Hit & Run: Saviours of Friday TV?

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The Independent Online

Perhaps it's the beard wot done it. Adrian Chiles's controversial face fur arguably doesn't cut it on Friday nights when, it was confirmed this week, Chris Evans (pictured, top), will occupy The One Show sofa alongside the sufficiently glamorous Christine Bleakley. BBC bosses expect Evans, the clean-cut (well, clean-shaven) new star of mainstream BBC programming, to sprinkle the 7pm magazine show with a bit of stardust in a new-look end-of-week edition. Expect sharper suits and more purple – a house band, perhaps.

And that's Friday night telly, isn't it. In a tradition that reaches back to the Eighties and Channel 4's ground-breaking music show, The Tube, broadcasters (and advertisers desperate for young eyes) have raced to kick off the weekend with a bang. Evans has already scored a hit with TFI Friday, which offered big-name guests and self-consciously wacky features in the late Nineties. There was more to choose from later on back then, when sometimes it was actually worth leaving the pub early (or pretending you could, because you were only 13) to watch The Word or Eurotrash.

But that was when pubs closed at 11pm, when content was allowed to be daring, and when you couldn't fire up iPlayer on Saturday morning and fast-forward to the bits where Jonathan Ross interviews somebody interesting. "Broadcasters are still obsessed with the idea everyone's going to cast off their work clothes, open a beer and celebrate the weekend with the BBC or Channel 4," says Peter Bazalgette, the TV exec who brought Big Brother to British screens, "But I can see no reason why a young demographic would do that anymore when there are so many other things to do and channels to watch."

Not that dwindling audience figures and a fragmenting TV landscape, which has seen the once lucrative end-of-week schedule branded the "Friday night death slot" in America, has stopped programmers trying new things. Jonathan Ross is on his way out but he'll meet other stars in Friday night's revolving door. Frank Skinner's Opinionated, a new talk show, starts on 10pm on Friday on BBC2, while Ricky Gervais (middle) gets a new show starting the following week on Channel 4.

The trouble is, says Boyd Hilton, TV editor at Heat, the quality isn't always there: "When Channel 4 shows Embarrassing Bodies: Back to the Clinic it's hardly a showcase for Friday night TV." But the Friday fixation won't be dimmed. Peter Andre (bottom) has reportedly been given his own chat show on Channel 4. It remains to be seen whether he can save the once-golden slot – or if Chris Evans can attract millions more viewers to The One Show. You can be sure Adrian Chiles won't be among them.