Act 1, Sc 1.
A party scene in a suburban semi-detached house. Two people are talking as the assembled company half-heartedly move to the music and munch on *Wotsits. (*Read as 'lentil crisps' if you're reading in Hale Barns)
Brenda: So...did you see the Lucy episode of 'Enders?
Me: Sorry, I...I don't watch much TV.
Brenda: *looking crestfallen* Oh...
Brenda: Go on. What?
Me: I do like...Eurovision. Well, not like. Love.
Brenda: Are you kidding? It's shit!
Me: Brenda - staying talking to you requires a level of stupidity I am unable to sink to. I'm done.
Me: Eff off.
Now, before you go and tell me I was 'harsh' on Brenda and she's 'probably a lovely person if you just get to know her' and her drop scones are to die for and yadda-yadda, let me stop you right there. See, there's a list of offences Brenda can get away with in life: parking in two spaces in Sainsbury's, buying Silvikrin hairspray on purpose, eating at Safad's before 2am, mixing up 'your' and 'you're' in her writing, not knowing all the words to Jump Around by House of Pain etcetera, etcetera...but not liking Eurovision is most definitely, unquestionably not on the list.
I imagine there's a few unconvinced Ford-driving, Simply Red fans out there who will need more evidence, so, here goes...
Eurovision is the joke we're all in on - and what a joke! It's the only time when everyone in the country says, 'Oh, I miss Terry Wogan' in absolute unison and means it. It's the only event for which Google Maps is a more reliable way of predicting the winner than dissecting the luminous harmonies. It's the only time you can truly understand a country's geo-political history AND maybe see Michael Flatley's flingin'-flangin' windmill legs at half time in the same evening. It's got the best forced presenting-duo camaraderie since Chris Evans and Zoe Ball. Oh, and it's also kinda gay, televised homosexuality that would make even the creators of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 twiddle their designer moustaches and go, 'Yeah. Too far.' Basically, it's the strongest antidote to homophobia since moving a guy called Chad into your house, letting him serenade you every morning with 'Believe' by Cher and watching him burst into tears repeatedly when the souffle was just right. I'm just not cynical enough not to love it. I love it so much that I once missed a vital U-Bahn stop by having a conversation about past winners which I couldn't seem to halt in time to disembark. My bad.
There's only one drawback: the UK is crap at it.
No, really! Since the early Noughties, we've become the unwanted flatmate of Europe taken on at the last minute who audaciously demands the biggest room, plays shit Maroon 5 singles long into the night and feels entitled to the Leerdammer we didn't even buy. We're the musical equivalent of the England football team: smug, full of misplaced entitlement and ultimately undeserving. This year's entry, 'Electro Velvet', has a name which you just know was thought up at 4am. By someone called Ian. And Ian's just filling in for Neil. In addition, the song has all the musical charm of thrush. The strings actually hurt. And where precisely are the musical influences that inspired it, for the love of God? Has the producer harked back to Ireland's winning stretch and gone, 'I'm thinking 'Young At Heart' by the Bluebells, but with a faux-country vegan crunk twist, man'? Were it played to you on hold on the phone, you'd go, 'I don't need Churchill Insurance THAT badly, thanks!' and swiftly hang up. What's the hardest part? We didn't used to to be this bad.
Guardian columnist Stuart Heritage reckons the UK has tried every tactic. If we can enter a titan like Bonnie Tyler, whom even Lithuania loved, and still not win, surely we should pack up our Bontempi keyboards and get the frig outta there? Well, I'm sorry, Mr Heritage, but I can't just quit. What do you think this is? Some sort of whimsy, talent-free spectacle where the voting is rigged to buggery which doesn't really matter to anyone and especially not Greece because they'd have to host it in a shed in yesterday's pants? Exxxactly!
And so, without further ado, here are Jess's picks for Eurovision 2016 onwards.
1) Babylon Zoo.
I know. You're thinking the lights are on in Jess's house, but nobody's home. There is method in my madness, though. Remember Lordi from Finland and the viewing public trying desperately to make sense of it? This is like that. But worse. And from the Midlands. *shudder* We've let far worse shit win than Jas Mann. I personally want to see the man who's 'never sung an H' catapult us to some thoroughly undeserved victory.
2) Hazell Dean
To anyone who isn't homosexual or over 30, you could be mistaken for thinking that I was listing some sort of brand of sedative. With something as flaming as Eurovision, though, sometimes you need the big gay guns, and Dean is it. Defrosted annually for the Pride circuit and bedecked in Claire's Accessories clip-on earrings, she relies on the same-sex attracted to make dollar. The woman's been wearing distressed double denim and floppy velvet hats for 20+ years and, if for no other reason, the dollar would buy her a more flattering wardrobe. Plus, who doesn't want to hear the millennial spin on 'Who's Leavin' Who' after it's been autotuned within an inch of its sorry life and had a cackhanded rap written by Wil.I.Am thrust into the middle of it?
3) Beverly Craven
I don't really want her to represent us. I just want to make sure she's okay. Beverly, if you're there, babe, please call. We're so worried. Thanks.
4) East 17
This is my 'whatthehell' vote. Personally, I think we had the right tactic with Revive A Boyband, but we picked the wrong one with Blue. They weren't dishevelled and dredged up enough. Too nice. Too tuneful. We need a crew of Walthamstow wazzocks, wizzed off their tits, hands down their trackies and brandishing taxed Clipper Cards in one hand, yelling, 'Your Mum' into the mics until they get hoisted off the air faster than Shaun Ryder on TFI Friday.
I can't explain how this has never come into fruition. It's SO obvious! They are in the dictionary under the word 'flaming', wrote one of the best songs of the 1990's (No - not 'Last Thing On My Mind'. Duh! 'Better Best Forgotten'. Fact. I can still do the dance to this, even when confined to my car), have some of the best inter-band bitchiness since Fleetwood Mac did Rumours, are an endless source of fascination for Claire's yo-yoing weight, Lisa Scott Lee's car-crash career (check out her doing the graveyard slot at Pride in some backwater town in the UK) and contain an outright sex symbol in Faye Tozer, who somehow looks hotter now than she did with dreadlocks. Fly the lot of them in on a giant Sherbet Dip Dab, which smashes into a wall, leaving the place looking like Keith Richard's bathroom. Only Lee will get the dance routine right and will position himself miles from the rest (he will have requested a separate hotel) whilst Claire and H hold hands and the other two pull awkward faces. 'Mazing.
Or, as is my dearest wish, enter me next year. I have a ukulele, a potty mouth and a shaky grasp of time signature. You know it makes sense....