Last night’s documentary from the BBC on their entry for the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest and the participation of Blue might have been flawed, but it illustrated the challenge for Blue – it’s just a shame that the larger challenge the BBC faces in the Song Contest for the future wasn’t addressed.
The production team had an hour of prime time television to fill, and they had to balance the promotion of Blue, entertaining a Saturday night audience, and educating the casual viewer about ‘modern’ Eurovision and how it’s not the same contest as it was in the seventies and eighties. From what I can see, there were three program ideas lurking in here, and they didn’t mesh together.
The first was the talking heads documentary from previous Eurovision entrants from the UK. The BBC are proud that they got Cliff Richard (1968, 1973) on camera, along with Lulu (1969) and Bucks Fizz (1981). While it’s nice to show that we were good at Eurovision forty years ago, it jarred with the core message of the second section there is a modern Eurovision, which has seen a huge change in the last deacade So yes, celebrate the heroes of the past, but what practical advice can they offer Blue?
And no offence to them, but they’re not really the sort of names that would pull in a prime-time Saturday night crowd on TV. Given that I would have preferred to speak to some of the more modern UK singers – Katrina Leskanich, Jessica Garlick and Jade Ewen would have been able to relate to the modern Eurovision far better than Cliff.
The second section, the “magical rules to write a Eurovision song” just didn’t work for me for two reasons, the main one being the knowledge that Blue had already written “I Can” long before they decided to enter it at as the the United Kingdom entry for this year’s Eurovision.
I also felt cheated at the time because I don’t think that there is a formula for a winning song. The winners from the last ten years have very little in common, as anyone who listens at them would realise. But looking at the audience this program was aimed at, these casual watcher will think there is a cookie cutter formula, so much as I though this felt clichéd and trite at the time, on reflection this was a great idea, but I’m still not sold on how it was presented.
The last, and in my mind the one thread of the show that actually worked was the story of Blue getting ready for this year’s Contest. From the putting the band back together opening, though to their appearances around Europe before heading to Dusseldorf, this worked. And having slept on it, I can see why this worked, and why the style of this section shoudl have been reflected in therest of the hour.
You could easily say that five years ago, when Blue broke up, this was their departure from the music scene, and it wasn’t until they were supernaturally called (by Phil Parsons and the BBC) to represent their country at the Song Contest.
Then you moved to the first challenge, in Malta, where they realised they simply weren’t ready after a poor live performance of tech issues and forgetting the words of their song. They need to confront this feat, and carry on their quest, which they do with a small intermediate challenge (a live appearance on the Italian Top of the Pops). In other words, their initiation.
And the successful completion of that challenge is where we left it, with the might of Eurovision to come, which is not only Blue’s attempt at a return but also that of the United Kingdom.
Yes, Blue’s story is essentially Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, as discussed in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
If it was me, I would have added a bit more from Blue into the one hour documentary, but I would have seriously reworked the other two themes in the show by using the same Hero’s Journey structure to the UK’s last decade at Eurovision.
As Eurovision transformed in the late nineties, that would also have transformed the UK’s fortunes, leading us into the abyss that represents death. There would be lots of opportunity here to show where we went wrong, trying to write what UK composers thought Eurovision wanted, and get the clips of some of the great songs from the last decade.
I would have used Cliff Richard as the spiritual helper, leading the country towards a rebirth after our atonement of not taking the Contest seriously in the last few years (Lloyd-Webber and Jade Ewen being the successful precursor to the main challenge (mirroring as Blue’s Italian appearance).
That would have been an amazing documentary, moulding Blue into an archetype of the United Kingdom at Eurovision, showing the viewing public what’s gone wrong, where Eurovision is nowadays, and handing them a flawed hero to follow and support in Germany.
Let’s be fair, airing an hour long documentary about Eurovision in the weeks before the Contest in a prime-time slot is a big thing, and the BBC should be thanked for that. But we must be constructive in our criticism, because there needs to be forward planning. No matter what Blue do this year, the UK needs a representative for next year, someone who knows that they will get the full support of the BBC, who knows they will not be slaughtered in the mainstream UK press, who knows that an appearance at Eurovision for the UK will boost their career in the same way that is does for other countries. I think the opportunity, to reinforce a message for 2012, was missed.
Your Country Needs Blue was a competent documentary, and another smart step from the BBC in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. “I Can” is starting to build up momentum as May approaches, and there is an expectation in the air that simply wasn’t there last year with Josh Dubovie. The United Kingdom are on course for a strong showing at this year’s Contest. How strong remains to be seen, because the field is very strong with no runaway Fairytale this year.
The hero’s journey continues for Blue, but will this be a Star Wars or a Homer’s Odyssey? We’ll find out on May 14th.