It’s no exaggeration to say that Alan Partridge’s continued presence at the BBC is a bit of miracle. This is the man, after all, who seemingly severed his relationship with the corporation when he mercilessly shoved a wheel of cheese into the face of Commissioning Editor Tony Hayers. And yet, Steve Coogan’s most famous comedy creation returns to the Beeb this week with series two of This Time With Alan Partridge – honouring us with a gag-filled episode that proves exactly why they still haven’t gotten rid of him.
We find Alan in exactly the same position as before, enjoying an unexpected late-career resurgence as co-host of the weekday magazine programme that takes more than a smidge of inspiration from The One Show. But with Alan at the helm, alongside amicable Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding), it takes no time for Norfolk’s most inept broadcaster to sink hideously out of his depth.
We’re barely two seconds in before the nauseating image of Alan trimming his nose hair pops up on screen. It’s unpleasant, but needs must as Partridge prepares to walk onto set, as ever, seeking reassurance from long-suffering PA Lynn Benfield (Felicity Montagu). “Left nose? Right nose? It’s like bracken,” he remarks. Similarly awkward but perfectly Partridge is his actual arrival on air, which sees him attempting to deliver the kind of slick walk-and-talk routine that Aaron Sorkin would be proud of. The end result, unsurprisingly, is anything but.
As for the rest of the first episode, co-writers Neil and Rob Gibbons serve up more of the same by placing Alan in a series of segments that show off his consistently painful interactions with the wider world at large. In one stand-out section, Alan is deployed to a monastery where he somehow manages to enrage a silent order of monks. Similarly irritable is Alan’s co-host Jennie Gresham, whose smiley exterior belies a deep-seated – and growing – resentment for her presenting partner.
Sharp, funny and toe-curlingly cringeworthy in the way that only Alan can be, This Time‘s return is a comforting continuation of the Norfolk celeb’s recent revival. So how long until he messes it all up?
- In response to Jennie’s suggestion that the show cover the “full spectrum of human life”: “From aqua aerobics to abortion!”
- After a young viewer asks to see Jennie’s dressing room: “The only way to see inside a lady’s dressing room at the BBC would be to get a time machine and set the co-ordinates for the 1970s!”
- “I love how you’ve got into bullet points, Lynn. I knew you’d love them if you tried them”
- “It’s hook jacket, tuck thumb and amble!” – Alan explaining the best way to enter a party to a body language expert
- “Should I ever buy a Japanese car? Should I ever buy a Korean car? Should I ever buy a Chinese car? Noooo, in my opinion”