So it's viszontlatasra from them Revealed: Euro-pop convergence

the week on television

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Gerry Adams embraced electoral triumph on the Friday with a speech delivered in Gaelic and English. A day later you realised where he got the idea from, when Carrie, uber-presenter of the Eurovision Song Contest (BBC1, Sat), made part of her keynote welcome in Gaelic. It was either that or staggeringly bad Danish. (Although no worse, in fairness, than that of the Danish entrant himself, who sang a song about a man who falls in love with a telephone operator, delivered in the rap idiom; sort of Hans Christian Muthafuckason).

The co-presenter was that little blond leprechaun from BoyZone. He was so short he made Carrie, towering over him, look like a drag act. There was something too perfectly feminine about her. You kept on staring at her neck for signs of activity from an Adam's apple. Her real name's probably Fintan.

You wouldn't put anything past the latest instalment of Eurovision. The Icelandic entry was a notably frank paean to the joys of sado-masochism. The dancing girls, basically contortionists, had done their shopping at Ann Summers. This being the show it was, and held in Ireland to boot, the camera sensibly kept its distance. Terry Wogan, who was on supremely good form all night ("I want you to keep an eye out for a man playing a bunch of grapes"), was shocked. So shocked that he breached Eurovision protocol by lobbing in a quip mid-song. "Are we sure this is not Channel 4?" Not if Michael Jackson, who this week jumped ship from the BBC to the Big Four Os, has anything to do with it: the song contest is one show to which he'll happily bid adieu, adios, viszontlatasra.

1997 will go down as the year the Eurovision Song Contest discovered sex. This cheap entertainment was invented in 1963, but no one told Eurovision, which for 40 years has provided its own alternative brand of cheap entertainment. But this year, the Austrian choreography broke the strict Euro quota on eroticism. And in pursuit of the teenage crush note, there were at least three BoyZones entered, one of them a Hungarian outfit optimistically called VIP. Plus a couple of GirlZones, including a risible gaggle from Holland.

These days, of course, the entertainment is not so cheap. Like the Conservative Party, or Manchester United, Ireland had won four out of the last five contests. Yet again RTE blew most of its annual budget on production - this time, the punts were plunged into a gigantic blow-up of the set of Blake's Seven. To help foot the bill, they'd clearly rigged up some sort of funding arrangement with the Irish Tourist Board, who used the show as a four-hour advertisement with short musical breaks sewn in to let viewers go off and brew tea.

Ireland's yearly attempt to court failure has not been a success. Next year they could do worse than enter BoyZone, whose interval song was every bit as formless as the Swiss entry. Over the years, Britain, the only other country in Europe that knows about pop music, has been somewhat unneighbourly in this area, annually submitting hopelessly crocked entries. Bucks Fizz, our most recent victors, "won it in 1862," advised Wogan, "just after the Corn Laws were repealed". This year, for once, we sent over quite a good tub-thumping anthem, and duly won by a (quaintly cobbled) street.

The result seemed suitably in keeping with the new national mood. Britain has voted to rejoin Europe, and Europe welcomed us in as only Europe knows how. "Have one of these." Thanks. After an election where politicians struggled to deliver on the Vision Thing, here was the next best Thing: the Eurovision Thing, a wafty philosophy of peace and harmonies.

And barriers are tumbling down all over the Continent. Whereas entrants used to sing in English or jibberish or a winning combination of both (ladies and gentleman, a big hand for "Boom Bang a Bang"), they now abuse their own languages. Apart from Russia, that is, which fielded a well- preserved woman who didn't look a day over 60 singing a song called "Primadonna". The Italians, rather rudely, failed to reciprocate with a song called "Babushka".

It wasn't just the rapping Danes who plumped for an American genre. Norway unburdened itself of a song called "San Francisco", a charming if cheesy hommage to the Beach Boys. It got nul points. The Eurovision Song Contest may be changing but, as they say in Murmansk, Rome wasn't built in a day.

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