Steve Coogan could be tackling Me Too, Brexit and more
25 years since Steve Coogan first graced the BBC with his timeless creation of Alan Partridge, he’s returning to the Beeb for a new six-part series called This Time With Alan Partridge.
While Partridge has been used in the past to spoof 90s talk shows and regional radio stations, this time round will turn its focus to TV magazine shows like The One Show.
Ahead of its release, here’s everything we know so far.
Where and when does the new Alan Partridge air?
While a recent trailer stated that the show was “coming soon” to BBC One, it has now been confirmed that This Time With Alan Partridge will launch on Monday 25 February at 9.30pm. It’s likely that the show will air at that same time every Monday for the following five weeks.
Coogan had previously confirmed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast last month that the show would be a six-part series, debuting at some point in February.
What’s the plot?
The six-part series sees bumbling but loveable presenter handed an unlikely career lifeline when he becomes the stand-in host of This Time, an evening weekday magazine show very much akin to The One Show.
A BBC statement reads: “This Time is the perfect shop window for a man of Alan’s gravitas and will, or should, see him finally recognised as one of the heavyweight broadcasters of his era.”
“The show itself is a heady mix of consumer affairs, current affairs, viewer interaction, highbrow interview and lightweight froth; very much the sweet spots for a man whose CV boasts over two decades of weekday local radio. And with an array of diverse subjects on the agenda, it promises the perfect fit for a man whose broadcasting style has been described as ‘equidistant between chit-chat and analysis’.”
Coogan told Marc Maron of the show’s premise: “It’s another Alan Partridge series but this one is like a magazine type show. So it’s like a sort of a morning thing with a female and male co-presenter.”
In an interview with Chris Moyles on Radio X, Coogan elaborated: “He’s parachuted in because the original presenter is unwell. So Alan’s been subbed in to the chair for that show and it starts to go his way. I think it passes muster with what we’ve done before. I watched it back in the edit and I laughed my head off. I’m not doing Alan [again] because I have to, I’m doing it because I still like it and I still find it funny.”
What topics will Partridge address?
During his WTF podcast appearance, Coogan confirmed that Partridge would tackle the MeToo movement on his show, saying: “There’s a whole episode about that. That’s such a difficult topic for anyone to talk about for anyone to say anything about, but if you’re doing a character it weirdly gives you this licence to. You can get things wrong in a big way and it’s fine because it’s him doing it.”
Coogan continued: “You’re not sanctioning or agreeing with what he’s saying, you’re saying ‘this guy gets things wrong’ so you have licence to do it. And this is the crucial thing, because you’ve got a comic character he can say stuff that you go, ‘that is so off message,’ but sometimes he can say stuff that’s true that I can’t say. So the fool can point something out that everyone secretly knows to be true.”
“What we do is we have him trying to jump on the bandwagon and say, you know, he says ‘Hey! I’ve made mistakes, I’ve stood on the side of the sidewalk and slow hand-clapped while I watch a woman try to parallel park, you know, and I feel bad about that. And now if I saw a woman doing it now, I would shout instructions’.”
“He’s sometimes ignorant and prejudiced but he tries to do the right thing. Early on we made him too predictably conservative a bit like shooting fish in a barrel – a caricature. Whereas now we do him as someone who realises that he’s got to get on message. He’s struggling to do the thing he’s supposed to.”
The show might also tackle politics, with Coogan recently saying that Partridge would become the “voice of Hard Brexit”.
“Well, because he has got a show on the BBC, we have a problem, because we have to explain why he’s a failure, but that he has a show,” Coogan told the New European. “The logic of what he is doing has to make sense. It’s conceivable, because in this age of Brexit, they [the BBC] might think they need to get in touch with the ‘Little Englanders’ they ignore.”
Coogan added: “Alan would have voted Brexit for sure. Hard Brexit, given the choice. He’s a Brexiteer because the Daily Mail told him to be. Alan’s inept but he’s also honest and well-intentioned. It’s a Little England thoughtlessness. He tries not to be sexist, then is sexist. He’s the kind of person, a bit like my dad, who tries to impress but it comes out wrong.”
Who’s starring in it?
Of course, Coogan will reprise his role of Norwich’s own Partridge, while Tim Key will return as Simon Denton (aka Sidekick Simon). Felicity Montagu will once again play Partridge’s assistant Lynn Benfield, while Susannah Fielding (The Great Indoors, Black Mirror) will take on the role of Jennie Gresham, co-host of This Time.
Is there a This Time with Alan Partridge trailer to watch?
The first trailer was released earlier in February. In it, we get a glimpse of Partridge preparing for the start of his first live recording of This Time and suffering from a bout of dry throat in the process.
Moments before going on air, Partridge frantically asks the show’s runners for a glass of water while making small talk with his new on-air partner, Jennie Gresham, who doesn’t seem to have a great idea of who her co-host is.
“You did that, what’s it called… Mid Morning Matters”, she tells Alan, before adding, “I’ve watched the odd episode….loved what I saw”, to which Partridge replies: “Well, it’s a radio show.”
You can watch the full trailer beneath:
What else has been said about the new Alan Partridge show?
Speaking to NME last year, Armando Iannucci said that he had been involved with the new Partridge series “very tangentially, in that I opt in and out of a few writing meetings”, but that he had been busy with other projects.
Of what to expect from This Time With Alan Partridge, Iannucci said: “Steve [Coogan] with Rob and Neil Gibbons are so good together. The Gibbons brothers are so good – they’ve understood Alan and given him a whole new, fresh lease of life. The ideas I’ve heard are very, very funny. Part of me knows some of what’s coming up and another part of me is just looking forward to being a viewer. I do that Alan must not fuck it up. Second chances like this do not come along all that often.”
Iannucci also spoke about the growth of Partridge as a character: “He is that sort of character that everyone knows but no one can identify with themselves. No one will say ‘I’m like Alan’. We also haven’t really flogged him to death. We take him out of his box every four years on average. We don’t do 12 series of something one year after another. That gap has meant that in our heads, Alan has grown and developed so we can move him on to the next thing. There’s always something new about him every time. That combination of the familiar and the new is why we’ve not grown sick of him over what is fundamentally a quarter of a century.”
“When we started Alan he was quite big. On Knowing Me, Knowing You he was making jokes about the media. Now, he’s grown more comfortable in his own skin, is less anxious and worried about what people think of him. Now he’s convinced that people enjoy him, but he just needs to convince the decision-makers. It’s nice that he’s become a bit more rounded, and I don’t mean in terms of Steve’s stomach. He’s less of a caricature of a type and is now a living person.”