Has there ever been a comedy character so consistently on form in every medium in which he appears as Alan? On radio, on TV, on stage, in print, in audiobook form, and on the big screen; Alan (Steve Coogan) never fails, because he always fails. This Time With Alan Partridge, which finally aired on BBC1 last night, is no exception.
Filling in to cover illness on magazine show This Time, Alan Partridge is the perfect fit beside new co-host Jenny Gresham (Susannah Fielding). In a studio that’s slightly too spaceous, with sofas a slight too bright and slightly too far apart, the likes of BBC Breakfast and The One Show are perfectly emulated here, to hilarious effect.
But it isn’t as simply as that. When the show cuts to the kind of VT mini-films – the bread and butter if the likes of Brandreth (Giles), Fogle (Ben) and Hammond (not Richard) – we stay in the studio and see Alan panic. Lynn pops in to give Alan a pep talk, while his co-presenter nicks his barely appropriate gags for the upcoming live segment-to-camera. There’s already a rivalry, and I can’t wait to see that develop. Sidekick Simon has somehow landed a role manning the social media wall, badly. Poor Simon.
All the expected ticks of the format are here: crunching gear-changes in tone, awkward stumbling over the autocue, Alan’s nerves about being on live TV again (after all these years!) are cringe-inducing. This could be the best home for Alan since I’m Alan Partridge series one dumped him in a travel tavern on his own.
I sat for half an hour and laughed out loud throughout. The jokes come at machine gun regularity and they’re good jokes. I can’t write this look at the show without mentioning Alan’s Clunt/Fluck mix up and the F-Bomb kicker which is unblinkingly believable in the age of politicians called Hunt.
Alan is well and truly big in the back time with This Time. Sure, he’s only covering while the regular host is off sick but I hope he finds the means to stick around; a timely death, maybe? One thing’s for sure: this AP Fanboy will be there, cheering Alan on from behind cringe-contorted fingers.
Mondays. 9:30pm. BBC1. You’d be an idiot to miss it.