It’s the 28th of June 1996. I’m 15, school is finished for the summer, and I have just completed my Junior Certificate (GCSEs to UK readers). It’s a Friday, and it’s 6pm, an hour and day of the week observed with an almost religious fervour in my house, and reserved for one thing only since it first aired in February of that year: TFI Friday.
It is the last episode of the series. Supergrass burst on screen performing a cover of Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), and the rest of the world falls away.
It is no exaggeration to say that this was the power of TFI Friday.
Such raw live performances were unparalleled on TV, as was the excitement of watching them. Aside from the fact that the programme gave you opportunities to see your favourite bands (Supergrass, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers and Suede in my case), there was an utter immediacy and exclusivity to it which made you feel that you were witnessing something unique and very special.
To the music, TFI Friday added its delectable irreverence, unique bite-sized comedy sketches and celebrity guests, all of which were energetically presided over by consummate ringmaster and host Chris Evans.
It was a raucous, chaotic riot every week, and I loved every minute of it.
It is interesting that a song about condition would prove to be one of its defining moments for me. Only now can I really see that it was the conditions in which it aired that made it what it was. It epitomised the culture and energy of the nineties where it was okay to try new things and take risks in the name of sheer fun. The pre-internet era of appointment-to-view television also ensured it was something to be looked forward to with a now enviable impatience, absorbed with undivided attention while on, and fondly reminisced about when over. Even if you knew your favourite band were going to appear, there weren’t opportunities to fill the intervening days watching an infinite number of YouTube videos to keep you going, nor were our television screens saturated with preview clips. This preserved the element of surprise, and meant that sheer exhilaration was guaranteed when they finally did blaze on to the TFI stage.
Your patience and excitement were rewarded, and you lived entirely in the moment; immersed, undistracted, uninfluenced, with your attention undivided, and it was heaven.
Television entertainment simply did not come much better than TFI Friday, and for me, there hasn’t been a programme since that comes close. It will be interesting to see what the return of the series has in store for us.
In the meantime, it seems fitting to finish by sharing my favourite TFI Friday moment from a band that helped define not only the programme and the era in which it was broadcast, but the 15 year old entranced by them on that night in 1996.
TFI Friday returns live to Channel 4 at 8pm tonight, Friday the 16th of October.