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Alan Gordon Partridge is a fictional television and radio presenter portrayed by English comedian Steve Coogan and invented by Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring for the BBC Radio 4 programme On The Hour. A parody of both sports commentators and chat show presenters, the character has appeared in two radio series, three television series and numerous TV and radio specials, including appearances on BBC's Comic Relief, which have followed the rise and fall of his career.

Character

Whereas many of his personality defects are apparent in his appearances in shows such as The Day Today and Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, it is largely from I'm Alan Partridge onwards that his creators began to explore his personality in depth, and most of the observations that follow originated in that show.

In these shows, Partridge is characterised as an insecure, superficial and narcissistic 'wally', concerned largely with the status and level of his public profile and, to a lesser extent, the ostentatious possessions this allows him to acquire (such as his beloved Rover and Lexus cars and Bang & Olufsen stereo systems). Despite being a professional broadcaster, Partridge is a socially incompetent and awkward character prone to one-upmanship, embarrassing social faux pas and displays of deep insensitivity to social norms. Partridge's thoughtlessness and selfish lack of interest in anything beyond his own objectives exposes an unsympathetic character that is disliked and privately lampooned by many of those with whom he comes into contact. Among Partridge's few 'friends' are Lynn Benfield, his put-upon and long-suffering personal assistant and Michael, an emotionally tortured ex-soldier from Newcastle upon Tynemarker. It is notable, however, that he treats even these people with little more than disdain despite expecting complete loyalty from them in return; in the first series of I'm Alan Partridge he does not even seem to be on first-name terms with Michael (who exclusively addressed him as Mr Partridge throughout the two series). Bizarrely, Alan appears to have a close friendship with Bill Oddie, who even sends him Christmas presents. Partridge is otherwise depicted as being unable to forge genuine friendships or connections with other people (who are, seemingly without exception, repelled by his unpleasant and self-absorbed personality).

Partridge is depicted as being a sexually repressed and prudish man, uncomfortable and awkward with overt (or even subtle) displays of sexual or romantic feelings, or what he views as being ‘perverted’ sexual practices. He is particularly discomforted by homosexuality, and despite describing himself as "homosceptic" at one point appears to possess some hidden homoerotic or bisexual tendencies. This is the subject of numerous running gags in I’m Alan Partridge, in particular his numerous efforts to deny his interest in Bangkokmarker "lady-boys" (whom he describes as ‘fascinating creatures’ whilst insisting that he is merely confused by them and not attracted to them) and a recurrent gag in which he will daydream about performing an erotic dance in a peephole Pringle jumper and a vulcanised rubber thong for a selection of men (usually those who can help further his career in some way, such as Tony Hayers). He is also quite misogynistic, displaying a tendency to objectify and patronise women (who usually view him in some disdain). Despite this, in the second series of I’m Alan Partridge he manages to sustain a romantic relationship with Sonja, a scatterbrained 33-year-old immigrant from Ukraine who is quite devoted to him. Even this relationship, however, is marked by Alan’s open contempt for her, and it is apparent that her affection towards him is largely unreturned and that his relationship with her is mainly based on the boost to his ego that their 14-year age gap provides (which he is frequently heard boasting about).

No member of Partridge’s family is shown on any of the series that he appears in; however, his dysfunctional relationship with them informs much of the background of the show. In his early appearances, Alan was married to Carol, a never-seen character, and their relationship appeared to be under a lot of strain. In the Christmas special Knowing Me, Knowing Yule, Alan attributed his rash and erratic behaviour to the fact that Carol had left him on Christmas Eve. By the time of I'm Alan Partridge, Alan and Carol are divorced, and while Alan lives in a Travel Tavern, Carol remains in their home with her new boyfriend, who Alan describes unflatteringly as "a narcissistic sports pimp" who apparently enjoys protein drinks. During their marriage, Alan and Carol had two children — Fernando (apparently named after the song by ABBA) and Denise — neither of whom are ever seen or heard on-screen. During the run of Knowing Me, Knowing You, Alan states that Fernando is studying at Pembroke College, Cambridgemarker. The next references to Alan's children are made in I'm Alan Partridge, in which Fernando hangs up on one of Alan's rambling go-nowhere telephone conversations, and in which a staff member at the Travel Tavern mentions that Denise has an oddly similar appearance to Alan. It is also revealed that Denise has a pierced navel, and that Fernando seems to spend much of his time in bed with a succession of girlfriends. The final mention of Alan's children is an offhand comment in the second episode of the second series of I'm Alan Partridge, in which Alan glibly states that he has access to his children, but that they have no desire to see him.

Outside of his all-consuming quest to be on television, his various appearances often demonstrate that Partridge does not possess a particularly rich or detailed personal life. In I’m Alan Partridge in particular, he is often shown to occupy himself with pointless or needless tasks, seemingly just to give himself something to do. This is particularly evident in the first series episode "Basic Alan", over the course of which he walks to a petrol station to buy 12 bottles of windscreen washer fluid for no apparent reason, spends time driving repeatedly around a ring road and purchases a packet of tungsten-tipped screws which he states he has no intention of ever using. Most of the interests he is depicted as having show him as out of touch with modern society in general; he describes Paul McCartney's band Wings as "the band The Beatles could have been" (by whom, his favourite album is, of course, Best of the Beatles, the joke here being that this album was in fact a cash-in effort by Pete Best that contained no actual Beatles music). In "Towering Alan" he claims to have a broad taste in music; he is a fan of Kate Bush, the Electric Light Orchestra, UB40, Def Leppard and particularly ABBA, the music of which is a recurrent theme in Knowing Me, Knowing You. In the second series episode "I Know What Alan Did Last Summer" he enthusiastically plays "air-bass" to the Gary Numan song "Music for Chameleons", and in "Never Say Alan Again" is seen drumming along inside his Lexus to the theme of Return of the Saint. The few hobbies he is depicted as indulging in include driving, rambling, birdwatching and collecting celebrity memorabilia.

Partridge is politically conservative, and his favourite newspaper is the Daily Mail, a right-leaning publication which he claims is "arguably the best newspaper in the world" in the episode Bravealan. He is very pro-law and has a strong stance on criminality, viewing hoodlums and miscreants as "sub-human scum". He also favours the death penalty for treason and murder. Despite these professed views, however, he appears to have no strong moral compunctions; in one episode he exploits an "all you can fit on a plate" breakfast deal at the Travel Tavern by bringing in a slightly larger plate of his own, a "scam" of which the staff are in fact fully aware but tolerate with amusement. Alan is not a fan of political correctness, stating on one occasion that it had in fact "gone mad" after being told that naked flames are not permitted on the forecourt of his local petrol station, thus curtailing his plans for a barbecue there. He has commented on the troubles in Northern Irelandmarker stating that he believes both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness to be very clever men, however he does not trust either of them as he believes Adams looks like a deputy headmaster and McGuiness looks like a clown without make-up. He has admiration for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and believes she was betrayed by her own party when she was forced out of Downing Streetmarker. Alan once caused a security alert at Choristers Country Club by booking a room under the name "The Real IRA".

Fictional biography

Early years and career

Within his fictional world, Partridge was born on 2 April 1955 in King's Lynnmarker, Norfolk, Englandmarker, and spent his childhood in Norwichmarker. He was often bullied at school, as we find out in an episode of the original Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge radio show when Alan is hypnotised and regressed to his childhood, and reveals he was called "Smelly Alan Fartridge". In the second series of I'm Alan Partridge, Alan recounts a story about a time he was once caned for having a chalk penis drawn on the back of his school blazer by another student, an incident about which he still feels bitter. He appears to have had a lonely childhood, and in a 'Rural Alan' special feature (found on the DVD release of Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge) recounts how he would ramble about the Norfolk countryside in solitude, singing his favourite pop songs.He later married Carol, who gave birth to Alan's son Fernando and daughter Denise. Carol left Alan for a fitness instructor (whom Alan claims to be an "idiot"), and took the children with her.

Radio career

Alan worked his way upwards from a position as a DJ on Radio Smile on St Luke's hospital radio, until he left, after arguments with patients. He then began presenting the drive time Traffic Buster show on Radio Norwich, where he stayed for five years and was named sports reporter of the year in 1988. He then became a presenter on the BBC's Scoutabout programme, where he entered into the top eight of BBC sports reporters. Alan soon garnered a slot presenting sports news on BBC Radio 4's On the Hour programme (1991) presented by Chris Morris. On that show Alan suffered from a severe lack of any sporting knowledge and developed a notable talent for mixed and/or nonsensical metaphors.

Alan got his first starring role in 1992 as host of BBC Radio 4's Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge (a spoof chat show with fictional guests). He managed to offend people on his show who would then attempt to disgrace the host. During his tenure on the show, Alan hit a child genius, unknowingly took cocaine, bribed rent boys, lost his wife's car in a bet, was openly homophobic, forced the resignation of a junior government minister and, in the series finale, his guest Lord Morgan of Glossop died of an apparent heart attack.

There was also a one off spoof-documentary about the show called Knowing, Knowing Me, Knowing You. It provided a behind-the-scenes look at how the show was put together and the antagonism between Alan and those who worked for him, as well as giving insight into the problems with his marriage to Carol.

The Day Today

On The Hour transferred to television as The Day Today in 1994, where Alan continued as the inept sports reporter ("This is Sports Desk... I'm Alan Partridge"). Here he bungled his way through a feature on the 1994 FIFA World Cup, gave a colourful report on the previous sporting season, made a complete mess of reporting the recent horse racing tournament, and was beaten up by a female martial-arts instructor.

Knowing Me, Knowing You

The transition to television was to be a success for Alan and was swiftly followed by a television version of Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge. The format was largely the same as the radio show, with the addition of a house band under the directorship of Glen Ponder (played by musical comedian Steve Brown). In the sixth episode, Alan accidentally shot dead one of his guests (Forbes McAllister) on air while examining one of Lord Byron's duelling pistols. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal BBC investigation. The show featured an Alan Partridge tie and blazer badge set which, like the Alan Partridge face mask, was produced but never marketed - instead the famous "Tie and Blazer Badge Set" was included as part of a Boxed Set of videos released towards the end of the 1990s.

In reality, KMKYWAP was a huge success; in the fictional world of Alan Partridge, it suffered from terrible ratings. This was because of "poor scheduling" (The show was aired at the same time as the News at Ten) and Alan's PA, Lynn, claimed that "the show started badly and went downhill from there". In the end the show was taken off the air at the end of the first series.

In 1995, Alan hosted a Christmas special of KMKYWAP, humorously titled Knowing Me, Knowing Yule. One of his guests was the (fictional) director of programming at the BBC, Tony Hayers (later to become Alan's nemesis, played by David Schneider). Alan, with a characteristic lack of subtlety, was seen probing for a new series of KMKYWAP. However, the show was an unmitigated disaster for Alan, as his attempt at product placement was blatantly exposed, and the show climaxed with Alan punching both a man in a wheelchair and Tony Hayers (twice) with his hand inside a partridge. After punching Hayers for the first time, Partridge begged "please don't take my chat away from me", then after punching him a second time declared "I'll never work in broadcasting again". Mick Hucknall of Simply Red then played the show out. It was clearly the beginning of the end of his time at BBC television. He was "kept on the books", as it were, for a short while, but after a particularly harrowing meeting with Hayers at the BBC cafeteria (which involved assault by cheese) he was left in no doubt that his BBC TV career was over.

I'm Alan Partridge

Partridge next appeared in I'm Alan Partridge (1997), a look behind the scenes of his rapidly failing career. In this television series, he is seen having gained a slot on the fictional Radio Norwich. He continues to cause offence, this time mainly to his listeners. He also has a bad relationship with his colleague Dave Clifton (played by Phil Cornwell), Alan occasionally insults him while introducing him on his show (for example in ‘Alan Attraction’ Alan says "Here's a man who indeed won't be killing anyone with syphillis"). However Dave usually gets the better of Alan except in ‘Basic Alan’ where he tells Dave to "fuck off" after he torments him over a recent incident with a traffic cone, Dave is stunned by this and lays into Alan by claiming that "dead-air is a crime and that it is terrible that he has to fill it with swearing on his show". Alan's comeback refers to the correct time (7.01am) and that it is Dave's show and he is merely a guest whom Dave has failed to control, he then says "Read the smallprint on your cone-tract". By this stage in his life Alan had been kicked out by his wife and, after wandering around a John Menzies for five hours in a state of depressed homelessness, Alan had been forced to take up residence in the equally fictional Lintonmarker Travel Tavern, which he chose because it is "equidistant between Londonmarker and Norwichmarker". The first episode featured Alan meeting Tony Hayers, begging for a new series on the BBC. Hayers was not impressed, and Alan had to wrap up his production company Peartree Productions, firing all its staff including Jill (whom he had feelings for and had one-night stand with; albeit unsuccessful). During his time at the Linton Travel Tavern, we discovered more about Alan's failed marriage, his children and his obsession with "Bangkokmarker Chick Boys". In ‘Watership Alan’ he was crushed by a dead cow after insulting farmers on his show. And in ‘To Kill a Mocking Alan’ he was nearly kidnapped by his "number one fan", a crazed lunatic called Jed Maxwell.

In the final episode, Tony Hayers died after a fall from a roof, and one of Alan's old friends, Chris Feather, took over as head of programmes at the BBC. However, at the decisive moment when the new executive was about to sign a five-year contract, he keeled over and died, forcing Alan to forge the dead man's signature.

(Note: in the fictional world of Alan Partridge, this was not a documentary, but actually a "post-documentary". In the commentary on the DVD, Alan explains that all the events depicted in the series actually occurred, but everyone in the show, apart from himself and his personal assistant Lynn Benfield (played by Felicity Montagu who went on to play a vicar's wife in Nighty Night), were actors hired to portray the events in the Linton Travel Tavern "after they had actually occurred".)

Alan's next appearance was in a 1999 half-hour special filmed for Comic Relief in which Alan started to lose the plot, foreshadowing his mental breakdown in the second series of I'm Alan Partridge. A simulcast between BBC Two and Radio Norwich, Alan appears incoherent and incapable of keeping track of the format of his own show. A second Comic Relief appearance followed in 2001, showing him interviewing a boxing manager, played by Peter Kay. Eventually, this resulted in Alan taking on one of the boxers in the ring and being beaten by the boxer, the manager and his friend Michael.

Coogan was apparently reluctant to continue playing the character, but returned for a second series of I'm Alan Partridge in 2002.

In the second series Alan was temporarily living in a caravan while waiting for his new house to be built. Despite his five-year contract with the BBC, Alan claims to his old school teacher "Sweaty" Frank Raphael in ‘The Talented Mr. Alan’ that there was "bad blood" between them and they were "bitter bastards" plus every profession has its "shits", so they had to let him go.

Alan returned to radio, securing the "third best slot on Radio Norwich", presenting Norfolk Nights, a big leap from his former timeslot of 4am to 7am, when he presented Up With the Partridge. Alan also presents a military-based quiz show called Skirmish on the (fictional) cable station UK Conquest, and has a deal with Meteor Productions to make the Crash! Bang! Wallop!... What a Video/Scum on the Run series of car-crash videos.

In the period from his time at the Linton Travel Tavern to his residence in the temporary "static home", Alan suffered a mental breakdown and put on weight, or as he put it, was "clinically fed up" and "repellent to women for two years". This collapse culminated in Alan driving a Vauxhall Vectra to Dundeemarker in his bare feet while gorging himself on Toblerone (in a similar incident, Alan recounts throwing all his tax receipts off a ferry). However, by 2002, his life was firmly back on track, save for the odd glitch. He even had a Ukrainianmarker girlfriend called Sonja, who was 33 years old — 14 years younger than himself (a point Alan emphasises with the smug exclamation, "Cashback!"). This period in Alan's life is documented in his autobiography Bouncing Back, which Alan claims has been described as "lovely stuff" by entertainer Shakin' Stevens.

Memorable moments of this series include Alan dry-vomiting his way through a speech about fireplaces; mistakenly getting involved with swingers; attacking a six-foot stuffed Beefeater bear; his summing up the entire opening of The Spy Who Loved Me in less than a minute during a failed attempt at a 24-hour Bondathon; Lynn's baptism at her Baptist church and, of course, the sad pulping of his autobiography which, despite taking up four weeks of his life to write, simply wasn't selling well (partly because every anecdote ended with the phrase "Needless to say, I had the last laugh".) Unfortunately, Alan tells us, it seems the public was more concerned with buying gangster autobiographies like Bad Slag.

The second series saw a move away from the drier and more realistic style of the first, a move that was at odds with more recent sitcoms, most notably The Office. This led to it being less well received than the first. Surprisingly, producer and co-writer of the series, Armando Iannucci states in the commentary to his own DVD of The Armando Iannucci Shows, that he had recently re-watched the second series of I'm Alan Partridge, and describes it as "terrible". On the DVD commentary of the second series of I'm Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan appears surprised at the over-the-top style he used to play Alan in the 2002 series, calling it "big acting".

Anglian Lives

In 2003, Alan again returned to our screen in a half-hour special of Anglian Lives (also known as "Anglian Alan"), a fictional regional BBC show. This was presented by Ray Woollard (Peter Baynham) and "Digital Dave", and was basically a sycophantic look at Alan's career, past and present; the credits listed it as being executive produced by Alan himself. It shed more detail on Alan's hatred of London, his Toblerone addiction, and his future.

Alan Partridge: The Movie

In April 2005, Coogan's production firm Baby Cow announced that an Alan Partridge movie was in the pipeline. It was later revealed the film would involve an al-Qaeda siege. Due to the sensitivities of such a storyline after the 7 July 2005 London bombings, the project was put on hold, but in November 2007, further details of the film were released.

The plot of the film has Alan Partridge attempting another comeback from local radio, only to have his ambitions thwarted when Middle Eastern terrorists hijack the BBC offices. Coogan has written some dialogue, but has said he is not sure whether he wants to revisit his most famous creation. "Part of me wants to do it, part of me wants to do other things," he said in a recent interview. Playwright Patrick Marber, whose early collaborations with Coogan included The Day Today and being the principal writer of both radio and TV versions of Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge, has also been working on the script, but the pair put their plans on hold following the London bombings, for fear the screenplay would appear in bad taste. Actress Felicity Montagu, who plays Partridge's PA Lynne, said last year : "There was a lot of talk about it, but then the London bombings happened and it got put to one side. I'm sure Steve will write an Alan Partridge film eventually. But for the moment I don't think it's happening."

In 2005, Armando Iannucci, who helped Coogan create Partridge, said he did not want to be involved in any movie spin-off, saying: "Steve wants to do an Alan Partridge film, but I couldn't bear to go through that again. For me, the idea of spending two more years in a room with that voice is more than I can take."

Recent activity

Anglian Lives was the last time Alan Partridge appeared on TV in his own programme. It is unknown whether he will return, but writer Armando Iannucci says it is "doubtful".

In 2004 Coogan also gave an interview with Now magazine, and when asked "Is it true that you're killing off Alan Partridge?", Coogan replied: "No, not at all. What's he up to at the moment? Well, I'd say he's being cryogenically preserved next to Walt Disney. Don't worry. When the day comes that I feel like I need to do something else with him, I'll defrost him and make him funny again."

This occurred briefly for Comic Relief 2005, when Alan appeared to interview a grown-up, openly gay Milkybar Kid (played by Simon Pegg). This involved a lot of recycled material from previous live appearances. There was some homoeroticism between Alan and the Milky Bar Kid which resulted in Alan agreeing to rent a caravan and go hiking with him.

In August 2004 a small piece appeared in the Metro newspaper which claimed that: "Steve Coogan got the green light from a US studio to play the spoof DJ on the big screen." Coogan reportedly said: "It's always been my plan to make Alan go global. It's what he lives for really, not just doing the show on Radio Norwich." Other sources confirm the film will be going ahead and ITV has reported that Victoria Beckham will be playing a "demanding diva" in the film. Coogan has since denied that Beckham will appear.

Steve Coogan's profile on the BBC Comedy website talks of another series featuring Alan Partridge, entitled I'm Still Alan Partridge. However this was in fact the provisional title for I'm Alan Partridge series 2.

It has been reported that Coogan will resurrect the character for some planned stand up shows in 2008, alongside some of his other old characters, such as Paul Calf.Also, in a recent interview, Coogan confirmed that Partridge would return at some stage, for either a film or a Television special.

In October 2008 Alan returned as part of the tour "Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge and other less successful characters". Alan is now a life coach and claims to have helped such celebrities as Ross Kemp, Vinnie Jones, Jeremy Kyle, and the Cheeky Girls.

In November 2008, Coogan stated that he has some ideas for what to do with Partridge next on TV and that he's glad to be well known for playing him, despite it over-shadowing most of his other ventures. "As a character he's given me the opportunity to play lots of other characters and to have other opportunities in film and television. So I can't resent him really. And I enjoy playing him, performing him because it's very comfortable. It's like putting on an old jacket".

List of appearances



References

  1. Coogan's profile, BBC
  2. [1]
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External links




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