Sky Atlantic delivers the best Alan Partridge of the 21st Century
Welcome to the Places of my Life is well observed, carefully constructed - and very, very funny, says Tim Glanfield
Just as Alan is a homo-sceptic (he believes “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”), I must confess a certain level of trepidation every time a new Partridge project is commissioned.
Alan’s come a long way since On the Hour, The Day Today and KMKYWAP – becoming the ultimate broadcasting tragicomic hero as his career has slid further and faster off the rails. When I’m Alan Partridge brought the Chattanooga Choo-Choo’s vulnerabilities (and the Linton Travel Tavern’s equidistance between London and Norwich) to the fore, for many Partridge purists (Partridgists, if you will) the first series of the BBC show became the pinnacle of Partridge-dom. This particular Partridge has appeared to have nested at the top of the pear tree.
But despite lengthy gaps in his broadcasting career (many of which have been explained in his recent tell-all autobiography, I, Partridge), Alan has continued to crop up on our screens throughout the years – with a second series of IAP, on stage, fronting the one-off documentary Anglian Lives and of course his foray into digital radio on the web-tastic Mid Morning Matters.
Each time, Partridgists (stick with me on this one) have drawn a deep breath; surely he will run out of steam this time? But every time, Alan’s shadowy puppeteer (who calls himself Coogan) delivers another quality programme. Perhaps none quite worthy of IAP series one, but certainly nothing that would make a male fan in the “Rump of England” Norfolk’s maddest man.
And so to 2012 – where is Alan now? Ever the televisionary, Partridge told Tony Hayers in 1997 “if you don’t do it, Sky will”… Well, it happened, and although the programme in question is sadly not Inner-City Sumo, Alan’s first foray into satellite television is something to get equally excited about.
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A Pear Tree Factual Production complete with ©Pear Tree Infographics, Welcome to the Places of My Life is Alan back where he belongs: in the driving seat (literally in the case of his Range Rover test drives) with a big budget - and on the telly.
Well observed and carefully constructed, the stand-alone piece sees Alan touring his hometown, meeting the general public - who he once famously went on record as hating – and reflecting on his life in Norwich and its rich, deep history.
Reminiscent of the KMKYWAP Christmas special in which he enjoys a private after hours shopping experience at Tandy (good action) and delivers presents to sick children at a local hospital, this is an intimate and deeply engrossing portrait of a complex Partridge. But most importantly, it’s very, very funny.
From the sub-Simon Schama insights into Norwich’s pivotal historical moments (like the night post-7pm parking charges were almost approved by the council) to Alan’s thoughts on lollipop ladies (how dare people who are barely more than retired dinner ladies stop traffic – that is the domain of the army in times of national emergency, and traffic lights), this is Alan bouncing back with a vengeance.
Laced with classic anal-attention-to-detail Partridgisms (a swimming pool’s controversial scooped roof/an argument over the presence of a differential lock in a Range Rover), and peppered with one-liners, awkward moments of Partri-prejudice, seething, festering anger and general mistrust of everyone around him – you will not regret this hour with Alan.
Sadly this is just a one-off programme because it is clearly the best Partridge of the 21st century. A bold statement you may think – well, imagine Alan driving along, and then in a moment of quiet reflection saying this:
“I was thinking about those TV commercials that were on about, I dunno, 40 years ago. It was one of those ones for Pepsi and Coke… you know, can you tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke. This morning I thought, who gives a shit – what a colossal waste of everyone’s time.”
Kiss my face! You’re all in for a treat…
With another AP special on Sky Atlantic seven days after this is screened, and the movie finally starting to get some traction… it looks like Partridgists (I told you it would catch on) have as much to get excited about in the near future as a man on a doorstep who’s about to receive a cup of beans.
All that Partridge and I didn't once say "Aha!" Oh..