This Time With Alan Partridge (BBC1)

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.


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Leap Into 2019 With Me

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For Christmas I got the Quantum Leap Collection DVD box set. Every episode of everyone’s second- or third-favourite time travel TV show. We began at the beginning, my wife and I, and I’ll be talking a little about the first series in my first post of the new year. I’ll be talking about the subsequent series as I finish them in 2019.

I’m tweeting briefly about each episode as I watch them so be sure to follow me over there.

But the neat will be here. If my wry look at an old late-80s/early-90s sci fi classic floats your boat, then Leap into 2019 with me…

Yes. Leap. Because Quantum Leap. So, Leap. Yes.

Doctor Who, Series Eleven – On Reflection

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Series Eleven has finished and there’s a New Year’s Special around the corner. What better time to take a (very brief) look at each episode of Jodie Whittaker’s first outing as the Doctor? A warning going in, or a spoiler really, I suppose: I loved this series. If you’re here for a bitching session, you’re wasting your time. I’ve given my honest opinions on each episode of the series, but they’re largely positive, save those on one or two episodes. So, shall we?

THE WOMAN WHO FELL TO EARTH

I mean, as opening episodes go, this one was up there. I immediately fell in love with Jodie as the Doctor and while her companions would take a week or two to grow on me completely, Yaz was instantly likeable. Tim Shaw proved to be an effective villain, for my money. There really wasn’t much here that I felt the need to complain about. A barnstorming introduction to what would turn out to be a greatly enjoyable series.

THE GHOST MONUMENT

Okay. So episode two was very much an Episode Two. Inconsequential and largely lacking in “oomph”, but I really liked the raglike Remnants and, for all their genericism, the Sniper Bots looked great. On reflection, this one sits at the lower end of my ranked list for the series, redeemed almost exclusively by the TARDIS reveal in the closing moments. I enjoyed it when it aired, but there’s much better to come.

ROSA

And that’s how you do a historical episode of a time travel adventure show! An exceptional outing that is at once educational, emotional, powerful, psychologically affecting and fun. Jodie IS the Doctor here, with predecessors forgotten, as should be the case when any new Doctor comes along. It’s a rare thing to find an episode of this show that is important as well as entertaining. Plus, it pissed off so many crybaby alt-right types just by existing. Beautiful.

ARACHNIDS IN THE UK

I loved this one. Others, it seems, didn’t. Riddled with plot holes, but then when did that ever spoil anyone’s enjoyment of Doctor Who? Giant spiders beneath a posh hotel in Sheffield. A proper, old-school creature feature. We also get to say hello to Yaz’s family here, for the first and only time, and I loved them too. I’ve watched this episode loads of times because it’s big and daft and creepy and I like it, so there.

THE TSURANGA CONUNDRUM

Wow. This one divided opinion, eh? Residing at the bottom of most people’s list (mainly due to the weird, cute monster, Pting), this episode sits squarely in the middle of my ranking. It’s a classic “Gremlins on the Wing” story, but in space. I can’t be the only one to find Pting even more threatening for being so adorably cute-looking? I hate stark white shiny spaceships, but I’ll forgive this one its design disappointments for being daring with its weird alien threat.

DEMONS OF THE PUNJAB

Utterly spellbinding, totally heartbreaking and absolutely gorgeous to look at. The heavy-handed emotion in this one does exactly what it’s meant to do; it makes you cry. Another powerful episode. The historicals were where this series really stood out. Of my Top Five episodes of the series, three were historicals and one was set in modern-day Norway. But we’ll get to that. Demons of the Punjab broke my heart. I love it.

KERBLAM!

Urgh. Okay. It’s fine. It’s fun. It’s got a really muddy message, which never quite lands. It looks like something we’d have been given in RTD’s first series, which is why most people put this at the top of their lists. It’s at the bottom of mine (and the only episode I’ve seen less than three times) because it’s so reminiscent of what’s come before. We have dozens of episodes that look and feel like this one. I’m more interested in the newness this year.

THE WITCHFINDERS

Another historical, another episode that shines for it. Witches, alien mud, a big camp King. Huge fun and actually a very sensitive and informative look at the witch trials of history. I sort of wish, of all of the episodes this series, that this one was a two-parter. I think it would be even better for having been given a bit of space to breathe in its final act. As it stands, it still makes my Top Five with ease. I loved it and didn’t expect to.

IT TAKES YOU AWAY

Where to begin?! I ADORE this episode because it is utterly and ridiculously unusual and original. The bad guy is a lonely sentient universe who takes the shape of a frog. An exploration of trust and love and grief that works so well, even when it shouldn’t. For my money, this is one of the most experimental episodes in the show’s long history. I think the risks paid off. It will be looked back on as something special (once people get over the frog).

THE BATTLE OF RANSKOOR AV KOLOS

Another nice episode. A small-scale finale (despite the global jeopardy) that is more about overcoming the urges of vengeance and avoiding becoming that which you despise than it is about saving worlds and defeating monsters. I think both Tim Shaw and the Sniper Bots’ come across in a more threatening and dangerous light in this one than they did in their introductory episodes. A worthy close to a great new series.

My favourite episode was It Takes You Away, not least for its sheer oddness. My least favourite was Kerblam! because I felt like I’d already seen that episode a bunch of times before. But it’s important to note that I enjoyed every episode. I’m known for my generous opinions on Doctor Who, so take it with a pinch of salt, but I wouldn’t give any episode this series less than a 5/10. And one of them scored a high 9.5. I adored this series.

I immediately found myself engaged emotionally and fully invested in the characters. Jodie Whittaker might just be my favourite Doctor. I love her gentle, humble approach to the role. We’ve had fifty years of bombastic men yelling into the sky – not least in the last ten years – so it’s very refreshing to be given something genuinely new. She’s the Doctor, every inch of her, but she’s her own Doctor. And I can’t wait to spend New Year’s Day with her.

Doctor Who: Resolution airs on New Year’s Day.