his brow? Should he be encouraging types to dream of winning cash instead?
Big letters are floating through the streets of Moscow for the opening credits. Straight letters, obviously - they wouldn't have gay letters. Not in Moscow's streets anyway.
The heart sinks as we discover that everything will have a circus theme tonight. Like the Banker's Birthday week on Deal Or No Deal. That was a bit rubbish, too.
Cirque Du Soleil are here to launch their clown-and-tumbling shows in Russia. It's like watching kids doing gymnastics to opera.
Norton, clearly, has abandoned his intention to keep things respectful in his commentary.
Oh, there's a fire juggler. Glastonbury on a really, really bad night.
Letitia Dean is dangling from a flying machine and yelling across the audience, while a tax inspector comes flying in from the sky. Oh, it's last year's winner, apparently.
The list of participants reveals that this year's event is being "partnered" by, amongst others, the Schwarzkopf hair product people. Just like the NME Awards and their tie-up with Shockwaves. Music and shampoo. Natural partners.
The voting is going to be a complicated mixture of phone votes and jury deliberations - this, apparently, is going to stop there being the block-votes that have ruined the event in previous years. Somehow.
On come the hosts. One bloke, one woman. The bloke appears to be a cross between David Walliams and Ross from Friends. The woman is Myleene Klass. "Russia is very cold and always snowing" says Myleene. But she's only joking - that, apparently, is what you'd think if your idea of Russia comes from James Bond films.
Yeah, fancy believing Russia is the sort of place where police break up human rights demos, or people who fall out with the government end up being poisoned by radioactive materials in other countries.
Here we go, then, song number one
Lithuania - Sasha Son - Love
It's Timberlake's hat at Elton's piano.
His song is so dull, all they can think of for the banks of screens is to project some piano keys onto them.
Hang on, he's got up so that he can... erm, go and stand somewhere else on the stage. Girls and boys are crying at home, says Sasha. Well, maybe, but only because you've bored them to tears.
@thisrealitypod isn't impressed:
The Lituania entry is prime Eurovision material. Dull, dull, dull, dull and dull. With more dull on the side.
Israel - Noa & Mira Awad - There Must Be Another Way
As usual, Israel have stuck in a song calling for everyone to get together, let bygones be bygones, stop falling out.
Bloody hell, it's Cher. And a redhead. See? They're both different, but they can get on. Those with pageboy cuts and frightwigs, singing in harmony. Why can't, you know, different races be like that? Assuming they're not being kept apart by a fucking huge concrete wall, of course.
The women are now surrounded by male instrumentalists - perhaps they represent global opinion. I reckon the bloke with the drum is the UN.
Oh, and now Cher and redhead are having a drum. Pleasant enough.
France - Patricia Kaas - Et S'il Fallait Le Faire
This is going to be a chanson, says Gordon. I like me a bit of a chanson.
Patricia is apparently popular in Moscow, and does get quite a big cheer from the crowd.
France's singer looks like Tasha Yar from ST:TNG
Trouble is, this song sounds like it needs to be sung from the broken heart, but Kaas is too thrilled to nail it.
BRING BACK SEBASTIAN TELLIER!
They're rattling through them, aren't they?
Sweden - Malena Ernman - La Voix
Don't look directly into her eyes. Oh, lord - this is the sort of track that a sports programme producer thinks is classy classical.
Malena has now also been encircled, by a group of tall bank tellers, most of whom have buns on their head. And who - yikes - have just come out carrying defiled Bafta awards to hide behind.
Croatia - Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea - Lijepa Tena
Beautiful Tena, apparently. As in the company that makes pads for the incontinent adult.
Oh, some Spanish guitar. And another group all in black. STOP POINTING YOUR CROTCH AT ME, Igor.
Oh, alright. Point your crotch at me, providing I can have a go on those boots. Do you have lifts in them?
Graham's not drunk enough yet
Oh, Andrea's come on now. Her role seems to be to screech a little. If you close your eyes, you might enjoy it more. But you might also not even notice there's a song there.
The backing dancers for these have cloaks made of black gauze. Useless for flying, those would be.
Portugal - Flor-de-lis - Todas As Ruas Do Amor
Refreshing after all these dark outfits to have some bright primary colours. Even if it does look like a high school performance of Hair using the costumes left over from last year's Sound Of Music.
Yes, I like her - she's sassy. It's a pity that she keeps making way for a woman with an accordion, though, an instrument which exists solely to be used as a means of making the next buskers along seem better.
From the front the Portuguese girl playing the accordian appears topless. Traditionun-dress?
Iceland - Yohanna - Is It True?
Churning through seven songs in half an hour. We could be in bed by a decent time at this rate.
Yohana is singing in English, wearing a prom dress and hoping for "a perfect dream." Is it true, she worries. Did I throw it away?
This really just shows how badly the X Factor and its ilk have ruined music across the planet.
I'm just sore, of course, that Ireland didn't win through from the semis - I liked their over-optimistic 'Pink has kids with The Bangles, and forces them to become B*Witched' entry, and would have been quite happy to have colluded in some block-voting for them.
Is Iceland's song still going?
Greece - Sakis Rouvas - This is Our Night
Shawndra points out if Greece win, they could use their empty Olympic stadiums. (Although, as Jemini bloke pointed out, the acoustics don't make shit songs sound any better in sports stadiums.)
Sakis is doing a hard gay anthem - more In The Marines than In The Navy. He's really flinging himself into the dance for the song.
Rouvas is now on a giant conveyor belt - it's meant to make him look like he's moonwalking plus, but instead it gives him the air of being a bottle of fabric conditioner moving inexorably towards the scanner.
the Greek singers and dancers remind me of Ben Stiller's team in Dodgeball
Armenia - Inga & Anush - Jan Jan
Oooh... this is more like it. The sort of music you make in a land where your coffee comes in slices. "Everybody move your body" isn't entirely original as lyrics go, but you feel if you don't obey you'll get an authentic ethnic heel up your ass until you fall in line. It's like being menanced by a tourist information office. Splendid.
By the way, all the curtains and furnishings from my Mum's living room were recently stolen, if anyone has any informa--heyyyyyy!
Russia - Anastasia Prikhodko - Mamo
Home team! Home team! Graham says her father is incredibly rich. We're up for being bribed.
Oh, hang about, having seen her and heard the first bit of the song, I'm not sure there's enough money in all the Russian gas fields to persuade us to vote for this. Did the lyrics really go "dicky-ricky-daa-waa"?
Azerbaijan - AySel & Arash - Always
A rash? What sort of name is that for a singer? "What will we get down the club tonight?" "Arash, I think".
This is the second time Azerbaijan have come into the finals, and they're trying to distract us by giving the dancers some pretty purple v-shaped skirts. The song, sadly, is just old-skool Seaside Special.
Graham reckons it's getting a standing ovation. God knows why. Perhaps people just wanted to stretch their legs after an hour sitting down.
Bosnia & Herzegovina - Regina - Bistra Voda
It's a bloke in a white suit, surrounded by characters off the top of a tin of Quality Street. They all seem like they're going to a very, very serious circus. Perhaps a clown has died?
@msilveruk cuts to the important question, though, about their performance:
Bosnia&Herzegovina probably has no gap between either side of the '&' because IT made the field too small
He's right, too, you'd have to bet - I can see them backstage during preproduction, trying to work out who has the longest country name in Europe.
The rest of Europe has gone to ads, so we're getting a knockabout film featuring Moscow police. Which gives Graham a chance to mention the heavy-handedness of the real Russian police, although more in sorrow than in anger.
This is the best argument for the BBC taking advertising.
Moldova - Nelly Ciobanu - Hora Din Moldova
Nelly has got something written on her hands. If it was "remember to wear skirt", it failed as an aide memoir.
bring back the singing street people! #Kalinka malinka, kalinka maya, vsadu yaduga.....#
Knee high purple velvet boots. The songs have been quite humdrum this year, but there's some excellent boots going on.
Oh, dear. Nelly is now looking a little like she's gone mad. Like someone who won't let you just enjoy a drink: "lets have a dance. let's dance. Come on, everybody, dance..."
Malta - Chiara - What If We
The song starts with honking car horns. Unless that was outside?
Oh, this has the word "adequate" scribbled all over it. The sort of song you'd get to do half way through your cruiseship set, if you promise the ents manager you'll stick to covers after it.
wooooot for bbw singers, I rather see that than some worn out prostitute that cant sing
Estonia - Urban symphony - Rändajad
First umaluts of the evening, as what would appear to be a group loosely based on Bond (the fairly-pretty classical group, not the spy franchise) take the stage with a track that feels like it might have originally have been aimed at appearing in a promotional DVD for a corporate customer, but got dropped when the credit crunch hit.
Denmark - Brinck - Believe Again
This one was written by Ronan Keating. In part. Have Ireland got so afraid of winning by accident they're sending people to help other nations?
On the other hand, if you were doing that, wouldn't you send someone who was going to contribute something better than a Boyzone cast-off?
was ronan bitter about ireland not qualifing so he's singing in a curtain?
Brinck says he wants to believe in something bigger than the "two of us". What, like a whale or a bus? Why can't you believe in a bus, Brinck?
There are fireworks going off behind the singer. Oh, they've fizzled out now. At least they fizzed a bit longer than Brinck did.
9.15 - Alex Swings Oscar Sings! - Miss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
The one with Dita Von Teese propping them up, of course. If you stare at her very, very hard, you might forget that it's like Stutz Bear Catz slaughtering the memory of Dean Martin.
Oscar is wearing trousers made of bacofoil which - given the heat of the studio lights - will probably mean his testicles are going to be charbroiled.
Somewhere, almost off camera, Dita is taking her shirt off.
Why is she here? How, exactly, does a special guest star work in a song contest anyway?
Turkey - Hadise - Düm Tek Tek
Did she just say they met or move like animals? She's actually much sexier than Dita Von Teese, so that's a bit of a moot point. Although she appears to have got a CBBC presenter on stage with her doing some of the vocals.
Why don't we get more Turkish pop, just generally, to cheer us up during the winter? Wouldn't you rather have Hadise than Kasabian?
Oh, apparently they're Lloyd-Webber's favourite act this year.
Albania - Kejsi Tola - Carry Me In Your Dreams
Oh, this is one of the semi-finalists I caught while trying to keep myself pure. The girl in the tutu being menaced by a guy whose had his mum run him up a gimp outfit from some used curtains.
Albania - it's Bonnie Langford and a wrong shade of Blue Man
This is quite nice, except for the performance being so stage school. "Search for me in your dreams" instructs Kejsi. Hint: She'll be sat at the exam desk next to you, and probably the first one to notice that you're naked.
Norway - Alexander Rybak - Fairytale
Graham says Rybak has a face he'd like to slap, which is a good starting point. He wrote this himself, too. Although that's "wrote" as in "altered enough from something by Topol to be able to avoid lawsuits".
His dancers are bouncing around on all fours, like cats dryhumping the stage. What fairytale would that be? Puss In Boots When His Mum's Gone Out For The Evening?
"When I was younger." What, you mean when you were an unborn foetus
Norway are meant to be the favourites? Seriously?
Here we are, then, being shouted at by the presenters. This must be a bid to wake up viewers in their later years.
Ukraine - Svetlana Loboda - Be my Valentine! (Anti-crisis Girl)
Righto, so what's going on here? The song seems to be Demis Roussous goes to the disco, but the set... it's like it's been made from pieces picked up when the people who made the Radio Ga Ga video went out of business. "Take three giant cogs, I'll throw in the ladder and a couple of centurions helmets." "Deal."
Blimey, the robot-centurions have just twirled her right through 360 degrees.
Is she singing "bum" over and over again? And having a go on the drums. That's multitasking.
Ukraine: strip club celine Dione?
Romania - Elena - The Balkan Girls
Oh, this is just trying to pull a Ruslana. Hey, we'd all like to pull a Ruslana.
There have been a lot more bearable songs this year, so far - the number of drippy boys in white trousers and serious girls in black dresses doing ballads about love and peace, or loving peace, has been reassuringly low, and hopefully will see them extinct by 2011's contest.
Elena and her dancers have just formed a ring-a-ring-a-roses group. Bless their little hearts.
Given that Israel's songs are always about peace, whose idea was it to give their fans in the audience giant mallets with the Israeli flags on?
UK - Jade - It's My Time
You know how disappointing this is. Lloyd W big on da piano. We should have gone with the twins, which at least has an element of cheap sexual fantasy, something that works well with the judges.
There's nothing she's afraid of. Certainly not the thought of Europe going "meh" as one.
Surprisingly warm reaction from the audience, though.
they were doing so well until they showed his face |:
Finland - Waldo's People - Lose Control
"Welcome back to the 80s" says Norton, as if he'd think that a bad thing.
Spinning fire jugglers! Again! While someone does a very poor Eminem (or at least passable John Barnes) rap.
Twitter is, erm, all a twitter about Jade apparently getting clunked by her violinist during her performance. I suspect they had a trained killer in her backing musicians - "if it goes badly, we must end the performance by any means. I shall give my signal... no, no, abort..."
The end is nigh, of this bit, anyway:
Spain - Soraya - La Noche Es Para Mí (The Night Is For Me)
Spain's problem is their entries always sound like the soundtrack to their 'come to Spain' commercials. And their singer looks like she was expecting to be ice skating - heh heh, perhaps she got her idea of Russia from the James Bond movies, eh?
A (male) dancer has just flashed his breasts at Soraya. She didn't seem surprised by this. Bet she gets it all the time.
Is it just my ears giving up, or did they fade her down way before she was done?
bollocks. not even Sarah Harding in sequins could pull it back for us.
So, now we're into voting. Graham - who is having a brilliant Eurovision, it's so nice for the commentary to be genuinely warm rather than just worldly cyncical - says that every years "thousands" vote for the UK even though they can't.
They're getting cosmonauts to open the voting from space. I'll bet they're not the first people to appear tonight wearing diapers.
The picture from the space station broke up at the end - I'm guessing that would be our new alien ant overlords taking back control, then?
I think I'm going with Armenia, just edging ahead of Portugal in my hearts.
Having done the phone numbers, the TV is now showing a little film dispelling myths about Russia. Apparently it's not all snow and the KGB, you know. Well, not snow, anyway.
Amusingly, Ronan Keating has managed to become a trending topic on Twitter, which might mean Denmark could do well. Or perhaps Ronan Keating should expect a large crowd to arrive with flaming torches and pitchforks in the next few minutes.
After Thursday night, when the Americans spent most of the evening going "what the hell is #bbcqt", they're now puzzling over #eurovision. Although with Dollshouse getting renewed, they're finding enough to keep them interested.
And voting has closed, in the midst of some low-level presenter skittage.
While people add up their numbers, there's the traditional interval act that makes no sense. It's like one of the challenges from a recent cycle of America's Next Top Model. So, on that basis, if the UK does win, we should plot something for half time around the "look, I'm horribly dead" challenge.
Tsk. Don't tap on the glass, you'll scare them.
The votes are coming in.
Spain first - "best one ever" creeps the Spanish host.
10 points for the UK - leading for five seconds, but it's Norway who get 12.
Still, at least we're not going to spend the evening heading for nul points.
Belguim: Ooh, their host has a bun. Their twelve goes to Turkey, and nothing for the UK.
Man, that's some cleavage. Did she know she was going to be in vision?
Three for the UK, and she's frozen at the point of giving out the big scores.
It's already looking like Norway have this in the bag.
If that's her real hair, she could harvest it and use it to stuff sofas. More big points for Norway, and just enough to keep Jade in the game.
They've given the job of doing the numbers to a bloke in Hamburg, in a sea of paper flags.
Eight points to the UK - shaping up for the best result in years, without the need to actually host the bloody thing next year, then.
"Calling you from beautiful city of Prague"
Ah, Graham is thanking all the nations, even the Czechs, who give us six. If Terry was here, he'd already be deep into calling up the NATO troops.
Vanessa Feltz is doing their scores for them. Oh, shit, she's singing the results. That's ill-advised.
Norway get the twelve.
But that song was duff.
Iceland looks over-eager.
I love the 'flash movie loading' style bar indicating how much more we've got to go. Although now it's clear that Norway are going to run away with it, it could move a little faster,
Their man is in front of the Eiffel Tower. Imaginative.
Turkey get 12 from France, knocking Jade down to third.
As if to underline their outsider status, it looks like they've invited Chris Langham to give out their scores.
Even Israelis liked Norway, taking them through the 100 point barrier before half the results are in.
And the slow slide continues, as the UK sinks to fourth.
Latvia seem to be hungover. At eleven in the evening?
Two points for the UK takes Jade back to third.
Ah, Montenegro's score woman is so lovely, it's making me wish they'd had a chance to do some singing tonight. Although she has a slight air of wishing she'd not come in national dress.
UK slips to fifth as Monetnegro give their 12 points to Bosnia. You've got to respect tradition.
That. Is. A. Chin. Actually, it looks like she's got two chins - not double-chinned up and down, it's a side-to-side double chin. They give twelve to Spain and lift them from being the only country with zero.
A man in a plaid shirt, looking like a coy Ricky Gervais. Finland only gives Norway eight, and twelve to Estonia.
Not being neutral, then, this time. Norway seem to have a run of eights and tens, but still have double their nearest rivals.
Bulgaria announce that they're having a great time. And they looks like it.
The UK pick up seven points, but remain solidly fifth.
France aren't really doing all that well, considering their singer was meant to be some pan-European star. Perhaps the aging bit in her performance frightened Europe's kiddies.
The points are flowingto Norway again.
Oh Duncan Bloody James. Why? Is Myleene Klass busy? Could we not have had Adrian Chiles, at least?
The people of the UK have given twelve points to Turkey, which makes sense. I forgot I liked them by the end of the performances, but they were great.
Macedonia seems to be trying to take control of the programme from within a split-screen window. Oh, ten points for Bosnia. This new system really has worked, hasn't it?
Twelve points for Turkey, putting them joint distant second.
They're doing commercials? During the voting? Even the Russian host seemed surprised at that move.
Still, gives a chance for a quick dip into Twitter:
I'm still embarrassed that the UK gave 10 points to Norway. Who exactly ARE our expert panel anyway?!?!?
And we're back in the room, after a quick for the official DVD. Buy it now, before you find out how it ends.
Their guy looks like he's only doing this because his date never showed up outside the Odeon.
Ten to Norway, 12 to Estonia; Britain still solid fifth.
Someone has taken time off preparing his lecture on archaeology to turn out and give twelve to the UK, bouncing us up to... erm, third.
I really wish the Russian producers would keep the bloody scoreboard on screen
Bjorn Borg's zombie cousin pops up with wacky flowers and wacky medals and a general air of a man for whom a slap would be the correct response. 12 to Croatia.
Actually, now Graham thnaking every nation for a few measly points is starting to take on the air of Uriah Heep. Six points for the UK, and Norway vanish off so far into the lead we could all go to bed.
It's Bet Lynch doing the scores. Twelve points to Azerbaijan? Seriously?
Perhaps the runners-up could host next year's semi-finals?
The slightly creepy Albanian bloke reveals their country didn't love Norway quite so much as everyone else - seven points.
"Everybody's still talking about how unforgettable it was" says their presenter. Yes, people haven't shut up about it yet. Given how it's still going on. 12 points to Bosnia-H
The UK is now neck-and-neck with Turkey. Cyprus gives its 12 to Greece. So I think you know which bit of Cyprus it is.
Poland is also singing, although their chap looks like a policeman recently elevated to the CID. They give enough points to the UK to take Jade to fourth. Norway have so won, the question now is if they are going to score a record win.
Ah, as befits a country below sealevel, their scores are being given by a mermaid. And knocks the UK back to fifth. Apparently the mermaid fell in love with the Norwegian boy. Does that mean she's barred from awarding twelve points, though?
She's pissed off. Really, really pissed off.
Their 12 points for Norway break the 300 barrier, and make it the biggest winner ever.
Graham tries to make a game of guessing where we'll end up. Mid-table, Graham.
A low budget Courtney Cox delivers the required 12 to Bosnia.
Apparently, the Russian audience is pissing off home, catching last buses and so on. 10 from Portugal puts UK in fourth, and 12 goes to Moldova. Moldova? Really?
Hair and makeup ahoy. They also give 12 points to Moldova. All of a sudden, Moldova is popular.
Ireland do a spot of blarney, as they are supposed to. And they give ten to the UK. And not a sod for Ronan's Denmark effort. That's surely got to hurt.
Apparently there is a comb shortage in Denmark. Who give all their 12 points to Norway. 339 for Norway now.
Steady on, we're near the end. Moldova give 12 to Romania, for some fraternal reason.
There are a lot of countries in Europe, aren't there? Their presenter calls for a minute's silence for Slovenia failing to qualify. It goes down like a 9/11 joke in a US airport. 12 points to Norway.
"Everything looks beautiful" she simpers, her head shaking on its overlong neck. The UK are still, by the way, fourth place. Finland are at the bottom, although possibly only on alphabetical order.
The Hungarian points woman seems thrilled, truly, to be here. Like she'd won a trip to a tractor factory or something. 12 to Norway.
By a freak, Norway will be doing their scoring last.
She looks spookily like Charlotte Coleman. Or perhaps I'm getting bleary-eyed. She keeps leaving scary pauses. Their twelve goes to Turkey, and once again the scoreboard vanishes too quickly to see what that means.
Norway already look like they've embarked on an alcohol-based national celebration.
So, Norway win. UK come fifth, which, sadly, will probably be good enough to lead to another run out for Lloyd Webber again next year.
They're firing the glitter cannons into what remains of the audience, in preparation for the encore performance.
They're sweeping the glitter off the stage now - health and safety mate. The song's popularity seems even more mystifting now.
So, what have we learned? That the BBC should probably have put Wogan out to grass much sooner. That the music actually seemed better this year, but still nobody is going to do their best stuff for it. And never mind the gay audience - if Eurovision is aimed at any particular sexual group, it's the boot fetishists who will really be getting off.