How to watch the Eurovision song contest

It’s the Most… Won-der-ful tiiime… of the year…

No, not Christmas. It’s Eurovision time!

Every May, as the mercury rises and the frozen north of Europe remembers that winter only lasts for eight months of the year, the sequinned frocks are dusted off, the key changes are geared up and the pyrotechnics get ready to blow.

Eurovision has a long history of derision and being side-lined as a niche interest in the UK, while several of our European neighbours have thrown themselves into this celebration of continental unity with gay abandon – in every sense.

In the last two years, with Australia being invited to join for last year’s ‘Building bridges’ theme, and with the contest being broadcast in the US for the first time this year,  Eurovision is finally taking its well-deserved space on the global sparklewonder podium.

If you’re watching, and especially if it’s your first time, here’s How To Watch the Eurovision Song Contest.

What to know
Know that, rather than a Europe-wide contest to find the best song, the Eurovision has spawned its own brand of Europop. Countries like the Netherlands, who submit real music, are less likely to win than those who submit a formula pop performance with a noticeable key change, pyrotechnics and some kind of lycra-clad rhythmic gymnastics backing troupe. Or monster rock.

You should also know that although songs including the national language of the country will add to your drinking game merriment, they are less likely to win than songs presented in part or entirely in English, one of the two official languages of Eurovision, and indeed of most Europe-wide institutions. Indeed, English language songs have won 26 times compared to French language songs with 14 victories, all other languages lagging far behind (

The most important thing to know about the contest does not relate to the music, but the hour of voting after the music is over. This highly ritualised part of the evening is in fact the part most worth watching, especially if you have any interest in inter-European politics. First, after the telephone voting lines close begins the half-time show. In recent years this has included knife-throwing and my personal favorite, giant perspex boxes filled with water and aquatic performers gyrating over the heads of thousands of lucky audience members.

Then, with the phone lines closed and the votes counted, the voting begins. All participating states, even the 16 eliminated in the two semi-finals, ‘phone in’ to deliver the verdict of their nation and of their national jury. This follows a careful script with variations in faithfulness to and piss-taking of said script. Depending on your depth of knowledge of up-to-the minute geopolitical rifts and alliances, you can substitute the song sweepstake for betting on which countries will award their neighbours the famed ‘douze points’, and which lowly European scumbags (invariably the United Kingdom in recent years) will struggle to avoid ‘nil points’.

What to have
Above all, you need friends. Eurovision alone is akin to Flight of the Conchord’s Lasagne for One; comically tragic. I’ve found that the best friends are a good mix of people who already love Eurovision and Euro-virgins who can be wowed by its wonderment. The key decider should be friends who are quick with the snarky humour even when plastered, as this will complement The Commentary.

Second on the list is The Commentary. This year, I’ll be donning the sparkly black disco armband and insisting on a minute’s whiskey-soaked silence in honour of the recently departed King of Eurovision Commentary, Terry Wogan. Graham Norton has certainly proved a superb replacement, but although Tezza is gone, he’ll never be forgotten. While you can stream the whole show from the Eurovision channel, investing in the hilarious BBC commentary is an annual televisual treat worth its weight in VPN subscriptions.

The next must-have-to-hand item is your sweepstake. From the point of the close of the second semi-final, you’ll have the final line-up to print out and select from, or you can use an official version and strike out those eliminated earlier in the week. Last year we hosted a Eurovision bash and Wonderboy won the sweepstake. Fortunately everyone was too tired and wasted for a revolt. If he gets it again this year I’ll know it’s a fix.

The other paper item you’ll require is the drinking game rules. Last year’s bumper crop of formula key-changes and electric costumes lead to a very hazy memory of the winner being declared, and a hazier memory of being told to tone it down before our neighbours called the cops. I also have no memory of our last guests leaving or of going to bed. In mitigation, I should add that I was living in Korea and therefore our celebrations took place between 4 and 8am.

To aid in the revels, it’s useful to have an array of booze from a variety of European origins. Beer, wine and vodka can cover a number of bases if you’re planning to toast each entry with a culturally appropriate beverage. However, if your cupboard boasts Vanna Tallin, Rigas Balsams, Metaxa and Becherovka, you can be assured of a night you’ll struggle to remember.

If, like me, you’re joining in from afar, another requirement is a good connection to a group of fellow friends or enthusiasts. A Eurovision party is always going to be the best way to a) baffle all your non-European friends and b) join in in true disco-sparkle-rainbow-glitter mode. Failing that, use the free Eurovision app to take Eurovision Song Contest framed selfies and bombard your social network of Eurovision followers with regular updates on your voting preferences.

Finally, with several years of bitter experience behind me, I’ll be attempting to make my own home soundproofing from eggboxes. In case that doesn’t hold up, I’ll make sure I have a disguise handy for the point at which irate neighbours come knocking. And a stack of apology cards.

My App tells me it’s only six hours to the final and GUTT EVENINCK….EUUUURRRR-OOOOOOOOPPPPPPE

Enjoy, world!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Little sis
    May 14, 2016 @ 20:18:44

    My money is on Belgium, my heart is on Cyprus and my spingly sparkly Eurovision knickers are on my person!



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