Sunday, April 07, 2019

We need to talk about Alan

As the dust settles on the latest instalment of Alan, it's time to pass judgement on This Time, his welcome return to the big time (Sky Atlantic doesn't count, as good as Mid Morning Matters was on occasion). In a nutshell, I find it hard to believe that anyone could consider it as anything less than a triumph.

Every time new Partridge product appears, I'm essentially looking for two things (besides the obvious - major laughs and endlessly quotable comments): (1) details that flesh out his character and personal backstory more, and (2) scenes that will comfortably sit alongside the very best in the Partridge canon.

On the first point, I was pretty much satisfied in the very first episode with the tale of his grandad and the candy floss, and there was also the later detail that he had found the opportunity to (temporarily) reconnect with daughter Denise because trialling a vegetarian diet reduced his time spent at stool.

On the second, there were almost too many to mention: the handwashing demonstration (Episode 1), the report on corporal punishment (Episode 3), performing CPR on a sex doll in time with Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust' (Episode 4), his allergic reaction to oysters (Episode 5) and his experimentation with the moveable shelves in the British Library (Episode 6). But I think it's safe to say that Martin Brennan's appearance at the end of Episode 4 will rank as the series' high point. Hopefully that won't be the last we see of Sligo's premier Partridge impersonator.

With the Gibbons brothers on board, there seems to be increasing attention paid to Coogan's pronunciation of the words and delivery of the lines, while an added delight was the beautifully observed parody of TV tropes. Where Mid Morning Matters left off (shot from the perspective of a studio webcam), This Time picked up, frequently showing its star and his co-host Jennie Gresham (played superbly by Susannah Fielding) before recording began or temporarily off air mid-programme - with Alan's long-suffering personal assistant Lynn regularly emerging out of the shadows, cast in the role of a sinister Lady Macbeth. This care and concern for how it was shot and the merciless skewering of the bland, superficial early-evening magazine show (hello The One Show!) inevitably recalled The Day Today and Brass Eye - and arguably took Alan to new heights.

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