TFI Friday — Preview

TFI Friday returns tonight on Channel 4

Tonight, TFI Friday makes a grand return to the Channel 4 schedules. However this time, Channel 4 haven’t opted for another special. This time, a full 10 part series has been commissioned.

Its to entice a new generation of viewers towards the brand, far away from the tablets & smart phones that have long probed the minds of today’s youth. And then, with one screen to focus, it’ll reintroduce the wild, wilderness landscape that is variety television.

Its a genre long decaying on our screens. Whilst shows like Saturday Night Takeway remain popular on the airwaves, many no longer consider the show a fresh new format for their creative TV juices. In addition, other established TV presenters are moving into a more comfort arena: chat shows. This is down largely to maintain a steady income for the future. Retirement isn’t cheap these days.

But this isn’t a problem for Chris Evans. The 49-year old has made a remarkable return to the top of the mountain career wise, and is in a position to partake huge risks once again. The real question on critic’s lips is whether TFI Friday can establish a second run on the airwaves. Can it succeed in reigniting a style of television long forgotten in people’s minds?

A New Audience

The obvious answer to the success of the TFI special earlier this year is simple: Nostalgia. Long time fans returned for the iconic studio, the catchy jazz theme tune, and to re-absorb the atmosphere of wild unpredictable television that had been long lost.

Hence the 3.7 million viewers who tuned in, with many more on catch up. Highly likely will a good majority of those return for the full series. The main challenge now is to win over the next generation; Those who’ve never heard of the phrase TFI Friday.

The basic small number that tuned in out of interest or boredom. Channel 4 needs to double that audience, and has 10 episodes to do so. No doubt the stakes are pretty high. The environment of TV viewing is fast changing. Tablets, Smart-phones, and laptops are extending the ability and practicality of what a standard TV can do. If TFI Friday really wants to be a success, it needs to adapt to new TV habits, whilst maintaining their unique persona.

Channel 4 is eager to prove three things. The first is the fact that variety television can still be a fun and fresh genre when executed right. The second is cementing Channel 4 as the official channel for the youth of Britain. Lastly, it needs to prove that watching television live, on the hour, can still be a fun, exciting and joyous leisure.

Chris Evans

Chris Evans

TFI Friday is quite a turning point in the career of Chris Evans. When the show started in 1995, he was a relatively young, fresh, talent with an outspoken, hotheaded personality, desperate to grab the attention of the public, whatever means possible. By the end of the show’s run, he was as close of a disgrace as you could imagine.

The reunion special in June was meant to be a one-off. An unofficial farewell to the show, reminding old audiences of the good times of the 90s, and new audiences at what they missed out. Chris appeared in casual clothing, like he had nothing to prove, and no one to impress. One wonders whether that IDGAF attitude will maintain through this new series.

He’s also made it clear that he will only do one series. A remark I recommend to take with a pinch of salt. He said in the reunion special that if the show was to return, Nick Grimshaw (Radio 1 DJ) would be the man to take over. One series was green lit, and yet Chris Evans returns. The lesson? Don’t take Chris Evans’s word for granted. If the check is big enough, and the timing right, Chris Evans may be the only host TFI has, and the only one they’ll need.

But that all depends on other commitments I.E. Top Gear. Accepting Top Gear will limit Evan’s availability. He’s already had to leave The One Show, and in future, further commitments will limit him from his breakfast show. So don’t be surprised if TFI Friday is not as recurring as initially thought. If the ratings are high enough — as well as the money — then Chris Evans could get comfortable. If TFI under-performs, then don’t get attached so closely.

The Future Of TFI?

Channel 4 never thought in their wildest dreams that they would be commissioning a new series of TFI in 2015. Yet here they are, hours away from the first showing. An exciting revival of a genre long need of new life? Or a desperate attempt to claw back a demographic deserting away from the telly world?

These ten episodes will be crucial. Strong ratings will prove the format is tireless, and could have a second life. Disappointment, and the frowns will be far and wide. Chris Evan’s schedule will be more filled, and Channel 4 are always being given new ideas for entertainment formats.

The scenario if its a hit is being closely monitored. Again, it all depends on Chris Evans. Can he do the show? And if he can, when? Can he work around Top Gear? Will he have to drop something else to keep it going? What if the BBC don’t allow him too?

So many questions. But if Chris Evans decides to leave TFI, but the channel insist on moving on, maybe Chris Evan’s glowing endorsement of Nick Grimshaw might come true. The Radio 1 DJ has a fan-base, a big one at that, but has unfairly earned fierce critics. Taking over a show like TFI sounds like a good idea in principle, but may backfire hugely.

The scenario of bad ratings will be a quiet axing, and said no more. Its unlikely, but not impossible. It would send the message that Chris Evans is not immortal, and failure is likely to bite him. You don’t need to cast your mind back far to remember what happened the last time failure bit him.

Tonight’s episode will be the crucial launch. TFI Friday will swing one way or another. But will Chris Evans be in the same direction?