Thursday 25 April 2019

This Time with Alan Partridge review: 'This is what truly great, enduring comedy looks like'

VIEWPOINT: Partridge Irish 'lookalike' was peak TV comedy

Steve Coogan as Martin Brennan on This Time with Alan Partridge, BBC1, Mondays, 9.30pm
Steve Coogan as Martin Brennan on This Time with Alan Partridge, BBC1, Mondays, 9.30pm

Pat Stacey

The television signal could have cut out six minutes from the end of Monday’s episode of Steve Coogan’s This Time with Alan Partridge and I’d still have spent the remainder of the evening grinning like an idiot.

Up to that point, it had been arguably the best episode so far of This Time, Coogan and co-writers the Gibbons brothers’ perfectly pitched piss-take of The One Show, with a few swipes at the idiotic Good Morning Britain for seasoning.

We’d seen Alan unwisely take a swig of fizzy water and then suffer a protracted belching fit.

We’d watched panic slowly dawn on him and co-host Jennie (the sublime Susannah Fielding) as a racist 100-year-old woman reminisced about being raised in India during the Raj and having a houseboy called ‘Brownie’ (“Curiously, he was not an Indian, he was a neee-gro!”).

We’d witnessed him try, and fail miserably, to lure amiable TV gardener Monty Don into a hidden-camera bung sting.

Best of all, at least at that stage, was Alan’s filmed report demonstrating cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Most people, Alan informed us, “use a basic head-and-torso model for their training, but I prefer a full-sized, 35kg, realistic human replica with workable joints”.

In other words, a silicone sex-doll with enormous, jiggling breasts and a full-lipped, pouting mouth, sold to him by his late friend Pate Gabbatiss.

Having hauled the doll, with some difficulty, down from his attic, Alan then proceeded to “dock” with its rubbery mouth and pump its chest to the rhythm of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust — “a pounding rock number that injects a note of realism”, which Alan much prefers to the usual CPR accompaniment: the Bee Gees’ “namby-pamby” Stayin’ Alive.

Had the show ended right there, this segment alone would have been enough to earn the episode its place among the classic Partidge moments from the character’s 25-year history on television.

But then it got even better. Alan was introduced to his Irish lookalike Martin Brennan, also played by Coogan (who has Irish blood on his father’s side), a cock-eyed, ruddy-cheeked Sligo farmer with bad teeth and a plastered-down comb-over. Martin revealed he’d only been a Partridge lookalike “since Thursday week”.

“My cousin says, ‘Martin, you look like the fella off the TV.’ I said, ‘WHO THE HELL IS THAAAT?’ ‘He’s a famous fella, used to be on the TV waaay back!’ I said, ‘WHO THE HELL IS THAAAT?’”

As Alan squirms like a worm on a fishing hook, Martin and his cousins, who’ve brought along some instruments, launch into a medley of When You Were Sweet Sixteen, Come Out Ye Black and Tans and The Men Behind the Wire.

“Oh my God!” mutters Alan to Jennie. “That was like an advert for the IRA. Who are we gonna blame? Find out who booked him and fire them.”

Coming just a day after St Patrick’s Day, this was as outrageously and exquisitely well-timed as it was blisteringly hilarious. The reaction has been hugely positive (although nobody has yet heard anything from the DUP, who last week wanted the PSNI to investigate some jokes Tommy Tiernan told in Belfast).

It was all over social media yesterday like hot sauce over chicken, and it’s destined to go down as Partridge at his absolute peak. The public reaction is all the more gratifying because of the rough ride the series has been given in some quarters.

The right-wing UK tabloids, who’ve never forgiven Coogan for having the guts to stand up to them, had the knives out after This Time lost a million viewers after its first episode.

But so what? Twenty years from now, when the current overrated, overacted current media darling Derry Girls is nothing more than a footnote, people will still be watching and talking about Partridge. This is what truly great, enduring comedy looks like.

This Time with Alan Partidge continues on BBC1 on Mondays at 9.30pm.

5 stars

Read more: Watch: Alan Partridge's Sligo farmer and Partridge lookalike singing rebel songs on the BBC


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