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Why men need TFI Friday more than ever

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When the return of TFI Friday was announced, there was a general shrug, and an assumption that it would be just another bit of harmless nostalgia for men of a certain age; a continuation of a look back at the golden age of Britpop; a quick 90 minute version of I Love the 90s, only with Chris Evans instead of a succession of nonentity talking heads.

However, as the show's return has approached, and the memories of those forgotten features and moments return, there has been a surprising outpouring of love for the show, with a genuine sense of anticipation at what it will be like, and whether it will make sense in 2015. A period of time where, if anything, we need this more than ever.

Following the self-inflicted demise of Top Gear, there has been something of a hole in the schedules for 'Man TV'; shows designed for, and celebrating, being a man (although, of course, it never stopped women enjoying the show too). A League Of Their Own struggles on over on Sky, but that's about it.

The nineties, of course, was the prime time of Lad TV: Men Behaving Badly, Game On, Baddiel and Skinner's Fantasy Football League, not to mention the Lad magazines that ran hand-in-hand with it in the form of Loaded, Maxim and FHM. Wherever you looked on TV, there was programming aimed at the 'new lad', with the Gallagher brothers the spiritual godfathers of men that followed a consciously brash reaction to the 'new man' culture; asserting traditional notions of masculinity at every juncture.

Fantasy Football

Skinner, Statto and Baddiel

Fast-forward to the current day and laddism is still very much alive; the post-Britpop embers were kept alive by the likes of Kasabian and The Enemy and in magazine form with Zoo and Nuts, before the likes of the Lad Bible and Unilad moved things online. While things were ticking along, hipster culture came along and confused everything with constant flipping between being ironic, then post-ironic and no one ever having the guts to let themselves have fun without a raised eyebrow or a knowing wink.

So which camp should the modern man put himself into; the lad, or the hipster?

The answer is neither: but to head for the middle ground (and 'normcore' doesn't count - this is just another manifestation of hipster). Top Gear was a great show because it was smarter and more nuanced than the 'beer and football' of the Lad Bible, but also, unlike hipster culture, unafraid to be honest and laugh at itself; being presented by three resolutely uncool people certainly helped in this regard.

Top Gear

May, Hammond & Clarkson - not likely to win any style awards

And, looking back at it, TFI Friday - and Fantasy Football League for that matter - were always far more in the 'middle of road' bracket than a purely 'lad' enterprise; both had a great deal common with Top Gear (a fact surely not lost on Evans, who has reportedly got Clarkson himself onto the show).

TFI was silly, it was inclusive - you could happily watch it with your parents - it never took itself too seriously, and it was never sexist - like other brands on the dying end of the 90s. It celebrated being a man who was up for having a good time, being sociable (all Britpop anthems were essentially songs you could sing while hugging your mates, and both TFI and Fantasy Football embraced the concept of the audience being part of the show - one big group experience) and having a healthy interest in the latest mainstream culture, be that sport, music or film.

So, with strong rumours abounding that TFI is returning for a full new series, it could be exactly the show that men need and can embrace.

Of course, with the internet and Netflix making the idea of communal television viewing rather quaint, perhaps it's an impossible task for TFI to create that new focal point. But Top Gear managed it, and the likes of Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor still manage it too. If it can update itself with the likes of its guests and band bookings, but retain the essence of what made it so brilliant in the first place, it could be a winner. And who would bet against Evans, who replaced the seemingly irreplaceable Terry Wogan on Radio 2 with consummate ease, making a triumphant television return? Of course, he tried it once before, with the disastrous OFI Friday, but he's ten years older and wiser since that debacle.

Now, who's got a number for Baddiel and Skinner?

Written by Dave Fawbert, follow him on Twitter: @DaveFawbert

(Images: Rex/Getty)

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