Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

*** Contains spoilers ***
The ham with the chat is back.

Which is no surprise given the long and diverse history that the fictional Norfolk DJ Alan Partridge (played with excruciating tension by Steve Coogan) has had.

He started out over 20 years ago in 1991 on BBC Radio 4's spoof news show On The Hour, which presently transferred to the TV as the sadly timeless The Day Today. The news items in these sketch shows were often beyond surreal, and Abba-fan Partridge's deadly matter-of-fact voice would work well when talking about how, for example, his recently killed-off wife had returned, now putrefying.

Morris: "And before you go Alan, I gather that your wife rose from the dead this weekend?"

Partridge: "I was wondering how long it would take for that one to get round! (embarrassed chuckle) Yeah I was doing a spot of decorating and er, right like a bolt out of the blue, err there was my wife y'know with a, couple of other members of the-the living dead."

Morris: "Any smell involved?"

Partridge: "Quite a bit I can tell you..."

Well, no wonder their marriage dissolved...

After that we had his chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You / Yule, (again contradictory versions on both radio and TV) which featured a live studio audience who would proceed to break the illusion somewhat by laughing at all the dead-pan bits. Well, if the illusion wasn't already broken by the way all his guests looked so similar to each other. (same cast)

Then came two whole TV seasons of the more traditional sitcom I'm Alan Partridge. This fleshed out not just Alan as a person, but also his whole surrounding universe. In contrast to how surreally he had begun, by now Alan had become one lone madman stirring up an otherwise mundane world. (usually)

Since then, he's made about a bazillion other specials, webisodes (most notably Mid Morning Matters) and guest-appearances, until now he even has a big-screen movie out, if only just another cheapy from BBC 'Films'.

By now he's developed so much depth to his character that it's hard to reconcile either his early experiences with his undead wife, or the sitcom style of plot here. At this stage in his career he remains a talk radio DJ, tonight dealing with a gun-toting ex-employee holding everyone at the station hostage. Like I said, sitcom plot.

In a backslide towards to his earlier carefree days, little attempt has been made here to portray either standard police procedures, or radio ones, resulting in a catalogue of situations which are arguably more akin to sketches than a group of real people in danger. For example, as well as the police's decision to send Alan in to talk to the gunman in the first place, there are thousands of further members of the public put at risk just outside the building. The radio station would never have continued broadcasting, and when it does, Alan and his co-presenter face each other to chat on-air by turning away from their respective microphones! Were they using each other's ones from a distance? This is a fun film, but the realism built up in his last few series is not really being embraced here.

Given this step back towards the canon's earlier more fantastical outlook, as the seige is broadcast live on BBC News 24, it's a just a minor shame that some of his old co-presenters from The Day Today aren't anywhere to be seen. Ted Maul would have been in his element.

And yet, the strength of this film lies more with the Partridge himself than the environment in which he's flapping. He seems to have lost the flat rudeness of his middle years, and now just be a funny presenter made even more incompetent by the highly pressured situation he's in. I loved his reaction to the gunman falling asleep in front of him! I was less impressed with his repeatedly leaving and re-entering the building at will, along with how easy this made it look for the hostages to do likewise.

Despite a very empty cinema tonight, there was quite a lot of laughter from the few of us (maybe 20 including Perry and myself) present, and I think we all probably went home having thoroughly enjoyed the preceding 90 minutes. Good recommendation Bish.

For me it was a delight to see the movie remaining so consistent with the storyline's history too - there were no end of characters from his last full TV series ten years ago, and all played by the same actors, as they should be. Shame about Abba's ongoing reluctance to licence their music for use in films though.

After a period of shunning playing the part, actor Steve Coogan now appears keen to keep the character going for however long his viewers want him to. Where will the Partridge fly to next? I'm predicting America.

Wherever, it'll be interesting to see what challenges his chat, and his world, have to roll with next.

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