I'm Alan Partridge series 1 - Looking back at the greatest Partridge series to date

Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge (BBC)
Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge, back at the BBC after 25 years. (BBC)

Later this year Alan Partridge‘s return to the top will finally be complete when he rejoins the BBC gravy train after 25 long years in the wilderness. The BBC has promised that his new show, This Time With Alan Partridge, will be a One Show-esque magazine programme offering:

“A heady mix of consumer affairs, current affairs, viewer interaction, highbrow interview and lightweight froth.“

For fans of Norwich’s finest, this next step in Alan’s evolution is now tantalisingly close to being released. Nevertheless, only time will tell where this new series ranks among the great pantheon of his illustrious output.

Every Partridge offering has its fair share of memorable moments, but some are undoubtedly stronger than others. The cream of the crop however is surely the faultless first series of I’m Alan Partridge.

Alan’s status

Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge on Radio Norwich (BBC)
Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge on Radio Norwich (BBC)

Series 1 of I’m Alan Partridge granted us our first look at the man himself away from the spotlight. Devoid of all showbiz glamour, this was simply the real man behind the TV personality. Prior to this we’d only known him as a presenter and a corny chat show host. Now we got to see his regular day to day existence, and it was quite the eye-opener.

The series finds Alan at a low ebb. In other Alan outings, we see him on top (Knowing Me Knowing You), more accepting of his current standing (Mid Morning Matters) or on the cusp of a return to stardom (Alpha Papa). However series one of I’m Alan Partridge finds him at more or less at rock bottom. His wife has left him, the BBC has shunned him and he’s roundly detested by everyone but Michael and Lynn. He’s now living as a nomad in a Travel Tavern and working an early morning shift on Norwich local radio. It’s a long fall from the top of the TV tree.

One of the reasons this scenario makes for such entertaining viewing is that it provides us with a pure, unfiltered look at Alan’s real personality. We glimpse the true extent of his condescending and narrow-minded demeanour, those rougher edges having not yet been smoothed over. The more tolerant and slightly more modern side of Alan is still nowhere to be found.

Full of unwavering self-belief, Alan steadfastly refuses to accept that things are anything but rosy. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s the start of a brave new world for our Alan.

The cast

Steve Coogan, Simon Pegg and Peter Baynham choose their weapons in I’m Alan Partridge. (BBC)
Steve Coogan, Simon Pegg and Peter Baynham choose their weapons in I’m Alan Partridge. (BBC)

As well as peak Alan, this series is also blessed with an incredible supporting cast. Felicity Montagu’s Lynne, Simon Greenhall’s Michael and Phil Cornwell’s Dave Clifton may reappear throughout Alan’s career path, but this is where all three are at their finest.

There are numerous other recurring and one-off gems to be found amongst the prestigious cast-list too. In the infamous Travel Tavern, itself a recurring reminder of Alan’s fall from grace, Susan (Barbara Durkin), Sophire (Sally Phillips) and Ben (James Lance) all play their parts perfectly. The trio do their best to tolerate Alan’s rudeness while at the same time barely concealing their immense dislike for him.

Also along for the ride are Julia Deakin’s chain-smoking divorcee Jill, Peter Baynham and Simon Pegg’s boating film makers, Chris Morris’ irate Farmers’ Union rep, Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews’ Irish network execs and Kevin Eldon’s racist hotel guest. Some of the greatest performances in Partridge history are crammed in to this brief six episode run.

Classic Episodes

Steve Coogan smells the cheese as Alan Partridge. (BBC)
Steve Coogan smells the cheese as Alan Partridge. (BBC)

The likes of Watership Alan and To Kill a Mocking Alan are among the greatest UK sitcom episodes of all time. They are near perfect blasts of half hour comedy delving into the twisted mindset of one man and his delusions of grandeur. They deliver Alan at his very worst, full of ignorance and narcissism, just the way we like him.

In just 6 episodes we get Alan’s ill-fated meeting with Irish executives over breakfast, his ill-fated meeting with Tony Hayers, his decision to dress as a Zombie for a laugh, his unforgettable opinion on Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and his chocolate-splattered romantic tryst. No other Partridge vehicle can come close to such a prolific hit-rate.

Screenplay gold

Steve Coogan and Simon Greenhall in I’m Alan Partridge.(BBC)
Steve Coogan and Simon Greenhall in I’m Alan Partridge.(BBC)

Written by Steve Coogan, Armando Ianucci and Peter Baynham, practically every line of the series is pure gold. For fans there are countless phrases and lines from these six episodes which have for better or worse now filtered in to their day to day lexicon.

The pointless and almost painfully mundane statements take on an entire new meaning when delivered in that distinctive Partridge twang. “Scum, sub-human scum.” “Monkey tennis?” “Kiss my face.” ”Not my words Carol, the words of Top Gear magazine.” “You threw a monkey in the sea?” “I’d have to say….The Best of the Beatles”. These are just a few examples from a series crammed full of choice lines.

Alan’s career may now be in the ascendancy, but this first series of I’m Alan Partridge shows just how far he has come. It gave us the most revealing glimpse of the man himself yet, telling the story of how he lost it all before beginning the long trek back to the top.

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