2020: the year of the great Eurovision drought. With the world’s largest (and weirdest) musical event cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s simply no way fans can get their fill of campy Euro-pop with some incredibly questionable staging. At least, that’s what we thought before Netflix unveiled new comedy Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga.
Although not a true story, the comedy from Anchorman’s Will Ferrell serves viewers a large slice of Eurovision in a film featuring plenty of easter eggs and callbacks for longtime viewers.
For instance, the hamster wheel Ferrell uses in one performance? That’s, of course, a wink to the background dancer/wheel-runner in Ukraine’s 2014 entry Tick-Tock. And the brief glimpse of singing trolls on stage? That’s a reference to Lordi, the Finnish metal group who actually won the 2006 competition wearing full monster prosthetics.
However, despite attention to detail in some areas, there’s plenty the film gets wrong about the Eurovision Song Contest.
The semi-finals scores aren’t revealed on the night
As most Eurovision fans will know, the competition isn’t just one night of entertainment. Although the UK only competes in the grand finale (being one of the ‘big five’ contributors to the contest), other countries have to compete in the contest’s semi-finals. Held a few days beforehand the grand finale, performers sing to stay in the competition, with only half of the acts in the two semi-finals progressing to the final.
Although Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga doesn’t forget the semi-finals exist, it doesn’t portray the night’s voting particularly accurately. While votes are cast by the public and a panel of judges, the exact points received by each country in the semi-final are kept secret until after the contest. This is to ensure there are no clear favourites going into the final.
In the film, however, these results are slowly revealed in order to ramp up and a bit of tension – and perhaps also to introduce viewers to the beautifully awkward process where each country’s spokesperson reveals their nation’s votes.
The Eurovision Song Contest isn’t hosted by random Europeans
Okay, we’re absolutely not saying your average Eurovision host doesn’t come across as extremely and/or awkward. Or that they appear to be selected at random (remember when the actual Euron Greyjoy presented?).
However, normally, the hosts have a strong connection to the country hosting the contest. And, although improbable, the contest in the film is held in the Scottish capital Edinburgh. Not only does this mean that the UK somehow won Eurovision the previous year (which, even as the film jokes, is very unlikely), but that the hosts should have a link to the UK Eurovision effort.
For instance, the last time the UK hosted the contest (1998, Birmingham), BBC commentator and presenter Terry Wogan fronted the contest alongside Ulrika Jonsson.
If the UK hosted contest today it’s likely Graham Norton would co-present the contest. Sadly, ‘Corin Ladvitch’ and ‘Sasha More’ – the duo who front the contest in the Netflix movie – wouldn’t stand a chance of getting picked in real life. Mainly because they’re fictional.
Songs aren’t allowed to go over three minutes
Eurovision can be a very long show – just ask anyone who watched all five hours of the 2019 contest. So, to keep it as short as can be, each act only gets three minutes on stage. And the following act has 30 seconds to prepare themselves. Take any longer and it’s likely they’ll be disqualified.
Now, although Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams were disqualified in the film for changing their entry song at the last minute (a real Eurovision rule), they would have still been booted out the contest even if they stuck to their original song. The duo actually spent so long preparing their act on stage they would have gone well over the three minute mark.
Sure, this twist would have delivered a severely unsatisfactory ending for viewers, but it would have upheld the sacred (and downright lengthy) Eurovision rulebook. And that’s all that really matters, right?
Graham Norton doesn’t speak during performances
The BBC commentator is undoubtedly one of the best parts of Eurovision, dropping perfectly-pitched pithy remarks throughout the contest. Be it referring to a contestant’s leather trousers (“It must be like a paddling pool in there”) or the host’s awkward conversational links (“Nothing has gone wrong. This was planned”) he always delivers.
But, being the true professional he is, Norton never speaks over the performances, allowing viewers to watch them in their full glory – no matter how lacking. However, in Story of Fire Saga, Norton offers commentary throughout each track, something that wouldn’t be heard during the actual broadcast.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga lands on Netflix on Friday 26th June. Check out our lists of the best TV shows on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide.