This Time with Alan Partridge – cringes and laughter in equal measure

Steve Cougan and Susannah Fielding in This Time with Alan Partridge rating

What can you say about Steve Coogan’s, character Alan Partridge, that hasn’t been said before? Well how about he enjoys pamplemousse for breakfast. Whether he does, or not, I’ve no idea but I’m pretty sure it’s never been said before.

Steve Coogan’s comedy creation, first appeared 30 years ago, and is now back on our screens in the second series of This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1 Fridays) and, if the first episode is anything to go by, it should keep us all cringing and laughing in equal measure.

The last series saw him summoned to the producer’s office for a dressing down, after his co-host Jennie Gresham found out he’d said she would “suffocate her own grandmother to get on the front cover of the Radio Times”. In the new series opener you get the firm impression that he’s on a final warning as to his conduct, he can’t quite relax. There’s a tension between him and Jennie, and there’s a new producer on the show – “a young chap from E4”, Alan’s PA Lynn informs him. The producer has already jazzed up the theme tune, much to Alan’s annoyance.

Alan trails a segment “a piece of television I’m very proud of… When I thought of the idea, I cried.” The planned segment is where two long-lost brothers will be reunited – Partridge having presumably slept through 14 series of ‘Surprise, Surprise’ and 10 series of ‘Long Lost Family’.

Alan Partridge in a spoof One Show

Steve Coogan and Susannah Fielding in This TimePutting Alan Partridge into a spoof One Show-like magazine show was a great idea and it’s a great idea to bring it back again. He is forever living off anecdotes from the Nineties and, just like another ex-presenter of a certain morning show, the only opinions he listens to are his own. There’s a smart opening cameo from Leila Farzad as a body language expert who has to suffer her entire short segment being over-talked by Partridge. “Sharon, do feel free to jump in at any stage,” he tells her but gives her little opportunity to do so. Sound familiar?

Thanks to the co-writers Rob and Neil Gibbons, together with Coogan himself  the show has a tight knit group of well crafted characters: Susannah Fielding gives Jennie, Alan’s co-host the ability to keep smiling to camera whilst at the same time managing to display, withering disapproval;. Tim Key as  Simon Denton, in a ‘slightly expanded role but no more money’ also taking live calls or not as you will discover; there’s the excellent Lolly Adefope as Ruth Duggan, reporting via live-link whilst studiously ignoring interruptions from Partridge and addressing Susannah directly; Simon Barnaby as Sam Chatwin, the historian who now has a travel show and lastly Felicity Montagu as Lynn Benfield, Alan’s long suffering PA who has just had a new hip fitted.

The script is of course excellent but the facial nuances of the main characters are not to be missed; the aside glances, the raised eyebrows, the fixed stares at camera when Alan makes another inappropriate or crass comment. It is those moments that make This Time cringe-worthy and very funny.

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