TFI Friday (Channel 4, 1996-2000, 2015)
After having success with the great game show Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, Chris Evans went on to create another memorable programme for Channel 4. TFI Friday launched in February 1996 and would be shown live on Friday evenings, so anything could happen. “TFI” stands for “Thank Four (as in Channel 4) It’s Friday”, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. Probably. The opening theme was the same as the vintage drama series Man In A Suitcase.
TFI Friday was definitely a great way to start the weekend, and quickly defined its era of the late-90s, as it featured a mixture of music, with several of the the biggest bands around at the time performing live, with the show becoming particularly closely associated with the Britpop era, along with lots of star guests interviewed by Chris (accompanied by “The Riverboat Song” by Ocean Colour Scene of course) alongside a rather rowdy studio audience who’d been at the bar.
As well as this, there were lots of other memorable features including Freak Or Unique, where every week a few people would show off their very unusual talents. There were also lots of great stunts including things exploding, and Chris sawing his desk in half for no particular reason. The show also became known for its occasionally outrageous content, including a extra rude segment that was only shown as part of the late-night repeat. We’d also meet some of Chris’s mates including Will and Cedric.
In later editions there was a special competition where in December 1999 a contestant was guaranteed to win a million pounds, meaning that they actually beat Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to being the first British TV show to give away such a prize. Also by the later shows Evans had moved from BBC Radio 1 to host the breakfast programme on their commercial rivals Virgin.
TFI Friday was a big success at first, but by the end it had began to run out of steam. When Channel 4 announced that the sixth series would be the last, Chris Evans didn’t even bother to host the final series, and he was barely seen on screen for the next five years. The decision was made to use guest presenters, and the show finally came to an end when Elton John hosted the final edition in December 2000.
In 2005, there was a sort-of revival on ITV1 called OFI Sunday, but you don’t really need to know about that, expect that the critical reception was very bad, but it was among Chris’s first steps back into becoming a popular TV and radio presenter. In 2015 it was announced that there would be a one-off special with Evans returning as host to finally finish off TFI Friday for good.
What was notable about the show was when archive clips of the original run were shown, many viewers were surprised by the content of some of the stunts, insisting that they would never get away with such things today. They also commented on how good it was to see a straightforward entertainment show again where everyone was having a good time and it was hoped that the viewers would join in.
This revival was well received, to the point that another series was commissioned, 15 years after the last one (Chris did insist that he didn’t want to make any more editions of TFI Friday after the one-off, but then he spent months denying that he was going to be the new host of Top Gear too, so we shouldn’t take notice of too much that he says). It will be great seeing the show back on the screens, and hopefully it’ll win over a new generation of fans.