Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Review: "Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division" - Peter Hook

I read this book whilst on holiday and thought I'd give it a mention here.

The story of Joy Division has been told many times by many different people.  But this one really matters - because Peter Hook was there.

Peter Hook, bassist in Joy Division and later New Order, tells the real story in "Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division".  The mystique and romanticised cult of tragedy around Ian Curtis' suicide and the intensity of the band's music and lyrics is refreshingly absent from this book.  Instead we get a little bit of a biography of Hooky's early life and the beginnings of his punk-inspired music career, with the formation of Warsaw who later became Joy Division and the rest is history.  A large chunk of the book is devoted to the band's life on the road, with all the laddish behaviour and jolly japes described in explicit detail with some glee.

Hooky's straightforward storytelling style may lack literary depth and intensity, therefore may not be to everyone's taste, but I lapped up his easy going and very funny anecdotal style - reminiscent of a guy sitting chatting to you over a couple of drinks in the local pub, about his adventures in a band once upon a time.  But Joy Division wasn't just any old band of course.

The story ends with Ian's suicide, and the guilt and conflicting emotions around this.  Again, Hooky is brutally frank and honest at the end of the Joy Division story.  The story was to continue, as the three remaining JD members, along with Gillian Gilbert, evolved into New Order, who quickly became my favourite band, thanks to their ahead-of-their-time fusion of alternative music and dance rhythms.  Hooky is now writing a follow-up to "Unknown Pleasures", to be published one year from now, which will focus on his time in New Order.  Now that is a story I can't wait to read, and I'm sure he will have lots to tell.  The camaraderie of the Joy Division days is long gone, and the acrimony continues to this day.

One thing which clearly shines through this book is Hooky's love of music and his affection for Joy Division's songs which carries on, as he continues to perform songs from the Joy Division/New Order back catalogue with his band The Light.

"Unknown Pleasures" is well worth reading, whether you are a Joy Division fan or not.   It's a lively and often funny insight into the short career of a band whose music remains as influential today as it has always been.

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: September 2013

Not too much square-eyed activity this month as I had too much else going on but there was still time for the following treats.

Regular readers will know that I can't resist a real-life documentary - as opposed to so-called 'reality TV' once an obsession of mine, now a total turn-off.  Channel 4's "FABULOUS FASHIONISTAS" was the most inspirational and heartwarming piece of telly in a long while, focusing on six very individual and unconventional women 70 and upwards.  Anyone of any age worried about growing old - assuming they make it there - should have watched this and been truly inspired by these women and their love of life.

There is something oddly sweet about "THE FRIED CHICKEN SHOP" (Channel 4), where people come and go, in the pursuit of ....fried chicken of course, but the cameras also observe friendships forming and strengthening, relationships developing, and potential boyfriends rebuffed thanks to some dodgy chat-up techniques, watched over with some cheerful confusion by the young immigrant workers behind the counter.  Yes of course some of the customers will play up to the cameras, but all in all this show has the all-important feelgood factor and it could run and run.  Another series please!

Ditto "BOUNCERS" (Channel 4).  As long as there are drunken nutjobs around, this programme will also run and run.

Soggy bottoms didn't really mean anything to me until I was probably the last person in the country to discover "THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF" (BBC2).  This baking contest has been very popular over recent years so I decided to check out the new series and am now hooked.  Mel and Sue are refreshing hosts, whilst Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry can be tough nuts to crack, but they will also give credit where it's due.  This is just what I need on a Tuesday night - it's like a calming comfort blanket, only made of cakes (!?!?!)

"STRICTLY COME DANCING" (BBC1) returned to our screens this past weekend, so at least we'll now have something to watch on a Saturday nght.  Lots of new professionals this year, including the chiselled loveliness of Aljaz Skorjanec (gratuitous picture above)  It doesn't look like a vintage line-up of contestants compared to previous years, if week 1 is anything to go by, but we love, love, love Dave Myers!  Please keep him in! He has such a funny and likeable personality as part of the Hairy Bikers and this translates to the dance floor. He's having fun - a nice change from the usual win-at-all-costs brigade.  I'll do a separate post about Strictly in a couple of weeks once we get a better idea of where it's all going.

As a self-confessed shopaholic and retail therapy addict, "ROBERT PESTON GOES SHOPPING" (BBC2) was a must.  A documentary series about the history of shopping in this country - its past, present and future, and its highs and lows - was certainly long overdue and worth watching, although Mr Peston (who I believe is an economic reporter on the Beeb) is a bit annoying when subjected to him in such large doses.

Simon Schama's epic series "THE STORY OF THE JEWS" (BBC2) is the kind of programme that the BBC always does well.  Schama's own personal insight particularly came across in a recent episode about the Jews of Eastern Europe in the early 20th century.

Even though I know that the end is near, I'm really enjoying "SMASH" (Sky Atlantic) so much more than I used to.  The second series has really grown on me and I look forward to each episode.  The parallel musicals storyline, focusing on "Bombshell" and "Hit List" which has literally involved 'musical chairs' (apologies for that bad pun) has really boosted the show. I'm probably in a very small minority of "Smash" fans, which is probably the reason why it has been axed.

Maybe I'm just getting old and out of touch with TV comedy, I don't know....I wanted so much to love "LONDON IRISH" (Channel 4) but it ultimately left me cold.  Lots of swearing - the success of Mrs Brown's Boys certainly has a lot to answer for! Most of the sweary words don't offend me but I could do without repeated use of the C-word thank you very much.  There were some funny moments in the first episode of this new comedy series about a group of young Northern Irish exiles in London, but not enough to hold me beyond that.  But then again, I'm not part of that Channel 4 after-10pm comedy 'demographic' I suppose.  I think the main problem was that I couldn't warm to any of the characters.  Now where did I put my Father Ted box set...?

Finally, to the latest SVT music show "ALLA TIDERS HITS".  Now let me see....well-known (and less well-known) singers interpreting the songs of other well-known singers.  Ring any bells?  Remind you of a certain rival TV4 programme perhaps? Så Mycket Bättre needn't worry too much about this new show stealing its spotlight, (although that show is also maybe past its best now?).  Despite promising a lot, I've found it to be rather disappointing.  The whole production comes over as a bit amateurish, presumably SVT are blowing its entertainment budget on Melodifestivalen with only the spare change going on this one.  The critics haven't been very kind to the show either and I doubt if it'll get a second series.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Swedish Idol 2013: Friday Finals Week 1 - 27.09.13

Loreen.  Darin.  Agnes.  Sebastian Karlsson.  Måns Zelmerlöw. Danny Saucedo.  Amanda Jenssen. Christoffer Hiding.  Erik Grönwall.  Tove Styrke.  Eddie Razaz.  Olle Hedberg.  Linnea Henriksson. Amanda Fondell.  Moa Lignell.  Robin Stjernberg.

Just a few of the names who came to my attention thanks to my favourite TV talent show - Swedish Idol. And now, after a year off, the show is back.  In 2012, Idol was rested and replaced with the hideous "X Factor" however that was dropped after just one series - oh if only they could have done the same over here in the UK! - so maybe we should change the name of the show to "Sweden's Got Taste" :)  Anyway, this year's Idol has a lot to live up to, when you think about the calibre of many of the artists who originally started out on the show.

Above: Swedish Idol's class of 2013.  Just think, one of these people will probably win Melodifestivalen in a couple of years. 

As usual there's lots of coverage in the Swedish tabloids, who are mainly focusing on Kevin Walker, who has a very interesting back story.  For he is also a professional footballer with GIF Sundsvall, who had to reschedule a football match this week so that he could appear on Idol! Singing footballers haven't exactly had a great pedigree in musical history of course: think of all those embarrassingly bad World Cup songs, and don't start me on "Diamond Lights"(!) - so I guess Kevin will be out to change all that.

As usual, TV4 doesn't allow viewers outside Sweden to watch programmes/clips on its website so it's off to YT to check out the clips.

I haven't watched the qualifying stages of this year's Idol so apologise if my comments are a bit vague; I always struggle at this stage of any contest where there are too many new faces to remember (same goes for Strictly Come Dancing) and they only really hit their stride after about 3 weeks.  So this is the first time I've actually watched all this year's Idol contestants performing.

Sandra Wikstrom - "Empire State of Mind".  I'm not really into that "belter" style of singing but she did well on this and is probably good for another few weeks in the competition.

Matilda Melin - "Thrift Shop".  Yes, that Thrift Shop, the one with the F words and all, which young Matilda reinvented as an r'n'b 'song'.  She made the best of it but I can't really understand why they give contestants songs like this.  (And I say that as someone who likes Thrift Shop).

Gabriel Alares - "Impossible".  There's a big Eurovision connection here, as Gabriel co-wrote Russia's 2013 ESC entry, the sickly-sweet "What If" by Dina Garipova, and he was also one of her backing singers at the contest.I think he has potential and some careful song choices could take him quite far in the competition. However he really needs to work on his breathing as he seemed breathless/wheezy at the end of each line of the chorus. He's trying to work that Danny Saucedo/boyband look.

Sakib Zabbar - "Get Lucky".  This song - which I still love, by the way - has been done to death! It's an easy song to sing, so it doesn't really show off a singer's potential though. This was all wrong for me and even he didn't look like he was enjoying it.  Lyrics changed in the chorus as well.

Sarah Mathisen - "Animal".  Sarah is probably one of the more 'anonymous' contestants and these are the ones who always go early.  Miike Snow as sung by Florence and The Machine.  Florence Welch is on the phone and she says she wants her vocal style back.

Erik Rapp - "Skinny Love".  On this performance, of a song which I don't particularly like, Erik would seem to be the finished article already.  Strong vocals and performance, and he will definitely make it to the latter stages of the competition without a doubt.  Erik is also openly gay - a rarity in talent-show land where any young gay male contestants are forced to disguise their sexuality in order to not alienate that all-important female fanbase.

Sara Sangfelt - "Set Fire To The Rain".  Oh no, not another Adele song, please!!!  I get the feeling that Sara may be more at home on something more rocky/edgy; if they keep giving her songs like this then she could be out of the competition in the next couple of weeks.

Elin Bergman - "Seven Nation Army".  This is like Cher Lloyd singing the Marcus Collins version of the song.  In the clip she looks a bit like Miley Cyrus before she got her hair cut and started all that twerking nonsense.  What does all this add up to?  A no from me.

Kevin Walker - "Pride".  Yes, the U2 stomper reinvented as a restrained piano ballad, with the singing footballer sitting on a stool.  Apparently he had some wobbles during the recent qualifying heats but this would appear to have been his comeback.  Kevin has some hysterical fandom already, which will just multiply from here.  Yes he's good, but so far he's not spectacular.

Miriam Bengtsson - "End of Time".  Yet another appalling song choice.  You used to get a better variety of songs in Idol.  I'm not familiar with this, but I'm guessing Beyonce, right?  Miriam already has a distinctive image, with her head shaved at one side and red hair cascading down the other side.  She could go far but she really needs better songs.

Jens Hult - "I Will Wait".  Banjos and tweed jackets at the ready for a bit of the old Mumford and Sons. This was a really great match of song and voice.  At first I thought he looked like an old guy, but he's only 20!  I'm not sure if he would do so well on different types of songs, but maybe give him some Stiftelsen/Takida or Mando Diao's "Strövtåg i Hembygden" and he might be good for a couple of weeks yet.

George Shaid - "Resolution".  On first listen I think this guy is going to do very very well - he has the looks and the voice, and apart from a couple of iffy bits, this was one of the best performances of the night. I'm not familiar with this song but he did well.

Bottom two: Sakib and Sarah-with-an-h: Sarah is eliminated.

I think the evening suffered from poor song choices for most of the contestants.  The great thing about Idol in the past was the better variety of songs than what you usually get on the talent shows.  This week's choices were a bit tired and predictable.  Sweden has such a rich pop heritage, past and present - do they really need to rely on the usual Alicia Keys/Adele and tiresome r'n'b efforts?

Most of the time for me, Idol is all about the boys and certainly on first viewing, Erik and George seem to be the strongest contestants.  On a completely shallow note though, there is no-one this year to pledge undying devotion to (!) - unlike Eddie Razaz, Christoffer Hiding and Olle Hedberg who were all the subject of my totally shallow favouritism!!!

On first viewing I doubt if any of this year's crop have the talent/personality/charisma (delete as appropriate) to join the long list of Idol 'greats' but nevertheless it is great to have Idol back again, and it will keep us going from now till Christmas, and then it will be Eurovision season once again.  Not that I'm wishing my life away or anything....!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hola! (again)

We reeturned home yesterday from a lovely short break in the stunning city of Palma de Mallorca.  It was definitely well worth a visit and as far removed from the conventional holiday resorts as you could imagine. Unfortunately I wasn't my usual cheerful bubbly self on holiday (more info in this post over at Random Ramblings) but still managed to enjoy my time there.  Sunshine, blue skies, a reminder that it's still summer somewhere in the world, beautiful scenery, art, culture, architecture, good food and drink, good times.

Oh yes, and the "Palma Diaries" will eventually make an appearance on this blog too, once I get back to full fitness :)

La Vuelta a España 2013

Just a few weeks on from the Tour de France, La Vuelta is a tough race with so many questions - like, for example, just how do you pronounce Nibali?  (Nee-baa-li?  Nee-bly?  Nibbly?)

The good thing is that it gives many riders the chance to step into the spotlight thanks to the absence of many of the TdF's top riders.  No Chris Froome or Alberto Contador this year, for example.  It's not a race for sprinters either - no Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel or Andre Greipel. 

British interest was very minimal, with only a couple of Team Sky's plucky lower-division boys having a go.  For make no mistake, this is a race for the southern European tough guys, where Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) and Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde (Spain) were expected to dominate. 

But, just as in the Tour de France, they all had to take a back seat to a guy named Chris. 

Not Froome this time, but Horner - Chris Horner from the USA, the oldest man in the race at 41 years old.  Nibali - however you pronounce it - took the red jersey early on, when he explicitly didn't want it - but lost it when he explicitly wanted to keep it.  The gripping Horner-Nibali battle for the red jersey was set against a backdrop of an intensely tough route which makes much of the Tour de France look like a picnic.  The Vuelta may lack the magic and glamour of that iconic bike race, but yet it is still unmissable viewing packed with golden moments - the little-known Italian Daniele Ratto's epic breakaway and stage win on a gruelling rain-soaked, hypothermia-ridden climb in Andorra; or Tony Martin's brave breakaway on one stage only for victory to be snatched from his grasp.

You know you're getting old remember when a current cyclist's dad won the Tour de France.  I remember Stephen Roche winning the Tour de France in 1987, back in those days when the highlights of Le Tour were screened nightly on Channel 4.  Now his wee boy Nicolas is all grown up, and had a very good Vuelta this year, finishing 5th overall.  I'm sure he will go on to greater things. 

But I digress.  With the gap between Horner and Nibali down to just three seconds with two days to go, it was all to play for on the crucial penultimate stage, when Horner crushed Nibali's challenge and had the race won, just one day before the final stage in Madrid. 

Needless to say in these post-Armstrong times, you can't be too good without your credibility being questioned at press conferences and internet forums.  Winning the Vuelta was a tremendous achievement, but for a 41 year old American rider, judged to be past a professional cyclist's physical peak, a former team-mate with a history of injuries and no real Grand Tour form, questions will be asked.  The cheerful and chatty Horner always had something to say during his many interviews in the Vuelta, but strangely sidestepped important questions in his final post-race interview in Madrid. 

As ever, ITV4's coverage was excellent, with Gary Imlach presenting and Phil Liggett on commentary.  Even better news for us cycling fans is that ITV has secured the rights to broadcast the Tour de France until 2019; ITV4 will also show the Criterium Dauphine, Criterium International, Liege Bastogne Liege and Paris Roubaix from 2016 to 2019, which are all very important races in the cycling calendar.  ITV4 will also continue to screen the Tour of Britain and the Vuelta. 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: August 2013

So let's kick off with "THE RETURNED" (Channel 4) which ended on the evening of my last 'Square-Eyed' blog post and as predicted, did not deliver all the loose ends tied up with a great big bow. But did we really expect it to?  The answer again being a very definite 'non'.  But it was one hell of a creepy, involving story and as with all our favourite subtitled dramas, we count the days till it appears on our screens once again.

Oh, and I did, finally, finish rewatching series 1 of "THE BRIDGE" (BBC4) which did deliver a more satisfactory conclusion and that too has me eagerly awaiting season 2.

Something finally coming to an end: "DEXTER" (Fox) is hurtling towards the end of season 8 and I'm still none the wiser how it will end.  Hoping for some kind of satisfactory conclusion to tie all the loose ends up and all that, but television being what it is today, I probably doubt it.  I have about 4 different permutations running through my mind at the moment about how it will end.  It maybe hasn't been a vintage season so far, but it's hard to sustain the exceptional standard which this show has set over the years.  (Season 3 and 4 remain my favourites so far).

Apart from its brilliant cycling coverage, ITV4 sometimes has other things worth watching. "AMAZING ARGENTINA" was another of that channel’s occasional clip shows celebrating the glory days of my favourite South American football team. My favourite of them all was the 1978 squad who thrilled on home ground in that year’s World Cup, and Mario Kempes was my all-time favourite, for footballing and shallow reasons :)

The "WORLD ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS" was recently televised on BBC1 and BBC2. Never were expectations so high after London 2012, but for every minute of live sporting action, there were 10 minutes of chat from the expert pundits. I recorded one day’s coverage and it was about an hour before they actually showed anything. Thank goodness for the fast-forward button, where I made the unnecessary chatter move on faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m.

One of those talking heads, Denise Lewis, also turned up in "YOUR FACE SOUNDS FAMILIAR" a.k.a. Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes, yet another useless attempt by ITV to fill its Saturday night schedule when they don't have X Factor/Britain's Got Talent/anything with Ant and Dec in it.  It should have been renamed "Pointless Celebrities" however there is already a show of that name, coincidentally featuring one of the "Your Face..." contestants, the ubiquitous Alexander Armstrong.

Back to the Olympics. "INSPIRE: THE OLYMPIC JOURNEY" (BBC1) will be an occasional series looking at that overused word - the "legacy" of London 2012.  My own view is that there probably won't be one, apart from a misty-eyed nostalgia watching old clips and saying, "remember that?"  I think it was Matthew Pinsent who said that the real legacy will be in the Games encouraging the public to participate in sport.

Which is a difficult one to call, given this country's current obesity crisis and accordingly, TV's obsession with making programmes about it.  Jacques Peretti previously made a series called "The Men Who Made Us Fat" and followed it up with, appropriately, "THE MEN WHO MADE US THIN" (BBC2).  This looked at the growth of the diet and fitness industry over the years and concluded that all of us who go on diets etc are buying into a myth and so diets don't work.  Having been there and done that of course, several times, I'd say that's pretty true.  But did he really need several weeks of an overlong series to tell us that?

Closer to home, "SCOTLAND THE FAT" (BBC1 Scotland) only needed one hour to tell us that we're the second fattest country behind the USA in the obesity league table, and we rely too much on takeaways and ready meals.  Yep, it didn't tell us anything new either, but as these things go it was a pretty good documentary. 

I had missed "TELSTAR - THE JOE MEEK STORY" (BBC2) the first time it was screened on TV so was eager to see it at last.  The words 'British film' usually have me running in the opposite direction but this was actually a goodie - a high-speed biopic of the eccentric 60s music producer Joe Meek whose life ended in tragedy.  This film was never dull and had a cracking over-the-top performance by Con O'Neill and some interesting cameo appearances too.  Oh and finally, I even managed to watch something with James Corden in it, without reaching for the off switch.

I decided to watch "LARS AND THE REAL GIRL" (MGM) which with that title I mistakenly thought was a Scandinavian film..  It turned out to be an oddly appealing film set in one of those little Scandi-enclave towns in the USA.  The storyline - shy guy buys a lifesize doll - suggests a Judd Apatow-style sleazy comedy, but it turned out to be a very gentle, if rather bizarre, film about love and acceptance, with a hopeful ending.  Ryan Gosling is one of those actors who is very popular at the moment, although I hadn't actually seen him in any films until this one.  He certainly gave a very good performance here.

Film of the month for me had to be "KING OF DEVIL'S ISLAND" (BBC Four) an incredibly powerful, distressing and moving film, set in the early 20th century.  What makes it even more powerful is that it is based on a true story, about a reform school for delinquent boys, set on a bleak island, Bastøy (the film's Norwegian title is Kongen av Bastøy), where they endure every manner of abuse, and are known by numbers rather than names. The catalyst for change and revolt is Erling (C19) - who plans an escape and inspires the other youngsters to finally rise up against the brutality.  Erling's friendship with fellow inmate Olav is also a crucial part of the story. It's not an easy film to watch by any means, but it is an outstanding one thanks to the performances of the always-reliable Stellan Skarsgård and the impressive young cast. 
I watch very little in ‘real time‘ on TV as I usually record it and make up my own TV schedules - have been doing this for years, so I have a little chuckle when people go on about ‘TV on demand’. It is a lot easier these days to record all the TV shows you want to, thanks to all the +1 channels. Anyway all this recording and fast forwarding means that you can skip the adverts. However, on one occasion when I was actually watching something live, I heard something to make me sit up and take notice during an ad break. The Persil Bio ad was soundtracked by none other than M83’s "Outro" which made me jump up and exclaim - "It’s the MGP opening theme music!" You know you’ve been watching too many national finals when.....!

Still on the commercial breaks, there’s another one on at the moment - for Citroen cars if I’m not mistaken - and soundtracked by "C’est Beau La Bourgeoisie" which I first became aware of during a holiday in France and am now happy that it’s turned up on an ad on "our" telly.

"MAKE ME A GERMAN" (BBC2) sounded like a very interesting idea - send a British family to Germany to live and work there and compare their lifestyle with the British way of life. It was nice to see a programme which actually gave a fair view of Germany for a change and gave some insight into the differences between ‘them’ and ‘us’ although did unfortunately fall back on stereotypes at times. The problem with this documentary was that it was only an hour long when it would have probably made a great series. We need more programmes on British TV about how Europeans live, if only to enlighten the ‘Eurosceptics’ in this country.

As you know, I went on a cruise back in May and totally loved it. Unfortunately, "THE CRUISE - A LIFE AT SEA" (BBC2) would not convince anyone to take this type of holiday. The series featured a round the world cruise on a Fred Olsen ship, which even had its own vicar. The whole thing, from the ‘considerably richer than you’ passengers to the hideous activities was depressingly dull, and a million miles removed from the (thankfully) more inclusive, all-ages, 21st century face of cruising.

As usual there's been lots of festival coverage on telly over the summer.  But why all the same acts all the time?  Just how many more times do we need to watch Jake Bugg or Chase and Status?  If the BBC is going to broadcast a festival, they should put about 20 other acts on the red button at the same time, so that we can watch what we want rather than what they think we want. 

After all this time (I'm always late to the party) I finally discovered "DYNAMO: MAGICIAN IMPOSSIBLE" (Watch) and am glad I did. I'm usually sceptical about this sort of street magic stuff, and yes of course, it's all just an illusion. But Dynamo (real name Steven Frayne) is so sweet, likeable and down-to-earth that you just want to believe. 'The wow factor' is an over-used phrase in TV these days, but it's worth using when it comes to Dynamo, who is always watchable and entertaining.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Allsång: no longer i Måns' hjärta

While I was on my blogging-break I caught up with one of my annual summer highlights - SVT's Allsång på Skansen.  The series ended on 13th August followed by the shock announcement that Måns Zelmerlow, who has successfully presented the show for the past 3 years, is quitting the show and will not be back next year.  He has done a great job and immediately slotted into one of the highest-profile TV presenting roles on Swedish television which is always subject to tabloid scrutiny, and he certainly won over the viewers and critics very quickly indeed.

Måns leaves the show on a high.  In Anders Lundin's final year (2010) it was an ailing show, losing viewers and under attack by the tabloid critics.  The show had to evolve and change.  Måns took over in 2011 and with this younger presenter came a number of younger current chart acts which in turn brought a noticeably younger audience to Solliden.  To outsiders, Allsång may look like a quaint, outmoded concept, but I will always defend its right to exist.  And even if it's only within the grounds of Skansen, the show continues to unite young and old in their love of Swedish music, a good old sing-song and a celebration of the Swedish summertime.

You won't be surprised to learn that my absolute highlight of this summer's series was the return of Oskar Linnros, who has become a much bigger star since his 2010 debut performance on the show.  I also enjoyed the "Så Mycket Bättre"-themed week with Petra Marklund, Style and Petter on that week's guest list.  As ever, there was the usual quota of Melodifestivalen acts: Anton Ewald was particularly impressive as was this year's MF winner Robin Stjernberg of course.  And then we also had this year's ESC winner: Emmelie de Forest, barefooting her way across the stage (and presumably leaving herself wide open to a foot infection - sorry, but seeing people going barefoot makes me squirm!).

2013 may not have been a vintage Allsång year, relying on safe crowdpleasers like Gyllene Tider, Magnus Uggla and Håkon Hellström and mixing these with here-today gone-tomorrow chart acts, but one thing's for sure, Måns was an excellent presenter and will be missed.  He will be a tough act to follow, and SVT will have some work to do.  They need to get it right, to identify someone who will appeal to all ages and tastes.

Bosse Larsson, Lasse Berghagen, Anders Lundin, Måns Zelmerlöw - who will be next on the list of Allsång presenters?  Names in the frame with the bookies include Marie Serneholt, Lena Philipsson, Danny Saucedo, Kalle Moreus.  If, as is rumoured, the next host will be the first ever female presenter of the show, I think Lena Philipsson would be a fantastic choice; not only is she a great singer and entertainer, loved by the Swedes, but she also has the personality and charisma to effortlessly take on the role of Allsång presenter.  I would have my doubts about Marie Serneholt or Danny Saucedo - I like them, but I don't think they're ready for the job yet.  One thing's for sure, I hope they don't give the job to the ubiquitous Gina Dirawi....

Let's just hope that, whoever gets the job, that SVT continues to let all of us who live outside Sweden watch and enjoy the show, unlike TV4 which continues to deny all of us (outside Sweden) the chance to see "Lotta på Liseberg" and "Sommarkrysset" on their website, limiting it only to viewers in Sweden.  Which is a real shame, as both shows have had a good line-up of guests this year.

But back to Måns.  He's now concentrating on the next phase of his music career and is getting ready to release his "Barcelona Sessions" album which, if the excellent "Broken Parts" is anything to go by, will be worth the wait.  This album will see Måns moving away from the schlager/pop sound of his first two albums in favour of a more 'adult' sound in the anthemic style of, say, Coldplay or Keane.   Good luck with your future adventures Måns!