TFI’s return was a raucous fun-filled night for the oldies

Ben Dowell swims in a sea of nostalgia as the ginger maestro brought back TFI for one night. But could it come back for good?

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” said Chris Evans in an aside to viewers when Ewan McGregor – yes Obi-Wan Kenobi himself– briefly tried to do his job by interviewing Mean Girls star Amanda Seyfried on TFI Friday last night.

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Yes, McGregor was OK, but he didn’t have the quick-fire, manic energy of Evans, a man who can create a laugh out of almost any situation and someone who has clearly been away from our screens for too long.

Last night’s programme was – for oldies like me – a warm bath of nostalgia for the show that in many respects epitomised the 1990s – confident, zany, loud, a bit male, yes, but quite a lot of fun.

As the music piped up and Evans strode forth in the live studio hanger to begin proceedings I am sure I was not alone in feeling a tingle up my spine.

After all, we like to think, the 1990s was an era of post-Cold War optimism, a time of cool Britannia when things, it seemed, could only get better. (We were probably wrong about that, but let’s move on).

All the era’s big names seemed to show up. A live performance from Blur – although Damon Albarn didn’t do the singing as his throat was sore – and a barnstorming set from Liam Gallagher who dueted The Who classic My Generation with Oasis rocker Liam Gallagher. A man who epitomized 1960s blood and thunder rock with the man who epitomized 1990s excess doing what they do best. Yes, they looked a shade long-in-the-tooth but it was still marvellous.

Freak or Unique was never my favourite bit of the original show (I always thought the title was a bit lame but that may be just me) but it brought the memories back – the cute falling-over babies, the woman who could cry milk, the hairy baby. And they all came back to the studio.

“This is what telly was made for,” said Evans. Well, it was back in 1996. Now we have the internet and as many freaky/unique people as you can click a mouse at.

The PR-fuelled excitement about Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear sequence didn’t quite live up to expectations. Clarkson just drove Evans around London a bit, but he didn’t take on the Top Gear course for one last time as had been suggested (or maybe he did and wasn’t pleased with his performance?). But it was still fun to discover that the set-piece was Evans’ 89-year-old Mum tackling the track in a motorised wheelchair.

As for all the babies, well it was telling that this prompted Evans to evangelise the joys of fatherhood. He really has moved on and his adult daughter was in the crowd to see the old man at work. She looked impressed, as well she should be.

In fact Evans is now a Grandad and he was careful (and wise) not to take it all too seriously. In fact, he said that if the show does return he probably wouldn’t be the man to do it.

He called Nick Grimshaw back from an interview and told viewers: “I think Nick is the future of the show. I think this is good fun for us oldies, but if this show comes back he is the guy, he is the guy.”

He’s right about one thing. It was fun for the oldies. As for Grimshaw, I am not so sure. If Channel 4 do bring it back – and they say there are “currently no plans” to do so – I think this old Grandad could do it just brilliantly. He is TFI after all.

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