Steve Coogan is amongst the very best comedians of the UK, but no one can deny that Alan Partridge is his greatest character. Whether it’s his first appearances in On the Hour, his first chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You, or his latest series Mid Morning Matters, Alan Partridge has left people crying tears of joy for decades. The fact that I’ve referred to Alan as an actual person in that last sentence shows just how much I revere him.
But none of these are quite as funny as the pinnacle of Partridge: I’m Alan Partridge.
First debuting in 1997, Alan Partridge returned to our screens as the fantastically terrible DJ, who has been dropped by the BBC and is living in the Linton Travel Tavern (equidistant between London and Norwich) after a divorce from his wife.
The first series follows Alan in the hotel as he tries (often in vain) to get his career back on track. Season 2 – which wouldn’t appear until 2002 – found Alan living in a caravan outside of his under-construction house, having suffered a mysterious mental breakdown between the two seasons.
Perhaps my favourite thing about I’m Alan Partridge is its quotability. Every single episode has a plethora of hilarious quotes. Whether it’s Alan coming up with ridiculous TV show concepts (‘idea for a programme entitled “Yachting Mishaps,” – some funny, some tragic’), or using very specific brands which are unknowingly chuckle-inducing (‘he was laughing so hard he had Kenco coming out of his nostrils’), the script was always superb.
That’s not exactly surprising given the comedic juggernauts behind it. Obviously you had Steve Coogan front-and-centre, but you also had the genius of Armando Iannucci behind the scenes. Iannucci – who would later achieve global success with The Thick of It, In the Loop, and Veep – helped to create the series, write the scripts, and direct the episodes for season 2.
But the show didn’t just rely on Alan and his disastrous mishaps to get the laughs. There was a fantastic supporting cast ready to get the laughs too. The two most recognisable and memorable of these characters are likely to be Lynn Benfield (Felicity Montagu) and Michael (Simon Greenall). The former was Alan’s faithful and timid PA, whilst the latter was Alan’s Geordie best friend.
Both of these characters deserve the adoration of fans for different reasons, but both never failed to amuse when given their moments to shine. Michael’s speech about flying an apache helicopter, killing his enemies/friends and then exploding in the sea never fails to raise belly laughs.
I’m happy that Alan Partridge still graces our screens today with Midmorning Matters and other shows like Welcome to the Places of my Life, but none come as close to the greatness of I’m Alan Partridge. Alpha Papa came very, very close to matching it, but it just fell ever so short.
Whether it’s Alan piercing his foot on a spike, getting enraged by the South Africa pronunciation of ‘can’t,’ mistaking the context for U2’s Bloody Sunday whilst talking to two Irishmen, or desperately trying to escape the house of a psychotic fan, I’m Alan Partridge will be eternally funny to me.
Created by: Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Peter Baynham
Written by: Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Peter Baynham
Directed by: Dominic Brigstocke (Series 1), Armando Iannucci (Series 2)
Cast: Steve Coogan, Felicity Montagu, Simon Greenall
Runtime: 27-29 mins