Oddly, you can blame the Italians.
I think it was 1993, but I’m not sure. All I know is I was up north in Shkoder visiting my friend Eddie and, as was common, the TV was set on an Italian channel. The Albanians enjoyed their new freedom to watch foreign TV without the threat of going to jail and a lot of them had picked up Italian as a second spoken language.
I couldn’t understand Italian at all and Eddie was keeping his Italian skills secret, but it was beautiful Italian women dressing beautifully or barely dressing which meant it was worth watching.
At least that was the premise; then it got bizarre.
First all the women performed a dance that was apparently choreographed by some famous choreographer as the person’s name kept being flashed on the screen. The problem was the dancing amounted to the women standing in geometric patterns and waving their arms to the rhythm of the music. Even the fact the women were in bathing suits couldn’t override the bizarre.
Then there was some kind of vote held that may or may not have involved telephone polling. As soon as the poll was complete, the survivors were announced and then sent off stage and the emcee interviewed the losers. I couldn’t understand what was being said but I think it amounted to:
emcee–How bad does it suck to be a loser?
loser–It sucks pretty bad.
emcee–Are you sad to be loser?
loser–I’m very sad.
emcee–Now get off the stage, loser.
loser–Thanks for inviting me! Viva l’Italia!!
Then the survivors were brought out to do more posing and another dance involving geometric shapes and hand waving. Another poll was taken and the survivors were sent off so the losers could be interviewed.
Along the way Eddie and I held our own poll (which is not dirty) and decided our personal favorite was a woman with a pageboy haircut and a sophisticated university look.
At some point the emcee brought Gina Lollobrigida on stage to do the “serious interview” portion of the contest. Our sophisticated university girl went first and was so moved by standing near the famous Italian actress/sex symbol, she burst into tears and was unable to speak. Gina Lollobrigida comforted her but you could tell she wouldn’t survive. She didn’t.
Eventually a winner may have been crowned but I don’t remember her name. I may have stopped watching by that point. All I remember is the dance and the losers.