For the uninitiated, Eurovision is something the generations of the 1970s and 1980s grew up with as a must-see event. It was one of the biggest talking points of the year. In the UK, families nationwide would stay glued to their TV sets as bands like Abba, Buck’s Fizz and Brotherhood Of Man became household names overnight and went on to forge successful pop careers.
Of course not all bands proved quite as successful. In fact most of them, including the winners, were generally quite shocking. Indeed they still are – which is why the popularity of Eurovision has waned. The music moved on but the contest didn’t. The novelty of the format and the voting system, where countries that hated each other wouldn’t vote for each other, made the whole affair a bit of a laughing stock.
But then as the show morphed from serious national singing competition into car crash TV it earned itself a cult audience. For viewers of a particular, erm, bent, the camp costumes, dated acts and the utter lack of self-regard of the singers involved made the show a hit.
The BBC have recognised the pink pound demographic by recruiting gay funny man Graham Norton (pic. 1) to host a show now adored by students, schoolgirls and gay men, who will be attending Eurovision parties throughout the UK and getting almost as pissed as the acts appear to be when embarrassing themselves on stage.
In October 2008, it was confirmed by the BBC that Norton would replace Terry Wogan as the BBC's presenter for the UK heats of the Eurovision Song Contest, in a show to be called Your Country Needs You.
On 5 December 2008 it was announced that Norton would also take over from Terry Wogan as the presenter of the main Eurovision Song Contest. The 54th Eurovision Song Contest was held in the Olimpiyskiy (Olympic) Stadium, Moscow on 16 May 2009.
Norton's jokes during his debut received some positive reviews from the British media. The Guardian noted his comments on Iceland's entry (pic 2), which finished in second place, had "rooted around in a cupboard and found an old bridesmaid dress from 1987" and the Armenian singers (pic 3), who finished in tenth place, were sporting traditional dress, "which would be true if you come from the village where Liberace is the mayor". The Times noted his highlighting of the arrest of thirty gay rights protesters in Moscow - "heavy-handed policing has really marred what has been a fantastic Eurovision". His comment “The bad news is you’re about to watch Albania (pic 4). She’s only 17 so please bear that in mind. Where was her mother? Why didn’t she step in and say no?” which was made just before a young performer from Albania was set to take the stage dubbed an insult by many, sent ripples of outrage through not only Albania, but also the Albanian population in Britain. There was even a petition circling the net calling for a formal apology from Norton. The petition, which called his comment “very rude and insulting,” had drawn over 1,000 signatures.