Alan Partridge's top TV moments
To mark the release of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Rob takes us through the high points of Alan Partridge's TV career...
Certain TV shows are watched so excessively that quoting them in general conversation has just became part of the norm. The Office, The Simpsons and Spaced are three such, but none have been stolen from with quite as much regularity as Norfolk’s favourite son, Alan Partridge. For better or for worse, Partridgisms have cemented their place in our everyday vernacular. The likes of, “cos I’m a bloody bloke”, “see the match?” and “scum, sub-human scum” are just a few of the phrases that AP (with a little help from his writers) has gifted to the world over the years.
He may be a socially awkward, insensitive, selfish, narcissist obsessed with his own celebrity status, but despite all this, it’s hard to not love Alan. The man who spent 182 days staying at the Linton Travel Tavern, punched a disabled man with a partridge and drove to Dundee in his bare feet is a comedy icon for the ages and with his debut film Alpha Papa out now, we thought it was high time we looked back across his glittering TV career and highlighted his best bits. Kiss my face (sorry).
The Day Today
After modest success on the radio, this is where it all began for Alan on TV, way back in 1994. Appearing as the sports reporter on Chris Morris’ legendary The Day Today, Alan didn’t let anything as trivial as a complete lack of sports knowledge hold him back. After years of witnessing Alan as the primary focus of whatever show he is in, it is strange to revisit these early appearances where he is patronised and belittled by Chris Morris’ brash anchor. I’m no psychiatrist but surely this is partly to blame for Alan’s complete inability to accept criticism later in his career. You’ve got a lot to answer for Morris. Despite only making fleeting weekly appearances, there is some absolute Partridge gold to be found on The Day Today:
Alan’s World Cup ’94 Preview
Alan demonstrates the full reach of his football knowledge in a sequence where he desperately tries to explain the complex league system that was to be used at the 1994 World Cup. He does so using a cumbersome contraption that includes a number of spinning sign posts and needlessly complicated colour codes, but as Alan reminds us, “you won’t find that with FIFA.” The real highlight however comes during his notorious commentary work that plays over clips from World Cup past. Choice nuggets include: “The goalie has got football pie all over his shirt”, “TWAT! That was liquid football” and of course “Shit! Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine.” If you haven’t used this line at least once when watching football, you are a stronger person than I.
Alan At The Races:
An intrepid Alan also broadcast live from a rain soaked Marple race track. While there, in between getting frustrated with passers by waving into his camera and contemplating whether a piece of tarpaulin in the track car park was covering a dead horse, he conducted a memorable interview with jockey Mickey Doolan. It soon becomes apparent that Alan is a little confused as to why Mickey isn’t in school. “You’re 33?……you look about 14.” The amazement on Alan’s face has he learns that jockeys are not in fact children is a joy to behold.
Knowing Me, Knowing You
Alan’s next big move in TV was fronting his own chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You… With Alan Partridge. The format was similar to that of the show’s previous incarnation on the radio, with Alan swiftly pissing off just about everyone he meets while at the same time lampooning the standard chat show formula. Or, to put it simply using the words of the man himself, “there’s new chat in town.” Along with his band leader Glen Ponder, Alan interviewed an array of disastrous guests ranging from a painfully shy show jumper (“speak up”) to a racist old Olympian. Over the course of the series it became clear that while the real show was proving extremely popular, Alan’s fictional show was struggling in the ratings. As every episode seemingly veered from bad to worse, the series culminated with Alan accidentally killing cynical food critic Forbes McAllister with one of Lord Byron’s duelling pistols. There are plenty of best bits to choose from in this series but here are my top choices:
Tony Le Mesmer
Episode two of the series was already a belter having earlier featured Minnie Driver as a transsexual Playboy columnist, but it’s David Schneider’s turn as mystical magician Tony Le Mesmer that really steals the show. Tony starts off by hypnotising Alan and making him simulate a smug owl omitting pellets before convincing Alan that he is meeting his celebrity crush, Ursula Andress. Tony, impersonating Ursula in Alan’s mind, asks him if there’s anywhere they can go to be alone, to which Alan gives the immortal reply, “the Moat House hotel in High Wycombe…They know me there, they’re very discreet. You’ll love it, it’s got a 24 hour carvery.” However when Tony/ Ursula starts begging him to pull over on the way there as she can’t contain her passion any longer, she is sternly informed, “Ursula, it’s an offense to stop on the hard shoulder unless there’s a malfunction with the car... now put your top on and get out” It’s great to see that even when hypnotised, Alan is a stickler for the rules.
THE ABBA Medley
Another series highlight came in episode three when Alan interviewed the glamorous singer Gina Langland (Rebecca Front on fine form). After barely containing his frustration at her continual mispronouncing his name, Alan and Gina join together for a special ABBA medley. Words can never really do this scene justice, but needless to say it is several minutes of comedy gold. From the moment Alan leaps from his stool repeating the “take a chance” refrain over and over again, you will be in hysterics. The medley closes with Alan bellowing the close to Thank You For The Music right into Gina’s face. Proof, if ever it were needed, that Alan is a man of many talents.
Sacking Glen Ponder
In episode four, Alan took his show to Paris and over the course of the show showed us all that he is truly the ultimate Little Englander. His French co-host Nina and his guest the French Chef Phillipe Lambert (played by series regular Patrick Marber), catch on that Alan isn’t quite the intellect he thinks he is and in typical Partridge fashion, he soon begins to rub everyone up the wrong way. This comes to a head when he has kooky fashion designer Yvonne Bond on the show and appears to be the only one who doesn’t like her new collection, noting of one model “he looks like he’s been in a car crash”. The icing on the cake however came when he turned to Glen Ponder for some back up, only to find out that his band leader actually quite liked the outfits. Alan’s natural reaction is of course to brand Glen a turncoat and fire him on the spot. “Knowing me Alan partridge, sacking you Glen Ponder, A-Ha.” Alan does not suffer traitors gladly.
Knowing Me, Knowing Yule
Alan’s Christmas special fell in the aftermath of his accidental murder of Forbes McAllister and saw the presenter trying desperately to woo new ‘Chief Commissioning Editor of BBC Television’ Tony Hayers (David Schneider). Set in an exact recreation of his own front room, Alan welcomes Tony and a series of other guests into his ‘home’ and provides mulled wine and boaster biscuits for all. From Fanny Thomas (Kevin Eldon)and her double entendres (“oohhh, pardon”), to Alan’s punching of Gordon Heron (Patrick Marber) a paralysed former golfer, as well as Tony Hayers himself, it’s one disaster after another.
Christmas In Norwich
For me though, the highlight of this festive special comes when Alan shows his ‘Christmas in Norwich, with Alan Partridge’ video. We see Alan jogging through Norwich Cathedral’s cloisters in some dangerously garish sportswear and then witness him enjoying the benefits of being a celebrity by receiving special treatment in his local Tandy store. He also shows us that he likes to give something back to the community by visiting sick children in hospital. Once there he does his best to spread festive cheer amongst the little nippers only to embarrassingly find out that none of them know who he is: “Anyone watch my show?... Never heard of me. Right, it’s very rude to say that actually.” This little video offers a fascinating first insight into Alan’s real life outside of his chat show and is thus a precursor to what would follow in I’m Alan Partridge.
Christmas Ramble/Rural Alan
This brilliant extra on the Knowing Me, Knowing You DVD sees Alan taking in a Christmas ramble and regaling us with tales of his childhood love of the Norfolk countryside. On this wander round the green fields and hills, Alan comes out with some absolute gems. One highlight comes when he accidentally talks about the Holy family doing their own Christmas ramble, forcing him to state, “I am not comparing myself to Jesus. I don’t want to get bogged down in that whole controversy again. I am not Jesus. I want to make that absolutely clear.” He also regales us with the story of how as a lonely child he’d wonder the countryside singing his favourite pop songs. We then get a blast of Leo Sayer’s One Man Band, before a teary eyed Alan decides to go home to his wife. One of several glimpses into the demons in Alan’s past, the exact details of which we would eventually get clarification of in his brilliant autobiography I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan.’
I’m Alan Partridge Series 1
We next met Alan a few years on from his guest-shooting/Hayers-punching snafus and he’s resorted to presenting an early morning show on Radio Norwich. This is now where we begin to see the real Alan away from the chat show persona he tried so hard to cultivate on Knowing Me, Knowing You. Alan’s personal life has undergone sever upheaval and since his exit from the BBC. Since we saw him last he’s separated from his wife Carol, who of course lives with a “narcissistic sports pimp” who drinks that yellow stuff in tins. Alan himself has taken up residency at a Linton Travel Tavern, which is luckily “equidistant between Norwich and London”. There is so much gold in this series I best press on and keep the scene-setting to a minimum. Here are my I’m Alan Partridge series one highlights.
Meeting With Tony Hayers
After making an offer on a five-bedroomed bastard house, Alan goes to a meeting with his old nemesis Tony Hayers to plead his case for a second series. Seeing Alan brazenly brownnosing is always a treat and he tries desperately to remain on his best behaviour throughout the meeting, even going as far as to pretend he likes wine if it will impress Tony. His pitches for alternative TV show vehicles are the stuff of legend. “Arm-wrestling with Chas and Dave”, “youth-hostelling with Chris Eubank” and of course “inner-city Sumo” are all suggested but to no avail. Then comes the pièce de résistance, as a flustered Alan jabs his fork into a big block of cheese and offers Tony a smell. When Tony refuses, Alan thrusts it into his face and utters the unforgettable line “smell my cheese you mother!” This is Alan at his most frustrated and the scene is made even funnier by his embarrassed run out of the building.
Watership Alan…all of it
The whole of this episode is worthy of a place in this list, but I’ll try and narrow it down slightly. It’s in this episode where Alan’s dislike for farmers comes to the fore and he suggests that one farmer who phones into his radio show has gone off for “an infected spinal column in a bap.” Alan is never one to back down from his prejudices and certainly not one to admit he is in the wrong. As a result, when Chris Morris’ leader of the farmers union comes in to discuss Alan’s comments, it was always going to be a recipe for disaster. Pretty much any line from this scene is a gem but a personal favourite comes when Alan vehemently accuses the farmer of “feeding beef burgers to swans”, either that or his observation about “the big eared boys on farms”. Later, when filming a holiday video form Hamilton’s Water Breaks, Alan’s words come back to haunt him as he is crushed from above by a cow thrown by angry farmers. It’s this same episode where Alan tries to be one of the lads with the makers of the video (an early Simon Pegg appearance) and he inadvertently creates the ‘ladyboy’ drink before going back to his room to be sick everywhere. Thirty minutes of pure Partridge brilliance.
Ders More To Oiland, Dan Dis
In episode five, Alan meets with some Irish network executives about the possibility of a show on Irish TV. Cue Alan committing a series of faux pas and blindly talking himself out of a job. His inherently small minded attitude comes to the fore again as he shows his woeful ignorance of Irish history. There’s his take on the great potato famine, “you will pay the price for being a fussy eater”, as well as his misunderstanding of the nature of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday, “it really encapsulates the frustration of a Sunday”. Priceless.
I’m Alan Partridge Series 2
The second series of I’m Alan Partridge is set five years on from the first and in that time Alan has moved out of the Travel Tavern but unfortunately has also fallen out once again with the ”bitter bastards” at the BBC. Since we saw him last Alan has been on a bit of a rollercoaster. He went from being clinically fed up and driving to Dundee in his bare feet, to bouncing back with the third best slot on Radio Norwich and of course his military based game show ‘Skirmish’. A lot of the action now takes place in Alan’s static caravan which he lives in while his new home is being built.
Puff, Flash, Puff, Flash, BANG
After a disastrous meeting with a South African representative of Dante’s of Reading, a coal-effects fireplace company, Alan somehow manages to land the gig of hosting their sales conference at his local country club and plans “a miniature Pink Floyd concert for £500" during which Alan foolishly tried to climb over the country club’s fence after a prank went badly wrong, only to severely pierce his foot on a spike. Not wanting to let his employers down though, Alan still manages to turn up in time to host the conference. Dry heaving and losing a lot of blood, Alan tries to hold it together but all the glitter in the world can’t mask his discomfort. As one of the attendees shines then torch from his fun pack into his eyes, Alan can only meekly slur “don't shine that torch in my face, mate. I've just lost a pint of blood.” A consummate professional, at all times is our Alan.
Stop Getting Bond Wrong
After his plans for a James Bond marathon are scuppered by Lynn spilling Sunny Delight all over the videos, Alan has comforted himself with at least being able to watch The Spy Who Loved Me. A motley crew assemble in the static caravan for the screening including Lynn, her ‘friend’ Gordon, Michael the work Geordie, John the Builder, Alan’s girlfriend Sonia and Michael’s American-loving friend ‘Tex'. It then transpires that Michael lent The Spy Who Loved Me tape to Tex who then taped over it to record America’s Strongest Man. This infuriates Alan no end and after the group commit the heinous crime of getting their Bond introductions mixed up, Alan snaps and duly gives them a mesmerising performance of the introduction to “the best film ever made”. It makes sense for a man as quintessentially British as Alan to love his Bond so much and he emphatically proves his devotion to 007 here. His one man show is a strangely hypnotic scene, from his description of Bond’s mood “I’ve had enough of that, just stop it!”, to his bombastic performance of the theme tune Nobody Does It Better.
An honourable mention must also go to the scene in episode five where Alan takes Sonia to a big country house under the premise that it is in fact her beloved Bono’s house. He shows her all the sights, including the bed where he eats a big bowl of Alpen (“massive it is”), the spots where he wrote the Joshua tree and his massive collection of hatchbacks. The glorious sight of Alan wondering around shouting “Bono” at the top of his voice never gets old, even if the repetition of it by people like me (see also; DAN!) certainly has.
Mid Morning Matters
In Mid Morning Matters, Alan is once again back on the radio, this time working at the prestigious sounding ‘North Norfolk Digital’ radio station. The series is shot from the point of view of a webcam recording Alan’s radio show which captures his unique brand of chat as well as such incisive phone-in questions as “your desert island condiment”. The series is funny throughout but due to its contained premise and focus more on Alan’s painful DJ-ing style, it’s harder to pick out any specific incidents. There was however one moment that did truly stand out above the others.
Sidekick Simon’s trick
Tim Key’s Sidekick Simon had already began to fall out of favour with Alan over the course of the series. It started off so well with the pair sharing what Alan called “great banter”. However as the series wears on we slowly see Alan growing frustrated with his young protégé. In one of the later episodes it really comes to a head after Sidekick Simon plays a prank which sees Alan convinced that the Inland Revenue are investigating him. Alan is then forced to admit on air that he actually only earns a quarter of what he had rather smugly mentioned earlier on the show. When it is revealed to be a big prank, Alan does not take it well at all. As Simon and the assembled radio staff begin to laugh, Alan turns to his sidekick and launches into a blistering tirade:
“Shall I tell you what I think? I think you’re a fucking dick mate. I tell you something else, don’t you ever ever, ever, ever , ever, EVER do something like that again. I will make sure you never, never, never. Never. Never. NEVER work in Norfolk radio….You are nothing and I…am Alan Partridge.”
We haven’t often seen Alan truly lose his rag, the closest we saw was when he caught the hotel staff mocking him in I’m Alan Partridge series one. Here again he makes it clear that he doesn’t like being the butt of the joke and reminds a crestfallen Sidekick Simon just who is boss. Don’t mess with the Partridge.
So there we have it, some of the very best Partidge TV moments from down the years. From Alan’s early chat show heyday, right through to his current digital radio career. I really could have included double the amount of examples in here and I’m sure everyone will have their own to add. Hopefully even the man himself would approve of this run through his glittering career. Needless to say, he had the last laugh.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is released in the UK on Wednesday the 7th of August. Read our review, here.
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