Is it really that time of year already? Tonight I’ll take my seat with about 200 million viewers worldwide and watch the Eurovision Song Contest, taking place in Lisbon, Portugal. The £18 million show will see 26 countries go head-to-head with a diverse set of songs, and the vote will split between the public phone vote and their regional juries of pop-music experts. It’s three and a half hours of joyful silliness, amazing sets, outlandish costumes and dark mutterings about politics and the future of Europe. It’s a like a lavish wedding with all your strange and estranged relatives turning up in their most fabulous clothes, ready to get drunk, have a dance and air all those techy grievances. This powder keg is going to explode into a massive argument. There’s nothing you can do about it, so just enjoy the party.
Dah dah dah daaaah, dada! Dah dah dah daaaah dah dah dah dah daaaaah! Name that tune! Even written in that shoddy fashion I bet you can guess. Has there ever been a more exciting quiz show theme? I don’t think so.
It’s a welcome return to The Crystal Maze last seen in 1995. This was one-off celebrity special of the much-loved 1990s game show with the aim of getting you to part with your cash for the Stand Up to Cancer charity. Special programmes are on Channel 4 all week, which culminates in a Comic Relief-style live show on Friday night.
David Tennant was mentioned in contention for the host duties, but quickly after that story leaked Stephen Merchant was confirmed. He looked fabulous in his Richard O’Brien outfit, holding hands and running around with the contestants, but just looked plain silly with a shaved head. (However, if he raised extra dosh for SU2C with a sponsored head shave then good on him.) Happily the orignal (and best) host Richard O’Brien popped up on screen at the start to give them a riddle to unlock the maze.
“I have cried over cake. I have shouted at a pie” admit the contestants in the pre-credits introduction. I myself have sulked at a chocolate brownie (too runny, even after hours in the oven) and thrown a hissy fit about a millionaire’s shortbread (Mr H had to take over and do caramel batch number three. It was impossible!). If baked goods make you emotional too, you know you’re in the right place. GBBO, episode 1 of series 7. Strap in for high-octane oven based excitement!
It’s week number one of the contest and it’s cake week. Which should in no way be mistaken for a cake walk – it’s quite the opposite. Blue-eyed silver fox Paul Hollywood promises the judging will get harder. I’m not sure that’s actually possible. Every year I enjoy watching the optimistic people who try to hide their failures with extra icing sugar, another layer of ganache or hidden at the bottom of the stack. Don’t they realise by now that Mary Berry has laser-guided vision for anything overbaked, underbaked or a bit shitty looking?
Almost like the producers read the internet too, Mel and Sue dive straight in and say the unsayable word ‘moist’. By itself it does sound sticky, sexual and faintly smelly. But in terms of sponge cake, it’s absolutely key.
Back to basics, says Paul. Good, says I. I’m sick of people using ingredients you can only track down on the Dark Web and have to purchase in bulk with a stash of little blue pills to make it look more harmless. And yes to creativity but enough with creating concoctions that seem like a mixologist’s fever dream. Shame then that the back to basics proclamation lasted for just about one task.
Surprisingly the technical challenge was jaffa cakes. What? I thought that was a brand name. To be fair, I’m no expert because they are revolting. I’m hoping next week it’s Tunnock’s Tea Cakes – giant dancing ones like at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The ‘show-stopper challenge’, which is a term that gets slightly more annoying each time you hear it, was mirror cake. WTF? This is week one people! It’s meant to be relatively easy – for the contestants to put them at their ease in one of the strangest kitchens in the world, covered from bunting to tent flap with cameras and microphones. And it’s meant to be a nice gentle welcome back to the returning audience, inspiring us to get back in the kitchen and cover every surface with flour, not trying to put us off with such complicated creations. The only nod to the beginners was that so many contestants restarted their Genoise sponge cake I was surprised everyone managed to finish in time. Maybe they had to give them all an extra half an hour?
So, the guy with the dryest, saddest-looking cake lost and was booted out of the tent. Lee, we hardly knew you.But Jane, who won the ‘star baker’ accolade shouldn’t rest on her laurels. After watching all the previous series my advice is to aim for fourth or fifth place for most of the challenges until the last few weeks. Don’t set the judges expectations too high, but do solid work. Mid-table results until you’re in the final 6 and then you can show off what you’ve learnt from the judges and your fellow contestants. everyone loves a contestant who has ‘been on a journey’. Goosbery fool-proof!
Episode one of GBBO is now available on iPlayer
Grrr! Arrgh! It’s new guest blogger Jontosaurus! When he isn’t drunk on cider and driving tractors in sleepy old Somerset, the enigmatic and endangered Jontosaurus likes to watch anything with zombies or aliens in it, anything with explosions, or anything with explosions and aliens and zombies all combined. His favourite shows at The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, Robot Wars, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul, and anything with a good story and compelling characters.
He is also writing a sci-fi novel entitled “Deimos Has Fallen” which features aliens, space zombies and explosions.
Visit him at his blog, but first – why is everyone excited about Robot Wars?
Back in the 1990s, we all got a severe shock to the system when the BBC announced a new game show entitled Robot Wars. It was a concept that they had taken from our friends across the pond, who had been televising robotic destruction for a few years already, and they adapted it for British audiences. Series 1 saw Jeremy Clarkson – still an unknown and over a decade away from punching a man in the face over a sandwich – presenting a show, and Phillippa Forester wearing an outfit that wouldn’t look out-of-place in an S&M dungeon as she trundled about the ‘pit’s talking to the roboteering teams and pretending to be impressed by their creations.
In its infancy, this show was just hilarious – a demonstration of both the brilliance and eccentricity of the teams behind the machines. For every revelation such as eventual champion Roadblock, there were terrible contraptions such as Prince of Darkness, a box on wheels with wooden armour, exposed rubber wheels and a paint job that looked as if it had been done by a five-year-old… whilst they were in a deep sleep.
The sad truth is I’ve been looking forward to Eurovision for months. It’s the one night a year where I really embrace silly pop music. Instead of suffering through a whole series of The X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent I shovel all the cheesy Europop into my face in one massive glitter cannon blast. And then go back to my usual cynical self the very next day.
My friends have much better taste than me, so I have no sexy Euro parties to attend. But Twitter has revolutionized how we watch live events. My feed goes crazy, with humour, love and snark from around the globe. It’s like a cacophony of opinions from about a million people, and it makes the evening brilliant.
Here are a few choice moments from last night:
Come with SusieSue and let her take you back in time…
It’s 1974. There are Wombles. On Brighton Pier. And ABBA.
I am, let’s just say, primary school age. Waterloo happened and I loved ABBA from that day (except for the 1979-1982 years when ‘alternative’ music took me over, but that’s another story).
Back in the day Eurovision was A Really Big Deal.