The much-loved and much-missed Fantasy Football League is back on our screens thanks to Sky Max, with two new hosts bringing us the funnier side of the beautiful game
By Chris Miller, Writer
Phoenix From The Flames! The iconic theme tune! A frankly bonkers list of guests including everyone from Carol Vorderman to Sacha Distel to Basil Brush! STATTO! The original Fantasy Football League TV show was without doubt one of the must-watch shows of the 1990s: it arguably helped to change the image of the sport itself, and it definitely produced one of the most beloved football songs, one that still endures today: “Three Lions”, with lyrics and vocals by presenters David Baddiel and Frank Skinner.
And now Fantasy Football League has come home to our TV screens with a much-anticipated reboot on Sky Max! Hosted by comedians and footy fanatics Matt Lucas and Elis James, it promises to honour the much-loved original with humour, high-jinks and laid-back wit aplenty. Appropriately enough it’s also resurrecting the Phoenix From The Flames feature, for those who enjoy celebrities re-enacting famous moments from sporting history in extremely silly fashion. Which is everyone, right?!
Celebrity fantasy managers for the new series include comedians like Guz Khan and Maisie Adam as well as sporty types like Gabby Logan and Sam Quek, but there are also a few surprises among the ranks – including legendary newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald, award-winning actor Brian Cox, singer/songwriter Tom Grennan and the Absolutely Fabulous Jennifer Saunders. Comic Andrew Mensah is playing the Statto role, overseeing the show’s fantasy league and scouring the world of football for laugh-out-loud clips.
And now, with the world a lot better connected than it was when the original aired in 1994 (which we’re refusing to admit was almost three decades ago), this time you can very much join in the fantasy football fun! Find out how to participate in the show’s own mini league here.
Of course, the 1990s was the greatest decade of all (come at us!), but we aren’t the only ones who know that. Current TV commissioners do too – you can tell by the way they keep bringing back formats from that mighty era. Challenge Anneka and Gladiators are both on the TV slate for 2023, but they’re certainly not the first…
The Crystal Maze
The format: Teams move through the maze’s various zones, taking on mental and physical challenges to win crystals, which translates into time spent in the Crystal Dome grabbing airborne gold (not silver!) tokens. Start the fans, please!
The original: 83 episodes on Channel 4 from 1990-1995, hosted first by Richard O’Brien and then by Ed Tudor-Pole.
The reboot: It came back to Channel 4 in 2016 with a one-off presented by Stephen Merchant, then returned as a series in 2017 with Richard Ayoade.
What changed? Very little: the new version still had a pleasingly ramshackle and off-kilter feel, helped by having an equally idiosyncratic host in Ayoade. The biggest change was the introduction of the MEGA CRYSTAL, which would get you – gasp! – five more seconds in the Dome.
Can I watch it? You can see all the new celebrity editions in Apps & Games > All 4. The 90s iteration isn’t streaming but, praise Mumsie and Auntie Sabrina, it’s all on YouTube.
The format: Couples swap houses with friends or neighbours and redecorate a room each, with help from designers and craftsmen, then pretend to like the results. Oh all right, sometimes they actually like them.
The original: The BBC broadcast 165 episodes starting in 1996, hosted mostly by Carol Smillie, with design assistance from the likes of Linda Barker, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (who took over as presenter for the last two series) and Andy “Handy Andy” Kane.
The reboot: Channel 4 brought it back in 2021, with another six-episode series following this year.
What changed? Not much at all – to the point that new presenter Anna Richardson was also replaced by Llewelyn-Bowen for the second series (presumably he fits filming around his day job fronting the Foo Fighters). People still say “Oh my GOD”, a lot.
Can I watch it? The new Changing Rooms is available in Apps & Games > All 4. Sadly CR classic is not on BBC iPlayer; once again, YouTube is your friend.
Never Mind The Buzzcocks
The format: A comedy pop quiz. Simple, classic, boom. Phill Jupitus and Sean Hughes were the original team captains, with Bill Bailey and Noel Fielding following Hughes on the right-of-screen team.
The original: Starting in 1996, the original BBC Buzzcocks ran for 28 series and 276 episodes, including specials. It was hosted first by Mark Lamarr (supremely sarcastic), then Simon Amstell (angelically rude), then rotating guest presenters, and finally Rhod Gilbert (shouty).
The reboot: As with Fantasy Football League, it was Sky Max that rescued this from its nostalgia oubliette. It was revived in 2021 and the second new series is on right now.
What changed? Fielding is the only previous team captain to return, now joined by regulars Daisy May Cooper and Jamali Maddix, and there’s a mix of old rounds (including the intros round) and new. Greg Davies is the new host, possibly because he combines all the attributes of the previous regular presenters.
Can I watch it? New NMTB is available in Channels > Catch Up > Sky Max. The show’s YouTube channel has a multitude of clips in both new and original flavours.
The Big Breakfast
The format: Breakfast telly but set in a brightly coloured house in east London rather than a staid studio, packed with jokes, games, puns, celebrities and, er, puppets.
The original: Launched on Channel 4 in 1992 by Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin, the show was most successful when presented by Evans and Roslin, Johnny Vaughan and Denise van Outen, and Vaughan and Liza Tarbuck. Celebrity interviews were conducted on a big bed by Paula Yates, Lily Savage and Vanessa Feltz, while anarchic puppets Zig and Zag caused chaos in the bathroom. It ran on weekdays for 10 years, producing more than 2,000 episodes.
The reboot: After a one-off in 2021, The Big Breakfast returned on Saturday mornings in August 2022, now presented by AJ Odudu and Mo Gilligan, with Judi Love in the bedroom. No Zig and Zag though, sadly.
What changed? It’s a new house but feels very familiar: same theme tune, same logo, same slightly chaotic anything-could-happen atmosphere. Could it dislodge Channel 4’s weekday-morning classic sitcoms in the long run?
Can I watch it? New episodes are in Apps & Games > All 4, and there are plenty of classic clips knocking around the internet – like this one featuring a 20-year-old Tom Hardy, “training to be an actor and currently appearing in his end-of-term show”.
Ready Steady Cook
The format: Contestants bring £5 worth of ingredients, and chefs cook a meal with them. That’s it – and it was enough to make Ready Steady Cook an instant daytime TV classic for the BBC.
The original: Between 1994 and 2010 there were 1,751 regular episodes, plus 107 celebrity editions (featuring the likes of David Tennant, Kate Winslet and Twiggy) and specials. Fern Britton hosted it until 2000, when Ainsley Harriott took over, and the show helped make TV personalities of numerous chefs including Harriott, Phil Vickery and James Martin.
The reboot: It came back to BBC One in 2020 for another 50 episodes, this time presented by Rylan.
What changed? The show became consciously more sustainable, putting a focus on recyclable packaging and locally sourced seasonal ingredients, and avoiding food wastage. With Rylan as host, it was also 1,000% more arch.
Can I watch it? Unfortunately there are no episodes on BBC iPlayer. Fans will know where to look.
The all-new Fantasy Football League begins at 10pm on Thursday 29 September on Sky Max/HD (CH 122/121). Episodes will also be available in Channels > Catch Up > Sky Max.
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
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Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.
On Demand: Content available to view depends on TV package. Time limits apply for viewing chargeable On Demand content – see virginmedia.com. Once purchased, all chargeable On Demand content must be viewed within 48 hours. Premium channels and upgrades must be kept for at least 30 days.