Monday, 1 April 2013

A is for Alan Partridge

Ever since his first appearance on the peer-less The Day Today, Steve Coogan's creation, the sports-pundit, turned television personality and now local radio DJ, Alan Partridge, has been one of my favourite comedy characters of all time. I don't know whether it is the carefully crafted writing, the carefully nuanced performances or the all-too real scenarios in which we find our anti-hero that sells this character so well. What I do know is, though, for me, Partridge never fails to be a sliced of fried gold.

British television has had a knack for making stars of the most-surprising and least palatable of media figures - Piers Morgan or Richard Madeley anyone? Indeed, as the excellent work done by Accidental Partridge on Twitter proves, we are surrounded by real-life 'Alans'. Perhaps it is seeing the same embarrassing and unprofessional encounters of such 'pros' writ large in Partridge's un-nerving ability to antagonise and offend that makes the character so engrossing.

The real testament to the quality of writing, performance and direction in all things Alan is that this arrogant, impolite, bigoted, small-minded, un-professional and buffoonish character is still somehow the hero of the piece. As an audience, we groan when he asks grieving relatives at a funeral if they have a spare battery for his phone, we wince at his dis-regard for the grief of his ever-loyal PA Lynne and we cringe at his attempts to be blokey with Michael. However, despite all this, we cheer when Alan, somewhat surprisingly, has impressed the new Commissioning Editor at the BBC - even if this is a short-lived triumph. It is even quite moving to see him stand by, watching thousands of copies of his autobiography get pulped, building further the suggestions throughout the series that he has far from 'bounced back'.

For many of my generation, throwing an Alan quote into a conversation at the right time is something of an art-form. There is a Partridge quote for all occasions and a day rarely goes by when I don't find myself dropping an Alanism in to a relatively normal conversation. I have been known, on many occasions, to allow my love of the ever-quotable Partridge to interfere with the most serious of scenarios. Once I've heard 'Alan' in my head, I simply cannot help it - I'm helpless. I've ruined dates, sniggered at job interviews, smirked during business meetings and, perhaps most regrettably, had to cover a snort of laughter at a funeral with a hearty sob when an Alan Attack hits.

Perhaps part of my enduring fascination with this character is the times when we as an audience find some level of sympathy or empathy for Alan's plight. As a massive geek, I often find myself desperate to correct really quite unimportant inaccuracies about my favourite subjects when talking to the 'not we' of fandom. Whilst I'm not proud of this, there are times, frankly, when I just want people to stop getting Bond wrong.

David wrote an article last year for the site CultBritannia about the depressingly accurate foresight shown during Partridge's attempts to be commissioned. Perhaps he is, after all, a man ahead of his time? How we laughed at the prospect of 'cooking in prison' as a concept for a TV show in 1997. How we wept when sweary chef Ramsay made Alan's dreams come true...

The new Partridge film is due out in August... cashback!

I'm a newcomer to the A-Z Challenge but have enjoyed reading other people's posts in previous rounds. A big thank you to Arlee Bird, founder of the challenge for his hard work on establishing the tradition!


  1. I don't know if I should be ashamed or proud, but I have never watched Alan Partridge!

  2. Hi Sarah - great to meet you and that you've joined us in the A-Z ..

    I don't really know much about Alan Partridge - but I'm sure your memories will raise a few laughs ... Cheers Hilary

  3. Hi Sarah! Great tribute to Alan! Well-written and thoughtful! Thanks for stopping by my blog this morning! Happy A-to-Z 2013! ~Angela, Whole Foods Living

  4. I just checked out a few Partridge videos on YouTube. Hilarious stuff. I can see how thinking of him can provoke laughter at some very odd moments.

  5. I just cant help but think that the movie is a BAD idea. Some things should be left alone I think. Alan is one of them, just as Red Dwarf is another. Good post though AhA!