Lad culture has never appealed to me. Shows like The Word were a complete turn-off and the thought of hanging around with a bunch of boozed up idiots on a night on the tiles is about as appealing as watching the upcoming series of Big Brother.
Yet one TV show celebrating lad culture and the sport that unites and divides much of Britain can be rightly held up as a ridiculously successful cult television programme that played on its low production values and made a household name for a very geeky looking chap in glasses. Fantasy Football League first started out as a radio show on BBC Radio Five Live before moving onto television and while the radio show had its moments it was very much a straight take on the game of fantasy football, introducing it to a wider audience.
Moving to television saw the radio presenter, Dominic Diamond, replaced by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, two relatively well known comedians who have since gone on to developing their own projects but I would argue have never recaptured the brilliance of FFL.
The format was loose at best. Each week various celebrities – including regulars Neil Morrissey and Danny Baker – would visit the studio, mocked up to look like a lounge, to discuss how their fantasy teams were getting on while Skinner and Baddiel would look back at various football events: some humorous, others celebrations of the beautiful game. As the show progressed it developed a few regular features including Phoenix from the Flames, a look back at great moments in footballing history by re-enacting said moments with the football star in question. This clip below shows this segment off perfectly, recreating the moment when Jimmy Greaves tackled a dog during the 1962 World Cup. Fair play to Jimmy for being so game:
Other stand-out moments include this choice gem proving that Pele wasn’t always the prince of the pitch:
… and the seemingly constant mickey taking of Jason Lee and his ‘pineapple head’. As this clip shows, Lee wasn’t too happy:
The show’s success stemmed from the production team’s ability to come up with idea after idea, not afraid to shy away from anything and always happy to make the most of the laid back, low budget nature of the programme. Throw in a cracking presenting pair in Skinner and Baddiel, Skinner in particular revelling in front of the cameras and always quick to shoehorn in a joke where others would stumble, and you had a cult show that gave football fans a different kind of celebration of their game and non-football fans a show they too could have a good laugh at. I remember watching it with my mum on several occasions and she loved it, despite her distaste for football itself.
Here are a couple more clips from the show that showcase just how good it was. The first is a parody of the Euro 96 opening ceremony, which is a prime example of those low-key production values I have mentioned:
This last one is exactly the type of thing the show did best. Taking the mickey out of footballers the world over, and Statto, and banter with the celeb guests: