The National Lottery Draw

By Billen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), February 27, 1998 | Go to article overview

The National Lottery Draw


Billen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


"The Great Man's Back," trumpeted The National Lottery Draw (BBC1, Saturday), and because I'd switched on to see Madonna, for a moment I was flummoxed. Could this be her final and greatest reinvention: Material Man?

The great man was Terry Wogan, someone as likely to reinvent the wheel as himself. His shamelessness hit me hard in the following 20 minutes, the last outpost of what once was known as BBC Light Entertainment. As all around downsize, modernise, digitalise, relaunch, Wogan hasn't changed a thing in 20 years. The powder-blue three-button jacket with its red hanky, the intricate hair-do that thatches the bald patch, the jokes about Jimmy Young, his gab's alleged gift ("a kaleidoscope of musical magnificence") - was this the Lottery Live or Blankely Blank repeated on UK Gold?

Wogan has betrayed his promise. In the mid-eighties he forsook radio for a television chatshow so dire that its failure condemned us to years of parodies and postmodern pastiches, until Parkinson was disinterred to remind us it is not so very hard to have an intelligent conversation with talented people. His end is in his beginning. Could he ever have imagined that in his 60th year he would once more be compering the Radio 2 breakfast show and commentating on the Eurovision Song Contest?

It was to build interest in the second of these duties that he was allowed to read us the Lottery numbers on Saturday. The Song for Europe heats are now tucked within the Lottery programme. Because the nation is addicted to this voluntary tax, the results show is the perfect recuperation chamber for tired performers and formats. One day, when the need to explain the euro to us becomes urgent, Peter Jay will brief us while pushing the balls down the chute.

Sapphire, who looks like a regional newsreader, sang Euro-entry number one, "I'll Never Be Alone Again", an inoffensive enough song - at least in comparison to last year's extraordinary "Yodelling in the Canyon of Love". Then enter Madonna, all reinvented.

Motherhood has changed her. Her breasts, presumably conical no longer, were hidden, like the rest of her, in multi-sectional black crape. Her hair, which had once voiced its objection at yet another makeover by refusing to grow back, now hangs in golden skeins, plaits and tresses. Her face was pale and interesting. She looked like the bewitched heroine of a Jim Henson film.

Her new song, "Frozen", gave us something to discuss. …

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