The Alan Partridge Collection

11 November 2013 DVD

The Alan Partridge Collection

A massive success in the 1990s in the UK, Steve Coogan’s work as Alan Partridge has – until recently – been all but unknown in Australia. That’s thanks largely to Channel 7 picking up Coogan’s three series, then screening them unannounced at midnight on various random weeknights. That’s not a television schedule that inspires a DVD release. And while later Partridge efforts have been released on DVD here (most recently the very funny Mid Morning Matters), it’s only with the upcoming release of his feature film (also very funny) that Alan Partridge’s television work is finally getting the treatment it deserves.

Partridge first appeared as an overblown yet bungling sports reporter on BBC radio comedy series On the Hour. Two spin-offs followed: On the Hour reached television as The Day Today, where Partridge continued to struggle through interviews and outside broadcasts. While on radio, he had his own (fake) talk show: Knowing Me, Knowing You. So by the time Knowing Me, Knowing You was adapted for television, Partridge was a well-honed comedy character: upbeat yet vaguely pathetic, constantly faced with segments sliding out of his control, self-obsessed, sexist, rude and occasionally off in a world of his own.

Knowing Me, Knowing You (1994; the first series collected here) is a straightforward talk-show parody enlivened by countless tiny details, from Partridge’s simmering feud with the show’s house band to accidentally shooting dead one of his guests. His television career in tatters (it’s hard to come back from televised homicide), his next series I’m Alan Partridge saw him working on Norwich Radio hosting a chat show, dodging dead cows and crazed fans, and living in a roadside motel (or “travel tavern”). At least the second series of I’m Alan Partridge sees him living in a caravan parked on the site of his (half-built) house and in a relationship with a Ukrainian woman 14 years his junior. On the downside, he’s also had a mental breakdown involving an addiction to Toblerone.

It’s a sign of the strength of Coogan’s performance that throughout the three series – with format shifts from realistic talk show to broad sitcom – Partridge remains consistently funny and strangely endearing. Always smartly dressed, great with a catchphrase (“Smell my cheese!”) or a Bond movie re-enactment, but invariably a truly terrible media professional – he’s one of the great comedy characters. Which makes this box set hilariously essential viewing.

» The Alan Partridge Collection is out on 30 October.

Anthony Morris