Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is a man with such a proficient ability to inject even the most banal of situations with toe-curling awkwardness that it borders on being a talent. A much-loved character that fans have followed over a range of TV series, specials, radio plays and his I, Partridge autobiography, this latest instalment (and the first big-screen outing for the character) is an unusually high-concept affair which makes the most of its delicious conceit.
Having schemed desperately (but unsuccessfully) for his old TV hosting job, Partridge is still clinging onto his local celebrity status, revelling in the soul-crushingly inane show where he tackle questions such as “What’s the worst kind of monger? Fish, Rumour, Iron or War?”.
When the station is taken over by a corporation intent on rebranding the backwater North Norfolk Digital as a vibrant youth station, he barely survives the cull. The upheaval sees the ageing Pat (Colm Meaney) axed, a decision he responds to by returning to a station party with a gun and taking the staff hostage. By dumb luck, Alan finds himself outside the station as the siege begins, and as the only one Pat trusts, he finds himself pushed into being the go-between between Pat and the police tasked with ending the siege. Simultaneously fearful and puffed up with importance, he soon starts to think that being the face of the siege (or “siege face” in his words) could be just the tonic his forever ailing career needs.
Among those trapped at the station are the hapless Sidekick Simon (the hilarious Tim Key) and Angela (Monica Dolan), a co-worker so socially inept and desperate that she seems a plausible love interest for Alan. It also wouldn’t be a Partridge show without Alan’s long-suffering assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), who is on hand to massage Alan’s fragile ego and generally be bossed around and underappreciated.
It’s interesting to see how the character of Partridge has softened over the years. Initially a misanthropic buffoon with the soul of a parking station, Partridge now seems completely eccentric and devoid of self-awareness but an essentially sympathetic figure who you actually cheer for as he finds himself in way over his head.
The lighter tone hasn’t led to a lack of laughs though — whether singing along to Roachford, back-announcing his soft rock favourites with baffling non-sequiturs, losing his trousers while managing to lock himself out of the under-siege building or completely misjudging every single conversation he enters, the painfully funny Partridge remains exhibit A in the argument for Coogan’s status as a comic genius.
While the pitch-perfect slice-of-life series Mid-Morning Matters with Alan Partridge remains the high water mark of the now sprawling Partridge oeuvre, Alpha Papa is a beautifully written and performed work, likely to delight both long-term fans and introduce a broader audience to one of British comedy’s most inspired creations.
Originally appeared in: Concrete Playground