TFI Friday represented my later teenage years. Running from 1996 through to 2000, this show took me into adulthood. A major player in my formative years.
So the announcement of a live anniversary special (a 20ish year anniversary, as it’s only 19 years since it first aired) split my emotions. Would this be a wonderfully nostalgic return to my younger days, or will it be a cringe-worthy display of old men acting like teenagers?
They had recreated the set and opening sequence with wonderful accuracy, bar one important omission. The sad lack of Ocean Colour Scene’s ‘Riverboat Song’ that had accented the original show. But as Will MacDonald was welcomed onto the show to his usual taunts, it was as if nothing had changed. In fact, somehow, Will doesn’t seem to have aged at all! And the first musical section was privileged to Blur, who treated us to an old classic, ‘Coffee & TV’. Perfect.
As the infamous Freak or Unique section was introduced, I wondered how they would handle it in today’s far more politically correct world. But they got it spot on, inviting back previous Freak or Unique guests to see them 19 years on. And that was what made this work; they weren’t trying to recreate something from 19 years ago for today’s audience, they were bringing 19 years ago to yesterday’s audience.
I can imagine a 16-year-old watching this for the first time would wonder who all these old guys were, acting like prats, but I’m that much older myself now, so they don’t seem that old to me. It was kind of like the last 19 years hadn’t happened, like the last time I watched this was a week ago.
The rapid-fire guest interviews felt a little crass, like someone name-dropping at a party. But Chris Evans never was one for social niceties.
There were mistakes, but it was a live show, and the original was always full of mistakes too. Despite extreme amounts of swearing from a particular guest leading it to being pre-recorded, it always retained that laid-back, unrehearsed, blokes-down-the-pub feel. And they completely recaptured that.
The musical guests were an inspired mix of the old and new, with some poignant song choices. And, thankfully, the It’s Your Letters section brought back its original intro song.
But in today’s world, it’s not so stand-out, so ground-breaking as it used to be. We only had four channels back then, and there wasn’t much else like it. Today, these kind of shows are far more commonplace.
It was a great piece of nostalgia which, I think, will have really hit the mark with fans of the original show. But I can’t see it making a massive splash with new fans. But for the older among us, it was a refreshing and welcome return. So welcome, and important, in fact, that Channel 4 allowed them to run over, and pushed back the rest of their schedule. That’s pretty illustrative of this show’s standing and, no doubt, its ratings.