The BBC has made its mind up: it’s Bucks Fizz all round for the corporation’s coverage of the Eurovision song contest as members of the band appear in various Eurovision-themed programming.
Ahead of the contest next month, the BBC announced that Cheryl Baker, a member of Bucks Fizz who won Eurovision for the UK in 1981, will appear in special episodes of EastEnders and Bargain Hunt, while her bandmate Jay Aston will appear in an episode of the quizshow Pointless.
The broadcaster will air a week-long cluster of programmingin the run-up to the contest, which is being held in Liverpool. BBC Breakfast and The One Show will broadcast from the city all week, and Radio 2 will become the “home of Eurovision” for BBC Radio.
Baker will guest star in an episode of EastEnders, as well as teaming up with SuRie, the UK’s 2018 Eurovision entry, for an episode of Bargain Hunt.
Aston will appear in an episode of Pointless Celebrities with Antony Costa from the band Blue, which represented the UK at Eurovision 2011, alongside Måns Zelmerlöw, who won the contest for Sweden in 2015. AJ Odudu and Richie Anderson will also appear, as will Graham Norton, who will pop up to ask some “special questions”.
Saturday Kitchen and The Hit List will also have Eurovision-themed episodes.
A number of one-off specials have also been commissioned. On 8 May, the day before the first semi-final, BBC One will air two hour-long specials, one fronted by Rylan and Sunetra Sarker and the other by Jason Manford and Chelcee Grimes.
Rylan will provide commentary for the final on 13 May with Scott Mills on Radio 2. He will also appear in an episode of The Archers where an invitation to judge a Eurovision variety show goes awry.
In a launch event held in Liverpool on Wednesday, Martin Green, the BBC’s managing director of Eurovision, called the competition a “monster”.
“This time in three weeks we will broadcast our first live show to 160 million people. We are making eight and a half hours of live television in five days.”
Julia Sanina, a Ukrainian singer and one of the contest’s co-hosts, said: “It’s huge, it’s always big. Even last year people were watching Eurovision and voting from bomb shelters. We are very grateful that the UK is hosting us.”
When asked about the multiple appearances of Bucks Fizz, Green said: “They are around but there’s others around as well. Bucks Fizz are an absolute icon of Eurovision. Hopefully you’ll see all of the past winners pop up in one form or another.”
Both Liverpool and Ukraine will be celebrated throughout the contest. In the grand final, six former Eurovision acts, including Italy’s Mahmood and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs, will put their own spin on some classic Liverpudlian hits.
In the first semi-final, the Ukrainian singer Alyosha will share her personal journey of leaving Ukraine through a new arrangement of Duran Duran’s Ordinary World alongside Rebecca Ferguson.
The Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham will present the semi-finals and the grand final alongside Alesha Dixon and the Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina. Graham Norton will join them in the final. Norton will share commentator duties with Mel Giedroyc.
This year is the first time the UK has hosted the Eurovision song contest since 1998. Ukraine won the contest last year with Kalush Orchestra’s Stefania. The UK came second with Sam Ryder’s Space Man.
The UK was asked to hold the contest after the European Broadcasting Union, which organises the competition, said it could not provide the security and operational guarantees required to hold the contest in Ukraine.
Kate Phillips, the BBC director of unscripted, said: “We couldn’t be more proud and excited to give our audiences such a huge array of world class Eurovision content. It’s an honour for the BBC to host the show on behalf of Ukraine, and we are committed to do them proud.
“The level of collaboration and coordination across so much of the output is truly amazing. Let the Eurovision song contest begin!”