National Tragedy Eurovision Flop Spurs German Soul Searching

Germany has a tradition of landing near the bottom at the Eurovision Song Contest. This year, though, was supposed to be different. But despite the addition of burlesque dancer Dita von Teese, the act came in 20th place -- and those responsible are trying to figure out what went wrong.

Perhaps it's not surprising in a country that celebrates a five-time Olympic luge medallist as a national hero. But Germany's thin skin when it comes to international competition is once again on full display after coming in a disappointing 20th place in the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night.

Never mind the fact that the winner was a 23-year-old going on 14 from Norway who was singing about his first love -- leading some viewers to suspect the piece was actually an ode to his kindergarten teacher. Germany wants to win. And is considering a radical revamp of the way in which it selects the acts representing the country at the annual pop extravaganza.

Thomas Schreiber, in charge of the selection procedure for German public broadcaster ARD, told the daily Neue Presse that "we will have to think radically different next year." He went on to say that the changes in the selection process would be announced as soon as possible. The Song Contest is run by the European Broadcasting Union with a public broadcaster from each country responsible for sending in an act.

In 2008, the casting-show cast-offs No Angels represented Germany at the Eurovision schlock-fest in Belgrade, Serbia -- only to come in dead last. ARD immediately changed from an audience call-in selection format to one relying exclusively on a jury.

For this year's act, the jury chose the duo Alex Swings, Oscar Sings. The pair presented a frat-boy anthem titled "Miss Kiss Kiss Bang" complete with confused looking posh stripper Dita von Teese wielding a whip as lead singer Oscar Loya broke into a brief bit of decidedly non-Animal-House tap dancing.

The 120 million television viewers were decidedly unimpressed -- as was the jury, added to audience voting this year in an effort to break the recent strangle-hold Eastern European acts have had on the contest. Together, the voting public and the presumed experts gave the German act just 35 points, fully 353 points behind the Norwegian act led by Alexander Rybak. Iceland came in a distant second closely followed by Azerbaijan.

Germany's Eurovision dreams have now gone unfulfilled for 27 years, ever since "Ein bisschen Frieden" (A bit of peace) won in 1982. Many of those years have been marred by embarrassments at or near the very bottom of the heap -- a dubious honor taken by Finland this year.

Just why Germany didn't do any better this year remains something of a riddle. Some have noted that innocence was in this year and that the Norwegian number seemed "authentic" as Guildo Horn, the jury member from Germany said.

"It was the moment of my life," said Loya after the show. "I had mega fun. It was a dream, despite our result."

Horn, though, criticized the addition of Teese. "Maybe," he said, apparently free of irony, j"Dita von Teese was a bit to much plastic."

cgh -- with wire reports
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