TV Review: This Time With Alan Partridge, the finale – cringingly good and a cameo for Norwich Police
PUBLISHED: 17:16 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:34 02 April 2019
The return of Alan Partridge: was the new series a hit or a miss?
Frankly, when Piers Morgan slated This Time with Alan Partridge and said that it should be pulled from the TV schedules, we knew that the BBC were on to a winner: whatever Piers Morgan hates, anyone rational loves, it’s like a quick form of good taste shorthand.
That said, many viewers did jump ship with Piers (we can only hope that if they were washed up on a desert island, they made it a dessert island and ate him first) with many claiming that this series has been too tame. The finale, however, was anything but as Alan’s true self came to the surface: Alan Unleashed.
The uncomfortable alliance between presenters Alan and Jennie was blown to pieces as the latter confronted him about an overheard conversation in which he was discussing her with a colleague. “You told Gavin that I would suffocate my own grandmother to get on the front of the Radio Times,” she said to him, before playing him the recorded conversation.
A free-for-all fight saw the simmering resentment of the past five episodes come to a furious, frothing head as the pair traded insults which ranged from “you stomp about like Carol Thatcher” to “this is all because I don’t fancy you, isn’t it?” and “how are you even on this show? Did you win a competition or something?” Brilliant.
But just as the countdown to transmission began, Jennie simply walked off set, leaving Alan to present alone – the pumped-up bravado of his combative argument was immediately deflated and he floundered in sheer panic as he realised just what he was facing.
With no option, he ropes in Sidekick Simon (Tim Fey) to take her place and co-present while the studio races to change the autocue announcements which reference Jennie.
First up is fashion guru Tommy presenting a segment on women’s fashion, showcasing a range of skirts and talking to Alan and Simon about womenswear: cue a tsunami of inappropriateness flecked with blatant offensiveness with a side-serving of utter cluelessness.
While Lynn (Felicity Montagu) texted “fashion words” to Simon, Alan talked about the benefits of adjustable waistbands for when women were “ballooning” at “certain times of the month” and described a model wearing a stripy skirt as looking “like she’s been squeezed out of a giant tube of Colgate lady paste”.
Another garment brought out similar lyricism, making him describe the model wearing it thus: “Yes I’m a whirling dervish, yes I like to go to the office but I also like to sit on a park bench eating Ryvita looking sad”.
As Tommy signed off, he reminded the pair that his models were “real women”, adding: “You know what I say to my girls? ‘Dance like no one’s watching’” Alan replied: “I like to dance like no one’s listening…” to which Simon quipped: “you certainly broadcast like no one’s watching!”
We even travelled back to Alan’s own stomping ground of Norfolk, for a self-satisfied, over-produced segment about a recent run-in with police on the A140 “on my way to eat chips with a Ukranian woman I’m helping out”. Pulled over for speeding, Alan is taken to the station when he refuses to give a breath test.
“He thinks he’s Vin Diesel,” jokes the arresting officer, “I’d rather be Vin Diesel than Vin-dictive,” Alan says, which falls on deaf ears.
With a good-looking actor playing the role of Alan – including some awfully awkward shower scenes featuring a six-pack flashing ‘Alan’ staring at actual Alan – we discover that Partridge has managed to escalate a simple road-side check into a much larger incident, just because he is furious at being stopped.
Released without charge hours later, he compares his trial to that which Jesus faced: “It may be a dull, dank Norfolk night to everyone else, but to me, right now in this moment, it tastes as sweet as sherry.”
There were more painful segments: Alan somehow managed to come out of an interview with a Nigerian conman as the villain of the piece and there was a brilliant piece where he visited a sleep clinic and was filmed as he slept in technicolour bum-scratching detail, his night terrors visible to all.
Speaking to an expert afterwards (“You took a peep at my sleep, what did you reap?”) he summarily dismisses her when he asks her about watching people when they’re asleep and she answers: “I could harm them, but choose not to…” to go to phone-in about dreams, which is hijacked by a viewer in a perilous situation, to which Alan offers sage advice: “Eat the moss.”
As the credits rolled, we heard Alan called to attend a meeting with the BBC’s director general, who was sitting next to Jennie – “could I have a glass of water, please?” book-ended this triumphant return to the small screen for Norfolk’s most famous export after Turkey Twizzlers.
One of my favourite parts of this new series has been the sofa exchanges with roving reporter Ruth Duggan (Lolly Adefope) who steadfastly refuses to agree with Alan about ANYTHING, even her own happiness following her engagement and there have been other stand-out moments: the Irish lookalike, the swollen mouth after eating shellfish, the Fluck/Clunt bit, the unmasking of the hacktivist, Alan’s hands-free toilet drill, Alan arriving in a Rolls Royce “full of fizzed-up squealers”, his guide to hitting children…there are too many ‘best bits’.
This has been ultimate Partridge: the banterific chat from Mid Morning Matters, the painful interviews from Knowing Me, Knowing You, the self-indulgent documentary style film-making from Scissored Isle and even the biting comment from The Day Today, still my favourite comedy of all time.
It’s nuanced and clever, relentless and hilarious, satire at the top of its game. Steve Coogan and his writers Neil and Rob Gibbons are comic giants and Piers Morgan was wrong: and neither of these statements will come as a surprise.