So the King and Queen of Eurovision on SBS, Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro, have hung up their glittery microphones after eight years.
“це ганьба”, or “what a bummer”, as they say in Ukraine, which is where they should have been going in May for the next Eurovision in Kiev.
Both blame work schedules for their decision and, after all, eight years is a long time to race across the other side of the world for a few days, immerse yourself in the biggest music event on the planet and rush back again to your day jobs.
Julia has other TV and film commitments and Sam has a daily radio show, another weekly TV show and a weekly podcast.
Though the gig today is far easier than it was.
Nine years ago, SBS’s Eurovision broadcast consisted of the TV Marketing department pre-recording clips of Julia waving flags and saying, “Wow, that was amazing. See you after the break”.
These inserts were wrapped around Sir Terry Wogan’s BBC Broadcast. Frankly, it looked ridiculous.
Then, Sir Terry decided to call it quits and we at SBS saw a massive opportunity.
Rockwiz’s Julia had a genuine passion for and huge knowledge about Eurovision. She was bilingual and French born and always loved having a go at the local Eurovision languages.
Sam Pang was definitely more left of field and he was gobsmacked when asked, assuming he got the gig because his name was Pang. He didn’t.
He had impressed as host as of the SBS history quiz, ADbc. He knew nothing about Eurovision but was the perfect foil for Julia and could ask the questions others like him needed answering.
We felt it was a perfect pairing to stamp “Australia” over an event that had always done well for SBS’ multicultural audience.
Despite the anguish of the Anglophiles who wanted to continue with the BBC and its new host, Graham Norton, we pressed ahead.
One of Australia’s most respected music producers, Paul Clarke, was commissioned to make the show with the minuscule funds we had.
Everyone had to fly economy, get off the plane and start work immediately on backstage interviews in Moscow.
The bemused Europeans assigned SBS a porta-cabin at the back of the stadium. They almost needed binoculars to see the stage.
We couldn’t afford the technical support to record and transmit sound and pictures together so we had a tiny team of people in Sydney, starting work from 3am daily to edit the shows in time for the three nights of transmission.
What a long way that team has taken the show since then.
Australia damn near won last year with the extraordinary performance of Dami Im. Our Ukraine entrant will be announced next Tuesday.
And Julia and Sam matured into fabulous commentators, with Julia’s enthusiasm and Sam’s dry humour becoming a much-loved part of the show.
Their commentary coverage worked because it’s based on a respect for the competition in all of its bizarreness.
Hundreds will queue up for this gig but few will succeed. Celia Pacquola, Claire Hooper, even Trevor Ashley spring to mind, along with any number of young male stand-ups.
But they’ll need the love for Eurovision and music that these two had – and not merely see it as an opportunity to simply make cheap gags about soft targets.