• Once Europe (and Australia) has had its say, things get interesting at Eurovision. (EBU)Source: EBU
While the music is a blast, the real tension in Eurovision is the voting.
Gavin Scott

7 Apr 2017 - 2:15 PM  UPDATED 7 Apr 2017 - 2:21 PM

In reality TV singing competitions, there are two distinct stages: the auditions and the live finals. Some viewers prefer the former, with all the cringe-inducing, tone-deaf caterwauling that involves, while others would rather listen to contestants that can hold a tune.

Eurovision is similar in that it has two separate components – the performances and the voting, with the latter taking almost as long as the former. You probably won’t find many people who say they prefer the voting, but too many viewers dismiss it out of hand and believe the show’s over once the final entry has been performed. How wrong they are.

The voting is one of the highlights of Eurovision, during which you’ll go through the full range of emotions – delight, anger, horror, amusement and fear. And that’s just at the scripted gags the hosts trot out.

Here’s why you should stick with Eurovision to the bitter end.

The tension

Unless it’s a landslide year when there’s a clear winner from the outset, there are usually several frontrunners during much of the voting. The leaderboard shifts continuously as each new set of scores comes in.

One minute, your favourite is up; the next, they’ve been given a big fat zero from one of the landlocked nations compelled to vote for all its neighbours. Until someone breaks away from the pack, it’s a constant thrill ride.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s always the possibility that one of the entries will receive the ultimate in Eurovision dishonour: nul points. It’s worth keeping an eye on the low achievers and you’ll either get a kick or a pang of disappointment, depending on your temperament, when someone finally sends some points their way.

With 43 (or 42, depending on what happens with Russia’s entry) countries involved in this year’s Eurovision, it’ll take an incredibly long time for all those votes to come in. That just adds to the suspense, although it does also mean you’ll forget how any of the songs even went by the end.

The international spokespeople

One of the downsides of the ever-expanding list of countries competing in Eurovision is that one of the highlights of the show has been consistently reduced. Previously, each of the representatives calling in with their nation’s votes was really able to milk their time on international TV for all it was worth.

Even though the spokespeople no longer read out all the scores and only get to announce the recipient of their country’s douze points, it’s always fun watching them try and make the most of their 15 seconds of fame. As they deviate from the instructions they’ve clearly been given to just get on with it, these regional celebs gush over the show, compliment the hosts and drag out their announcement for ultimate drama. They all think they’re the only one cheeky enough to try it on; they’re not.

It’s even more enjoyable when one of the spokespeople is a former Eurovision contestant hoping to bask in their former glory. The look of disappointment on their face when they’re politely hurried along by the smiling-but-stern hosts like they’re just any other local TV presenter is priceless.

The politicised voting

Of course, the real amusement comes from the actual scores. It never gets tired seeing neighbours shamelessly swap 12 points – especially when everyone else has been giving them ones or twos, if anything. Backstage in the green room, those contestants wave their flags for the cameras, but you can tell they’re also a little embarrassed the only time they got top marks was because it came from the country next door.

Other things to watch for: political enemies snubbing each other or, occasionally, using Eurovision to reach out an olive branch; countries with a high migrant population from another ESC nation awarding those people's homeland a stack of points and everyone hating on the UK.

Yes, the political voting sometimes means the best song doesn’t win, but whoever said Eurovision was fair?

The twists

Every so often a rule adjustment will come along that changes everything. Like in 2016, when a new voting system was introduced.

Those of us who didn’t really understand how the voting was going to play out thought Australia had it in the bag when the international jury votes had been delivered via satellite. But then, the televoting results had to be added in separately – and Ukraine emerged ultimate victor. Now, that was thrilling, if disappointing, stuff.

The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.

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