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TV review: How to Win Eurovision; The Fall

Woody Allen once famously declared Nazis in shiny boots as being beyond satire. For esteemed comic musician Tom Lehrer, it was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger. For the rest of us, it is the Eurovision Song Contest.

Everyone, that is, except BBC3 commissioners, who gave more than two hours of their Saturday-evening schedule to a lazy cut-and-paste exercise in snide, ironically entitled How to Win Eurovision.

Greg James and Russell Kane were the hosts charged with repeatedly pointing out the blindingly obvious, namely that most of the songs aren’t very good and many border on the tragically terrible. A parade of talking heads, reputedly from the worlds of comedy and acting, were enlisted to stick their own boots in, further adding to the sense of overkill.

Bearing in mind this was the comedic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, many a shoal survived to tell the tale. Those quick to sneer publicly at other performers’ work really should first check the quality of their own material.

I would cheerfully dismiss the programme as a waste of time, effort and space if it weren’t for two things.

First, the interviews with recent UK contestants, most of whom had suffered not just defeat but also abject humiliation, were interesting and moving. I even found space in my heart to pity strutting, big mouth Daz “there’s no way we are coming 17th” Sampson, who was placed 19th in 2006.

Remember? No, I thought not.

Second, the footage from previous competitions was often screamingly funny, capturing that beautiful moment of synergy when desperate attention-seeking meets epic absence of self-awareness to produce pure Eurovision gold. My advice to BBC3 is to try just running an unbroken parade of terrible efforts from the last 50 years. It would be half the length but twice as funny.

[pullquote]Bearing in mind this was the comedic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, many a shoal survived to tell the tale[/pullquote]

Actresses frequently complain about the absence of work, but there seems to be no shortage of opportunities to play dead, usually naked on a slab, in police procedurals.

If you are going to do nothing except lie still and possibly catch a cold, it might as well be in something good, and dramas don’t get much better than The Fall.

Gillian Anderson plays Stella Gibson, a detective with more than a touch of frost about her, sent to Belfast to help solve a murder investigation that has hit a brick wall.

Her quarry is Paul Spector, chillingly portrayed by Jamie Dornan, a serial killer of young women who plans and commits his crimes with meticulous attention to detail and total ruthlessness.

Conventional wisdom dictates that revealing the identity of the killer from the outset should diminish all tension, but the device has quite the opposite effect. With the gulf between investigation and apprehension yawningly apparent, the sight of Spector going about his stalking and slaughter unimpeded is almost unbearable to behold.

Disturbing, appalling, original and compelling, The Fall promises to be one of the most powerful drama series of the year.

How to win Eurovision, BBC3, Saturday, May 11, 9.50pm
The Fall, BBC2, Monday, May 13, 9pm

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