For many people my age or thereabouts, there exists this idea that to be young and alive in mid 90s Britain represented winning some kind of jackpot in the eternal lottery of life. To cast our minds back to that time is to conjure up a conflagration of Loaded magazine, Britpop, Euro 96 and the end of the Conservative government. Three Lions on the shirt, Trainspotting posters on every wall, and alcopops for tea. Despite the best efforts of Geri Halliwell; Liam and Patsy draped in the Union Jack made even our national flag seem sexy. Cool Britannia became something that people actually said.Tony Blair’s arrival in Downing Street that glorious May morning made it seem like our own revolution had taken place. Britain had finally blown up the Thatcherite Death Star and her children danced like liberated Ewoks to the sound of defeated evil.
But just as our parents generation hid the truth about the crazy times they’d supposedly had in the 1960s we too risk forgetting just what a bland period of history this really was. The grey, tired Major government crept pitiably towards its sleaze-tinged demise. The arrival of Blair proved merely to be the moment before the animals peered from man to pig and back again through the farmhouse window.In the middle of all this averageness, one show stood out as a celebration of that period of time that I like to call “When Bradley Wiggins Saw The Hair He Most Desired”. TFI Friday was a Channel 4 live smugfest, presented by the ever popular Chris Evans and scripted by professional Cockney Danny Baker. Hilarious features included Asian Lookalikes and Sink or Swim. The latter involved mice being put into water which somehow failed to provide the mirth hoped for by the producers.
With a room full of coked up London media wankers there to provide much needed atmosphere and laughter, the show sought to entertain us with live music and controversial guests. Shaun Ryder got the show permanently moved to a pre-recorded format because of his rude words. That’s Shaun Ryder, the missing link between Shane MacGowan and Mark E Smith – a man forever in the midst of a drink and drug episode and therefore a guaranteed provide r of some kind of pre-watershed outburst to be regretted (WARNING – regret may include secret delight at publicity garnered for programme in wake of such behaviour and attendant rise in viewing figures for future shows).Seeming to feel that being mates with Paul Gascoigne AND Paul Weller was to carry the burden of cultural lodestar, Evans insisted that he be given Fridays off his other job, that of Radio 1 Breakfast DJ, so he could commit more energy to saying how great the latest Reef record was in front of a camera rather than over the airwaves.
The show did not improve with a refreshed Evans. It was tired, self-congratulatory nonsense soundtracked by bands too in love with the past to create any legacy past tonight’s offering – a one night rehash of a show that championed the conservative and traditional but dressed it up in the clothes of the hip and happening. In short, a very New Labour kind of show.Tonight’s guests are Jeremy Clarkson, Blur and Roger Daltrey. Oh and Liam Gallagher. Liam Gallagher is an F word outrage waiting to happen. Daltrey’s , ahem, interesting views on immigration won’t be challenged and somewhere in the background, singing songs about working class life as only millionaires with friends in the Government can, will be Blur. It’s certainly an appropriate venue for a Clarkson comeback. A warehouse full of sycophants ready to laugh at the merest hint of anything politically incorrect being said, Clarkson will feel right at home.
Not so much TFI Friday as UKIPPEE it’s the weekend. And that’s my problem with this false nostalgia of the mid to late 90s. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Mandela and the resignation of Thatcher, many in my generation fooled themselves into thinking that theirs was the generation to make Britain a new kind of great. Channel 4 still made radical, ground breaking television. Radio 1 put a tired generation of Smashie and Nicey presenters out to pasture. The Green Party began to enjoy a modicum of success in elections. We were the good guys. The future was ours.
Painting our faces in the St Georges flag, dancing to a song sung by Frank Skinner for fuck sake. We took our eyes off the ball, wept for a dead princess and let the centrepiece for our end of the millennia party be a giant dome near Danny Baker’s house.We moved from caring about the planet to giving the majority vote in Europe to a racist charabanc. And somehow, at the end of an equation I haven’t got the energy to commit to paper, I feel that it’s Ocean Colour Scene’s fault. And therefore, TFI Friday’s too.
Take that, the 90s.You were shit. Never forget.