Alan Partridge: Still Jurassic Park After 25 Years
I can’t imagine ever not finding Alan Partridge funny.
From his humble beginnings as a sports reporter on Radio 4’s On The Hour right through to his brilliant transition to the silver screen, the King of Anglia has been a consistent source of hilarity and it’s a well which doesn’t look like running dry anytime soon.
That’s because Alan Partridge is more than just a fictional character, he’s an amalgamation of thousands of men of a certain generation and the physical embodiment of an increasingly outdated but no less prevalent way of thinking. He is constantly recognisable, both in ourselves and others and whether you’re Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Keys or just somebody who’s found themselves idly wandering the aisles of B&Q in search of tungsten-tipped screws of a Saturday afternoon, there’s a little bit of Alan in all of us.
And wherever you go in this country, you’ll find a little bit of Alan in many places too. Motorway service stations, owl sanctuaries, the Little Chef and the pages of What Car? magazine are just a few of the corners of the British isles with which the name Alan Partridge has become synonymous.
2016 marks a quarter of a century of Alan and over the years we’ve watched him grow older (but not necessarily wiser) in real time. His evergreen hairstyle has greyed at the temples, his waistline has expanded, his career has nosedived and his worldview has altered slightly but he’s still the Alan we know and love, and he’s never going to change.
This week, North Norfolk’s premier radio disk-jockey returned to our screens for the second series (up yours Tony Hayers!) of Mid Morning Matters, the voyeuristic behind the scenes glimpse of his radio show which began as a web-series before being snaffled up by Sky Atlantic in 2012.
Catching up with Alan again always feels like being reunited with an old friend. An embarrassing, un-politically correct friend you laugh at more than you laugh with, but a friend nonetheless and one who happens to be on tip top form this time around.
Alan’s back at North Norfolk Digital and life is good. All that unpleasantness from the Alpha Papa movie appears to be a thing of the past and he’s back doing what his does best with his sidekick Simon (played by the excellent Tim Key) in tow. His relationship with his “bird” Angela (Monica Dolan) is still going strong and he’s possibly never before seemed so comfortable in his own skin.
In episode one, which aired on 16th February, Alan and Simon discussed their dream dinner party guests before Alan interviewed the leader of the North Norfolk Hunt (in which he refers to the Countryside Alliance as “what the National Trust would be if it grew a pair”) and debuted his original radio play (“I’m not John Inverdale but I’ve wanted to be a playwriter for ages”) to mixed reviews.
We also learned that the station has a new Managing Director, Craig, upon whom Alan has a sizeable man-crush, describing him as “20% Steve Jobs, 10% Jesus, 50% Peter Sissons and a splash of Gandhi”.
Later in the series, Alan will receive the world’s first on-air mid morning massage, coax his former Radio Norwich colleague Dave Clifton into talking about what a dosser he was during his battle with alcoholism and attempt to clear up a Pans People-related incident he fears could be of interest to Operation Yew Tree before, in a surprising turn of self-awareness, bestowing upon himself the dreaded title of ‘Berk of the Week’.
For a man who once struggled to differentiate between evolution and revolution, Mid Morning Matters has been and continues to be an excellent vehicle (more a Rover 800 than a Mini Metro, that’s for sure) for the new and, some might say, improved Alan Partridge.
His was a franchise (a word you sense he’d be delighted to find his name in the same sentence as) which lay dormant for many years following the culmination of I’m Alan Partridge until twin brothers Rob and Neil Gibbons joined the writing staff and were able to breathe new life into proceedings.
Speaking to the Radio Times in 2012, Neil Gibbons said: “We were fans of Partridge but not obsessives. We got the character and we’d seen it all, but we didn’t have quotes cluttering up space in our heads. We weren’t duplicating the rhythm and language people had heard already because we didn’t know it well enough to do that.”
It was they, along with Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci, who successfully rebooted Alan with the first series of Mid Morning Matters which was followed by Alan’s incredible 87,000-word memoir I, Partridge and the long-awaited 2013 feature film Alpha Papa.
“He’s evolved,” said Neil. “When we came up with the idea of Mid Morning Matters, you suddenly had to strip away anything too farcical and focus on the inner workings. He’s on the up again! He’s working at a station where he gets to call more of the shots. That’s where he comes alive, in a radio station. He’s having a bit of a second wind.”
Alan Partridge’s Mid Morning Matters continues every Monday at 10pm on Sky Atlantic, or the whole series can now be viewed in its entirety by those with access to Dixons…sorry, Sky Box Sets.