Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Souking up to the boss - The Apprentice Week 5

And so we come to week five of The Apprentice - TV’s second most aspirational careers show, after that one about the women who fill the Steak Bakes at Greggs. Once again, the editing team’s having a laugh, picking snippets of choice dialogue, and presenting it out of context as a commentary on the candidates themselves. Tonight’s choice example: “Is this the best I can see?” A question that, depressingly, answers itself.

Tellingly, the show opens on a pile of horseshit. Besides setting the tone for the remainder of tonight’s installment, this also introduces a handy recap of last week’s action. Which can basically be summed up as Luisa offering “Potatoes, fresh from the ground,” and Kurt responding with smoothies, fresh from Cost Cutter.

This week it’s awkward academic Jason who goes shambling for the dildophone, as Jason gives us a flash of his nipple ring, and the girls dance through the house with excitement at the prospect of 24 hours in Dubai. Zeeshan is thrilled, because it’s his second home, and Luisa is busy packing her bikinis, proving that she is to the boardroom what Katie Price is to the Man Booker Prize.

The voiceover declares Dubai to be one of the world’s top shopping destinations, before introducing the venue for today’s task – a new multi-million pound hotel. In fact, that’s hardly a differentiator, since you’d probably be looking at seven figures for a decent sized B&B in Stockport. But let’s not start quibbling yet, I’m sure there’ll be far more egregious over and understatements for us to disagree with in tonight’s show.

The hotel is still under construction, but this is only evident because they’re in Dubai, where everything ordinarily comes with a gold-leaf finish. Even the gold. If this was anywhere else in the world, the unfinished concrete floor and wads of gaffer tape would be considered a ‘bold design statement’. Anyway, this is another one of those frantic shopping trips, where the two teams have to source a series of inexplicable items on behalf of the hotel manager. Lord Sugar pops up on the video screen to point out that his reputation is on the line, a dramatic over-reach that’s undermined by the fact that he couldn’t be arsed to get on a plane in the first place. Given the horror stories I’ve heard about the construction industry in Dubai, it’s heartening to find that the Apprentii are about to be sucked into it. Next week’s task will presumably see the remaining members of Evolve and Endeavour attempting to talk their way out of 21st century slavery – now there’s a negotiation task I’d happily watch.

Professional David Brent Impersonator Zeeshan is clearly the star of tonight’s show, which is presumably why we crash cut to him boldly declaring “No human in this world intimidates me.” That’s fine – let’s throw him into the big cats enclosure at Chester Zoo instead. He’s getting increasingly ballsy since, as he repeatedly points out, he’s lived in Dubai and knows how to barter with the Emirati. Explicitly signing his own death warrant, he tells his team “Put the map away – I know this place like the back of my hand.” Throw in an elderly man dressed as a busty washerwoman and this would be a full-on pantomime. Altogether now – Oh no he doesn’t.
He may be confident in his local cultural knowledge, but there’s already tension in the team. Doctor Leah is decidedly unimpressed with Zee’s hubris, and makes her counter-pitch: “I’m a good leader, great with finance. I don’t have a lot of local knowledge but I can convert the currency really easily.” After all, isn’t that what they really need: a pouty-lipped Foreign Exchange?

The other team is being led by silver fox Myles Morduant, who sounds like one
of Harry Potter’s unforgivable curses. He’s had a glamorous life, and boasts that he lived in Monaco for ten years. I’m not entirely sure of his point – doesn’t Monaco have shop assistants and traffic wardens? Myles confides in his team that this is likely to be a logistics task. Poor thing, he’s probably still on Monaco time, or he’d have realised that you’re supposed to speculate about the nature of the task before you’ve been briefed on it. There’s just time for posh Jordan to suggest “Let’s take this back up to 50,000 feet,” which I think is his way of saying he wants to get the first plane home, before the teams take to their people-carriers.

The items are supposedly to help finish the hotel, but it’s not entirely clear why the manager needs a leather hood for a falcon. Not to worry, there’ll be plenty more shopping list fuck-ups before the day is up; it’s as much of a certainty as Nick getting sand in his eye. Or at least looking like he has.

On the hunt for kanduras, the sourcing strategy doesn’t get off to the best start. The flinty sales rep only gets as far as “Hello, my name’s Rebecca. I’m English” before the other end hangs up on her. Can’t say I blame them. Meanwhile, Leah has decided to ignore Zee’s explicit instructions to head for the souk, and directs the cab to the Dubai Mall instead.  The PM obviously gets wind of the dissention in his ranks and calls to check in on his sub-team. “Stop talking, we don’t have time…” barks Leah, before reiterating for good measure: “I would’ve been a better PM.”

Myles is looking for a sago palm tree and settles for the first discount the sales woman offers him. Karren’s shaking her head in photogenic dismay, telling the camera crew that he should have negotiated with the boss instead. In the back of another MPV, Zee and Kurt are trying to order a UAE flag over the phone. Unfortunately, Kurt’s not quite got the hang of decimalisation, and mixes up his centimetres and inches. Unbeknownst to him, they’ve just ordered a flag that might suit a particularly patriotic mouse. It’s Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge all over again. Myles and his sub-team are also on the lookout for a flag, but they’re dealing with the shop manager face-to-face. Advised that the process will only take 45 minutes, the team decides to wait it out. We know how this one’s going to end, don’t we?

Neil, Alex and Leah appear to have located the only part of Dubai that’s older than Miley Cyrus, where Leah is trying to order a 32 ounce coffee pot, but the Emirates are trying to understand her French and Saunders comedy accent.
As they walk past another shop, someone offers Alex Viagra. “I don’t need that,” he shouts back, “I’m from Wales.” What he meant to say was, “I’m already a massive cock.”
Elsewhere, Jason is trying to describe the ancient practice of falconry to uncomprehending passersby, and seems to have decided that impersonating Apu from the Simpsons is the best way to facilitate their understanding. As for Neil, he’s developed an approach to negotiation that’s so aggressive, I half expect him to punch vendors in the neck, rather than shaking on an agreed price. 

Over in the flag shop it’s all kicking off as Zee’s team realise their miscalculation. Nick’s outside auditioning for the Del Monte campaign, and charitably suggests that the flag error was caused by the boys’ lack of concentration. And not because they’d struggle with the word jumble on a Little Chef placemat. Myles is also stressing about the flag, because he seems to have been stuck in this shop since halfway through the last series.

Zee’s sub-team are still distrustful of Zee’s bolshy leadership style, and are questioning whether he’s got it right about the Oud. The PM maintains that it’s a woody fragrance (and to be fair, he’s actually correct), but since the brief clearly asks for a mahogany oud, it’s doubtful they’re looking for perfume oil. In fact, it’s also a musical instrument, which the team eventually realises. Jordan goes in for the close, wearing his finest pistachio pedal pushers. “Make me happy, nine nine zero,” he grins at the shop keeper, in a scene with so much gay code I’m going to need an Enigma machine to crack it.

As the hotel manager the table of items, which looks an awful lot like evidence collected from a crime scene, the teams fly back to London for a showdown with the hairy teabag.

In the boardroom, Lord Sugar asks after Zee’s performance as leader of Team Endeavour, but Leah’s sticking the knife in before Alan’s even finished his question. At one point, Nick makes a reference to Alex’s weird eyebrows, which is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle funny-looking. Then, Ol’ Squinty has another pop at the flag mix-up - “Alan, this hotel is three times the size of the Kremlin,” assuming that Lord Sugar has a working knowledge of 15th century Russian architecture, as well as shit phones.

Things aren’t much better for Team Evolve, who get a slap on the wrist for spending the day window shopping. Myles gets more stick for not negotiating better on the flag price. Karren suggests that maybe they shouldn’t have paid up-front. Magnanimous Myles agrees with a “Fair comment.” A quick tot-up of the numbers, and it’s immediately apparent that Zee has been sunk by his own bravado. As a reward, Lord Sugar sends Evolve to the world’s… best… new…cocktail bar, which just looks like a snug in the Rovers. Still, the mixologist has a jaunty cravat, so it can’t be all bad.

Perhaps picking up on the fact that the internet has dubbed it ‘the café of broken dreams’, the hastily rebadged La Cabana Café plays host to yet another task autopsy. Zee pre-empts things by telling his loyal subjects that he doesn’t want to hear their apologies for the team’s failure, as a lonely tumbleweed rolls past the sausage baps. Leah adds that she’s sorry to say that she was right all along, but the grin on her face betrays her delight. Disturbingly, there’s an overhead shot from the rafters, but the camera cuts away before we can see if someone has crudely scratched Baggs Was Here into them.

Once again, the losing team face up to Lord Sugar, who reminds them that they were only £90 out, and demonstrates a misunderstanding of irony that’d have Alanis Morisette shaking her head with disdain. Zee effectively signs his own death warrant the moment he chooses Natalie to accompany he and Leah back into the boardroom. From the moment he lets the door hit Natalie on the way in, it’s clear that the knives are out. In a classic pincer manoeuvre, the women accuse Zee of being a chauvinist and it’s not too long before he’s shifting uncomfortably in his seat and wrestling with his tie like it’s an Indian Python. With anyone else, this would be an open and shut case. But let’s remember that the final decision will be made by a man whose Christmas tweet read: “Ladies, get your boss to buy you a new nailfile.”  

Thankfully, common sense prevails, and after some needless back-and-forth Zee is sent packing. Respect to Leah and Natalie who don’t even acknowledge their nemesis as they stride confidently out of the boardroom. For tonight, let’s give the final word to the vanquished property manager: “The name Zeeshan will go down in history. I’m not sure exactly why yet.” Indeed.  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Shake, prattle and fail - The Apprentice Week Four

I’m not sure I’m ready for this. I’ve been away for a few weeks, and so missed the first episodes of this series of The Apprentice. So, in order to prep for tonight’s installment, I endured a triple bill last night in order to get up to speed. After all, the last thing I wanted to do was to start empathizing with someone that the rest of the country had already decided was an intolerable fucktard. Turns out, I needn’t have worried.

Episode 4 opens with the promise of farmyard fun, which had me experiencing a traumatic flashback to Rebecca Loos wanking a pig. Thankfully, there were no such shenanigans tonight –  the closest we came was the sight of Frank Sidebottom in a blue shower-cap, confidently attempting to milk a dairy cow.

Nine years in and you could almost predict every line of the show. Lord Sugar continues to render the show’s title obsolete, telling the prospective candidates: “It’s not about a job, it’s about me plowing £250,000 into a business.” Why not just call the show The Investor, and be done with it?

Anyway, old crinkle-chops has got his measure of them, barking “You’re all a bloody waste of space.” Of course they are, how else are we to assume that they made it through the casting process? They’re certainly not picked for their likeability, commercial acumen, or realistic eyebrows.  “Oh my God, do you guys know what you’re doing?” yells one Apprentice, giving voice to eight million viewers at home. The final clip in the opening montage is another Apprentii claiming “I’ve been stitched up,” but it’s not clear whether she’s referring to her team-mates or those wags in the editing suite.

There’s just time for a quick recap of last week’s flat-pack farce, where the word ‘innovation’ was universally misinterpreted as a synonym for ‘uncomfortable chair’ and the girls continued on a losing streak that would make Eddie the Eagle feel all superior.

It’s 5.20am, and two of the girls are clattering down the spiral staircase to answer the dildophone. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about how many candidates it takes to operate a sex aid, but there’s no time for that – we’ve got to race to Surrey Docks in East London. As is customary, there’s lots of footage of the boys scratching their armpits and running around half-dressed, while the girls roll their eyes back and attempt to paint those Penfold-style brows onto the empty space a couple of inches above their heads.

At the City Farm on the Isle of Dogs, Lord Sugar is telling our hopeless hopefuls that there’s this great new trend, where people grow food on farms, then take it to market to sell. This is most alarming, given that he’s old enough to remember the agrarian revolution. While he pontificates about the plot of Jack and the Beanstalk, a herd of goats begins to gather threateningly in the background. According to legend, they’ll eat anything – even polyester suits and hair-gel – so this could get interesting. Sadly, before the ruminants can attack, Lord Sugar mixes up the teams, admitting, “Ladies, I’ve been disappointed.” For once in his life, the shoe appears to be on the other foot.

In what was formerly the girls’ team, Luisa announces that she has a cake shop, so her ability to deal with suppliers makes her the ideal project manager for this task. Still, that doesn’t seem to stop hard-faced pharma sales rep Rebecca from throwing her beehive into the ring. She proudly announces that she has no experience in sourcing produce, retail or dealing with suppliers, but hey, how hard can it be? At this point, Luisa’s eyes open so widely that I can hear a faint tearing sound.

The other team has grudgingly accepted Alpha Neil as their PM, and they’re listening to Jordan, the hipster Harry Potter, tell them that “There was a van at my school that sold Ostrich meat.” I’m guessing it was a school with a polo team. Neil explains that “we need to have a specialist thing,” to which Frank Sidebottom responds by suggesting “cheese on toast.” This is all going swimmingly.

It’s still too early in the series to tell most of the suits apart, so once Evolve and Endeavour get split into sub-teams to source produce, it all makes about as much sense as watching the Oceans 11 films out of order. The next fifteen minutes become a disorienting montage of scenes of people riding flat-beds through orchards, panic buying cabbage, and speculating whether satsumas might be indigenous to the South East.

Thankfully, Nick’s on hand to emphasise ALL the wrong WORDS as he evaluates THE candidates, making it impossible to tell whether he approves of, or disagrees with, their margin strategy. It doesn’t help matters that he still looks as if he’s trying to squeeze face-first through a drainpipe, so his facial expressions give nothing away either.

One of the sub-teams is roaming around Shropshire sourcing milk for their shakes, while their counterparts are buying up stock primarily to dress their shop. “Engage brain” bleats Luisa, clearly unfamiliar with the old adage “Physician, heal thyself.” This prompts Francesca (a dance and entertainment entrepreneur, whatever one of those is) to roll her eyes like Marty Feldman on acid. The pressure’s clearly on, as the passive-aggressive behaviour has now being cranked up to eleven. There’s a flurry of unfinished conversations, as team-members attempt to discuss strategy with the PMs, only for the phone to suddenly go dead on them – honestly, there’s more hang-ups here than an OCD sufferer in a dirty Youth Hostel.

Happy Shopper Ryan Gosling should be happy – he got his own way about the shakes, but he’s taking his de facto deputy leadership of the team as an opportunity to tell everybody how wrong they are. About everything. “I don’t think so, I disagree” he growls, as he tries to figure out how on Earth you’re supposed to make a milkshake using Cox’s Orange Pippins.

The big day is upon us, and the two teams proudly reveal their curiously named emporia. Luisa’s team has opted for Buffalocal – a neologism that seems to be trying to do too many things at once – whereas Neil’s gang have settled on Fruity Cow. Karren looks secretly pleased with that one. The candidates are all bustling about, trying to make their final preparations, with Cosmetics Entrepreneur Uzma sagely advising her colleagues to “Make it look like there’s lots there, when there’s really not.” Echoing the advice of her guidance counselor on how to fill out a CV. The shops have only just opened and already laugh-a-minute Nick is promising pain in the boardroom, but he knows how long it’s been since Alan last splashed out on reupholstering the chairs.

Karren declares that the milkshakes are coming thick and fast, showing a fundamental lack of understanding about the concept, and I’m momentarily distracted by the sight of someone walking down Brick Lane in a giant burger-shaped hat.

Doctor Leah, who looks like a sex doll with a slow puncture, is promising piping hot soup, even though Miles has been wandering around East London holding the same pots for a couple of hours. Not to worry, it’s just leek and potato. If it gets too cold, they can just call it a Vichyssoise.

Time is fast running out, and the milkshakes aren’t shifting, so Neil and Kurt take the decision to make smoothies, courtesy of some cartons of Just Juice picked up in the local CostCutter. The pressure’s also getting to Alex, who’s wandering the streets in a red apron screaming “Quails’ eggs” at passersby. In one alarming close-up, his unfortunate face makes me think of a haunted clock. After one final rush, which sees the teams flogging as much as they can at cost price, it’s all over for another week.

Back to Lord Sugar’s luxuriously appointed Portakabin, where we’re afforded a rare glimpse of what used to be Frances. The receptionist looks up in surprise as thirteen Byrited muppets stroll in with their carry-on luggage, as if she thought she was an extra on Doctor Who, but had wandered onto the wrong set by mistake.

In the boardroom, Lord Sugar is trying out another one of his patented joke-fails – this time responding to the choice of buffalo meat by saying  “You was in East London, not the Wild West.”  Nick’s still flinching, but probably at the mangled grammar rather than the shit humour. He’s had forty years to get used to both. Placed under the spotlight, Luisa confirms that when the sales dried up “Our strategy totally changed,” which is a bit like the captain of Titanic declaring that he attempted a different methodology once the ship spontaneously changed direction. Neil doesn’t fare much better, with his milkshake-based strategy prompting another rip-tickler from Lord Sugar - “Apple and Blackberry, sounds like a mobile phone shop.” My aching sides.  

After three weeks of defeat, Evolve has finally won a task, prompting Jordan to celebrate in his customary aggressive fashion. Over on the other team, Kurt is regretting sticking the knife into his team leader before the results were revealed, since he’s all but guaranteed that he’ll be brought back into the boardroom.

As the victorious Evolve get lessons in deboning a grouse, team Endeavour are drowning their sorrows in the tepid milk foam over at the Café of Broken Dreams. The music even takes an appropriate turn for the melancholy as Neil asks them for their ‘forts.’ Unsurprisingly, it’s Uzma and Kurt who accompany him back into the boardroom, but he’s seen this show before and knows how to play Lord Sugar. Spend just enough time going mano-a-mano with Kurt, before revealing Uzma as the true sacrificial offering. More pointless bickering, and Lord Sugar’s clearly had enough. I know exactly how he feels. There’s a bit more customary fake out, as Alan wields his chubby finger like Clarence Bodicker’s shotgun in RoboCop – all that’s missing is the “ne-ne-ne-ne-ne” sound. As a defeated Uzma clambers into the cab, still wearing her ridiculous high heels, I’m left to marvel that she can feel anything from the knees down. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Blurry Eurovision

The problem with throwing a Eurovision party, as we did for the first time in a decade, is that you usually end up missing all the songs. Admittedly, that’s not always a bad thing, since many countries seem to see the contest as an opportunity to circumvent the Geneva Conventions. But once the drinks are flowing and your party crowd is in full swing, they can drown out even the most powerful surround sound – rendering the show little more than a fashion show as envisioned by Timothy Leary. As a consequence, this recap of last night’s action will show scant disregard for musicality, and focus entirely on the trousers.

Coming to us live from Malmö, the show opened with a Europe-wide travelogue, as a CGI caterpillar visited all the competing countries, stopping occasionally to pose on a salad and put me right off my food. By the time he reached his destination in southern Sweden, he’d transformed into a butterfly as Benny and Bjorn’s new Eurovision anthem kicked in. This is the closest we’re going to get to an ABBA reunion, so we shouldn’t quibble that it sounded like a reject from the Isles of Wonder CD. While the Choir was busy emoting, a spectacular bridge lowered into the stadium, allowing the parade of performers to take to the stage. For one terrifying moment, I saw a flash of bleached blonde hair and panicked that Emile Sandé had found a way of squeezing herself into the show. Elsewhere, there were several beautiful women in very tight frocks, who really needn’t have bothered.

Our host for the evening was Petra Mede, who introduced herself with a bunch of superfluous syllables – the prerogative of anyone who can order an egg-white omelette in five languages. She even gave a special shout-out to the gays in the audience, all 98 per cent of them.  This year, 39 countries competed, but only 26 took part in the final. But even with 13 cut from the line-up, the broadcast still managed to make most wars seem brisk by comparison. And through it all, we had Graham Norton attempting to fill Terry Wogan’s tasselled loafers with his own incredulous commentary.  Graham helpfully pointed out the each country has its own jury, and the UK’s includes Tony Hatch and Tony Blackburn, proving once again that ‘contemporary’ continues to be our watchword.

It’s thirty six years since France last won the Eurovision; a trend that Amandine Bourgeois seemed in no hurry to break. As the opening performer in the contest, her heavily percussive performance established an unofficial theme for the evening. If nothing else, we may have finally uncovered the cloning capabilities of Florence’s machine. As for Amandine herself, picture Diana Vickers waiting in a nightclub cloakroom for the attendant to find her umbrella.

Lithuania’s Something was more of a nothing, performed by Andrius Pojavis who seemed to be styling himself after Charlie Sheen’s cameo in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Moldova didn’t fare much better, with a La Roux lookie-likey who over-emoted in an enormous frock. However, the standout moment in Aliona Moon’s performance came when it was revealed that she’d got a scissor lift tucked into her gusset. As she calmly ascended towards the ceiling of the stadium, her undercarriage began to glow pink, giving her the unfortunate appearance of being fingered by E.T.

Finland offered up a peppy, poppy paean to marriage, as Krista Siegfrids jumped around the stage in a wedding dress and ridiculous shoes. The twist, of course, came at the end when she kissed one of the female backing singers, revealing the song to be an infectious endorsement marriage equality. This didn’t go down too well in Turkey and Azerbaijan, who both threatened to edit that part of the broadcast.

Spain presented us with ESDM, who looked like Carly Rae Jepsen doing Karen Carpenter on Stars In Their Eyes. At one point, she was joined on stage by Vernon Kaye, who thrashed his guitar and triggered the indoor pyro. Despite all this excitement, I’d forgotten the song before it had even finished playing. At this point, SVT thoughtfully put up a sign that read “Warning – the next performance contains strobe effects and flashing lights.” However, by the midway point of the show, I’m prepared to bet that half the show’s viewers were praying for some kind of seizure.  

Remember Anthony Hopkins’ creepy ventriloquist’s dummy in Magic? I do, because he’s now a Belgian singer called Roberto Bellarosa. Love Kills is one of those generic pop songs that starts as a ballad and builds into a dance anthem, but it’s hard to concentrate when the singer looks like he’s terrified of his own microphone. Points were also deducted for the derivative dubstep breakdown.

Estonia was represented by Birgit Öigemeel, who sang a pretty song and looked nice enough, but it felt as though the 12,000-strong audience had all begun to look at their watches. Even the camera crew were playing Candy Crush.  Belarus didn’t fare much better, with Kylie doing a Holly Valance song in Madonna’s disco ball. Still, credit goes to Alyona Lanskaya for taking the time to Ronseal her legs beforehand.

The prize for happiest performer of the night went to Malta’s Gianluca Bezzina, who was grinning so hard he’d make a kids’ TV presenter look like an EastEnders extra. His song was about an IT-worker called Jeremy, and sounded like something Bruno Mars could barely muster the energy to sing. Russia gave us Katie Holmes belting a power ballad, and Germany showed its fun side with cheesy dance act Cascada, who’ve been accused of plagiarising last year’s winner Euphoria. After that upbeat interlude, things got momentarily sinister, as the video postcard from Armenia looked like an outtake from Taken 2. The theme for Dorians was clearly ‘moustache’, as the lead singer looked alarmingly like Ron Jeremy on the WeightWatchers.

Halfway through the show, the music performances were put on hold long enough for Swedish singer Sarah Dawn Finer to reprise her ‘comedy’ character Lynda Woodruff from the Melodifestivalen. Much of the humour was derived from mispronouncing things, but it was still more sophisticated than anything Matt Lucas and David Walliams have ever done. Even Petra got in on the act, telling the Malmö crowd that they just hadn’t met the right girl yet. Had last year’s Azerbaijani host tried the same shtick last year, the comment might have been taken very differently.

Back to the music, and The Netherlands struck a surprisingly sombre tone with Anouk’s Birds, which sounded like something you’d hear as the curtains close in a crematorium. At the opposite end of the scale was Romania’s Cezar, who seemed to be fusing Rylan with Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. He sang a weird blend of pop and opera in a woman’s voice, prompting several of our guests to ask for smaller measures in the next round. By the time Mel B crawled out from under the billowing blood-red silks, we were in full-on nightmare territory.

Finally, it was time for Bonnie Tyler, and a flurry of ‘Holding Out For A Zero’ jokes to be recycled on Twitter. Despite a creaky start, Bonnie gave a pretty good performance, even though she’s starting to look as if she’s been stitched together from the bits that have been cut off the Nolans. It didn’t help matters that her contract had clearly stipulated the generous application of Vaseline to every camera lens – enough to trigger a petroleum shortage across Northern Europe.

Robin Stjernberg gave a good showing for the host country, with his catchy and rhythmic You, although the costumes looked a little too Mos Eisley for my tastes. Hungary, on the other hand, was going for a hipster motif, performing with all the verve of a listless somnambulist checking the fridge for a half-eaten yoghurt. Denmark gave us Emelie De Foret, who sat on the floor to sing her folky ballad, and offered the cameraman a tantalising glimpse up her fjord. Iceland was represented by Thor, who performed like a rocker at a corporate gig, and Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov appeared to be wearing a soft grey suit made of mouse ears. The song was spectacularly generic, but momentarily enlivened by some gay business with a man stuck in a Perspex box.

Greece provided us with the show’s most authentic folk moment, as Koza Mostra gave us Madness on the bouzouki. This was so authentically Greek, I could have been sitting in a Skiathos Taverna – all that was missing was a tin jug of retsina and a dog with a tumour like a spacehopper. Ukraine attempted a beauty-and-the-beast theme, as Shrek brought on Eva Longoria for a mid-tempo dance number, and Italy was represented by Marco Mengali – a Dolce & Gabanna shop mannequin in Ray Liotta’s eyeliner. Norway’s Margaret Berger tried to feed us her love, but left most of the audience hanging a ‘Nil By Mouth’ sign off the end of their bed. The song was part Bond theme, and part contemporary Scandopop – either way, Robyn was sitting at home, laughing her tits off.

Georgia managed to rope Swedish songwriting legend Thomas G:Son into writing their song, Waterfall, but I doubt he broke a sweat with this sub West End duet. Finally, it was up to Ireland’s Olly Murs impersonator Ryan Dolan to close the show. Those who weren’t thrown by his drag queen eyebrows and pleather outfit, could watch the background projections, which had the effect of flicking through the designs book in a tattoo parlour.

With the songs out of the way, it was time for Loreen to reprise her winning performance from last year. In fact, she performed a medley of hits, which served only to remind us of how similar all her songs are. Jean Paul Gaultier got a shout-out for designing the trophy, then Petra led a rousing performance of a mildly amusing song about Swedish culture. Not all the jokes worked, but credit to anyone who can come up with that many words to rhyme with smorgasbord.

I’m not going to recap all the voting, since it was as predictable as always. However, snaps go to Albania for rocking the ice-wash denim, and Spain for making ‘congratulations’ sound like ‘coloured relations’. Half the presenters made some lame attempt at referencing ‘Thank You For The Music’ and Montenegro showcased the worst green screen effect since Blakes 7. Throughout it all, Petra remained dignified and stately in an enormous white frock that gave her the appearance of the Matterhorn in a black beehive.

Denmark took an early lead, with Azerbaijan its only real competition. But in the end, the Danes had it in the bag with four countries still left to vote. Who’s up for a trip to Copenhagen next May?