More TV Memories – OFI Sunday.

OFI Sunday (ITV1, 2005)

2005 wasn’t a great year for ITV1. As has been documented elsewhere, their prime-time schedule relied on very little beyond the soaps, and shows with “celebrity” in the title. There were a few entertainment formats tried out though including sitcoms and game shows, but they all seemed to be moved to a worse timeslot before the end of their run, or were pulled altogether with editions remaining unaired. They seemed to have very little confidence in their shows and I don’t remember watching that regularly during this time.

By this point Chris Evans hadn’t been on TV regularly for about five years. He didn’t even bother to host the final (for a while) series of TFI Friday on Channel 4 in 2000. He went on to work behind the scenes on some shows with his production company, and most of them were flops, including Channel 4’s game show Boys And Girls, and Channel 5’s Live With… Chris Moyles and The Terry And Gaby Show.

It was around the mid-2000s that Chris started to get back into presenting, including joining BBC Radio 2, and the time seemed right for a return to TV presenting. Having been a fan of his shows over the years going all the way back to TV Mayhem in the early-90s, I looked forward to what he had planned. Chris insisted that he had plenty of big ideas. Would hosting a new entertainment show on ITV1 be a good way to come back? vlcsnap-00625

Well would you believe it. OFI Sunday (which started out at 10:30pm) was a 45-minute show that was essentially the sequel to TFI Friday, it was a show designed to end off the week in a lively style that tried to banish those “oh no it’s Monday tomorrow” blues. It was also packed with a lot of features that would either succeed or fail badly. And you can probably guess where this is going. ofi0002

The first problem was the lack of celebrity guests. On the first show the guest was Chris’s ex-wife Billie Piper. On the second show it was James Nesbitt, a friend of Chris’s, so a lot of the conversation was rather in-jokey and meant little to anyone else. By the end of that show, Chris was making a mildly desperate request for celebrities to appear next week as they had nobody planned. The studio design was also rather garish. ofi0001

Also, TV had moved on somewhat, and most of the features were recycled from TFI Friday almost a decade earlier. Fun and innovative then, but tired by now. Clearly someone hadn’t told Chris that it wasn’t 1996 any more. These included the guest banging a gong to start the show, a look at the week’s news, and “Mine Or Not Mine”, where Chris (who has never been modest about these things) brought on an unusual object and people had to guess whether he really owned it or not. vlcsnap-00639

Also featuring was Chris showing a Polaroid picture of something to his guest that made them laugh, and then destroying it without anyone else seeing it or explaining what it was of. There would be performances from pop groups, and guests would be encouraged to do some karaoke too. Chris would also take the chance to wheel out random production team members on stage and mildly embarrass them in various games (another thing he has always seemed fond of).

The response to all this from viewers was rather negative, ratings plummeted, and guess what, OFI Sunday skipped a week, and then the sixth and final edition (on a Friday, oddly) was shown at a very late time, before it was never seen again, suffering exactly the same unfortunate fate that just about every other ITV1 entertainment show had in this year like almost everyone had predicted would happen right from the outset.

“You will love this!” claimed Chris. Well maybe the 12 people who were still watching by the end did, but no-one else really cared. OFI Sunday was simply a total failure. After this setback, Chris concentrated on his radio work again for a while, working his way up to the Radio 2 Breakfast slot, and now compared with his earlier days finally coming across (although we’ll ignore Top Gear for now) as a safe pair of hands.


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