Love or hate the cheesy tunes and outlandish costumes of the Eurovision Song Contest, there more to it than meets the eye. This two-part documentary tells the history of modern Europe through its favourite television show. It shows how a singing competition reflected decades of political and cultural change. And it reveals that – now and again – Eurovision itself has made history.
Mixing politics with pop and real international intrigue, this winning blend of humour and insight peers beyond the glitz and the sparkle to show that sometimes sequins and key changes can be as powerful as barbed wire and tanks.
The amusing yet revealing story of how a singing competition helped build a new Europe, sequin by sequin.
A decade after the end of the Second World War, Marcel Besançon, a Swiss executive working for the European Broadcasting Union, had a daring idea. He wanted to stage a live Pan-European singing competition to promote the nascent television services of Western Europe, and bring the divided nations of a war-torn Europe closer together in a shared celebration of music.
The first Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland, on May 24, 1956. Just seven countries took part (six of whom, significantly, went on to sign the Treaty of Rome and lay the foundations of the European Community) but it was an instant hit and has become an unbroken annual fixture in the life of the continent.
Melbourne-born entertainer Johnny Logan (pictured) – whose family moved back to Ireland when he was three years old – has won the contest three times. Logan, who remains known to many as "Mr Eurovision", is interviewed in the documentary.
During the Cold War, the glitz and glamour on the Eurovision stage was seen as a symbol of western fun and freedom. Only a very few in the Eastern Bloc were able or brave enough to risk their lives by tuning in to Finnish TV signals in secret.
In recent decades, following the fall of the Iron Curtain and break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, new nations have clamoured to take part, injecting new life into the contest and raising the political stakes yet further by seeing it as a rare opportunity to promote their national identity on an international stage.
Today, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most-watched broadcast events in the world, attracting hundreds of millions of fans across Europe and as far afield as Australasia, Asia and Latin America.
Some love it, some laugh at it, some are obsessed by it, but most think of the Eurovision Song Contest as just a great night’s entertainment. And yet it has slowly become one of the great popular cultural festivals of our age, a carnival of fun and frivolity that can be taken - in a certain light - as a symbol of just how far Europe has travelled since Monsieur Bescancon had his brainwave.
This two-hour series is an entertaining, smart and fast-paced account of a remarkable European institution. A winning blend of humour and insight, the program is packed with classic pop, backstage intrigues, and some truly astonishing outfits. But more than that, it will peer beyond the glitz and sparkle to examine the Eurovision Song Contest and how it has tracked – and at times even influenced – the changing social and political life of Europe.
Electric Pictures and Brook Lapping have international reputations for their storytelling skill. This series will employ a rigorous journalistic approach and be driven by first-person testimony. But it will also be great fun, with each film constructed in a smart, lively and visually-inventive style, in a similar vein to ‘Skippy: Australia’s First Superstar’ the recent Electric Pictures/Brook Lapping film also written and directed by Stephen Oliver. This won large audiences internationally and attracted critical praise for the clever mix of entertainment with quality journalism.
Directed by: Stephen Oliver
Written by: Steve Oliver and Phil Craig
Producers: Andrew Ogilvie, Andrea Quesnelle
Executive Producers: Andrew Ogilvie, Trevor Graham, Phil Craig
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