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Overthinking the 2024 grand final running order

by | May 10, 2024 | Eurovision, Featured

Overthinking the 2024 grand final running order

by | May 10, 2024 | Eurovision, Featured | 0 comments

title image: (Corinne Cumming)

We love a bit of overthinking, don’t we? The fans, I mean. As the dust gradually settled on last night’s second semi-final and I found myself wondering whether any song has ever qualified with longer in-show odds than Latvia (higher than 9.0 at one point!), we were all there, smashing the refresh button until the powers that be at SVT and the EBU gave the green light to this year’s grand final running order. Here it is in all its glory:

But what, if anything, does it all mean?

Of course, this year the producers had a lot more freedom than in the past because of the introduction of the faintly ridiculous “producers’ choice” tickets to accompany the familiar “first half” and “second half” draws that have been in place for a while now. That freedom can be both good and bad, I suppose – it means they can get things closer to how they want them (and one assumes this is the precursor to someone at EBU HQ just saying “fine, you can decide the whole thing”), but more freedom also means more potential permutations and difficult decisions to be made.

The most eye-catching of those decisions is undoubtedly Ukraine in the “deadly” second slot. I’ve been wondering for some time if that was a trick the producers would deploy in order to offset the inevitably large diaspora and sympathy televotes that will keep coming Ukraine’s way for at least as long as the Russian war of aggression persists, and now it’s already materialised. Of course, in a way it probably doesn’t matter – Ukraine will get most of the same televotes it was going to get anyway (not least in a year when the lines will be open from the start of the show) – but at least this way any additional joy they get from a pimp slot in the draw is minimised. It feels a little naughty, but it’s also understandable.

If the leaked news about how Israel dominated the Italian semi-final televote had reached the producers by the time they drew up the running order, they could have been forgiven for putting Eden Golan in that second spot instead. An early draw in between two up-tempo big hitters is probably as “negative” as those in charge could get without being accused of… well, even more things than they’re already being accused of, whether rightly or wrongly. Much like Ukraine, the televotes for Israel that aren’t motivated by the quality of the song or Eden’s performance would be coming whether she performed in 2nd or 22nd, so I suppose it doesn’t make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things – not least since it increasingly looks like the juries will be the deciding factor in whether the EBU has a far bigger headache on Sunday morning than it may have originally anticipated.

You imagine the producers were itching to put Luxembourg on first – the Imri or Laura Tesoro move, so to speak. It’s a great song to open a show with, and the narrative of being able to welcome them back after 31 years would have been good for the script. Unfortunately, the gradually dwindling “draw” parts of the running order had other ideas and Sweden’s Norwegian twins will kick off proceedings instead, so Tali has to suffer the slightly underwhelming fate of fourth, straight after the jury bait (or so they hope) from Germany and before Joost Klein overshadows everything that’s come before in his own unique fashion. Still, qualification and representation in the grand final was probably the main goal here anyway – as it was for Latvia, whose unlikely qualification makes this the first time all three Baltic states have been in the final since 2015. Their reward is to be grouped together relatively closely in the “weirdos and oddballs” second section of the first half. Congratulations…?

Speaking of less than spectacular sections of the draw, the entire run from Serbia in 16th to Cyprus in 20th feels strangely weak. You might expect to see one of the big hitters in there, but instead there appears to be a tactical decision to build to a crescendo as we get Switzerland, Croatia and France all in the last six songs – it’ll be a surprise if they’re not all in the top six of the scoreboard come the end of Saturday night. Do any of them particularly benefit from this running order? I wouldn’t necessarily say so – the songs before and between them all serve as very good framing. One has to therefore feel a little sorry for Austria in 26th and last, often a slot that gets overlooked. I’m not saying they’re necessarily on their way to a Mae Muller result, but in the far stronger competition of the final and with probably not much in the way of jury love, they could be in a little bit of trouble.

I could write more – on such overanalysis are chatrooms, messageboards and forums built – but in less than 36 hours we’ll know whether all of this counted for something, everything, or nothing at all. Whatever happens, it promises to be a fascinating evening for all kinds of reasons. On behalf of the escgo! team, may you enjoy the show, and may your favourite song get all the jury and televote love it deserves!

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