Thursday, 10 March 2011

Alan Partridge

LAST EPISODE Friday 11 March!

It crept out with very little publicity and in a completely new form- a webseries sponsored by Fosters lager- but nevertheless he's here; Alan Partridge, one of the great comic creations of the last twenty years, is back with some new material.

I follow Armando Iannucci on Twitter- he's the man who created Steve Coogan's character, - and it was through one of his tweets that I first heard about the return of the character. Alan first appeared on radio as a sports journalist on 'On the Hour', a spoof news programme on Radio 4, a role he reprised in 'The Day Today' which ran for two series on BBC2 in 1994. He was given his own spoof chat show, which ran first on the radio and then on TV, 'Knowing me, Knowing You' and after a lot of cameos for events like Comic Relief and on stage for Coogan's stand-up shows, he returned to TV in 'I'm Alan Partridge' which also ran for two series in 1997 and 2002.

Partridge is a tragi-comic creation, probably based upon an amalgam of various TV and radio 'personalities'. In many ways, the character grew in depth with 'I'm Alan Partridge' which shows him trying to resurrect his career on Radio Norwich, having been dumped by BBC TV following his disastrous chat show. In the new 12 part webseries, which started last friday and by monday had nearly 200,000 hits, he has fallen even further, now appearing on the fictitious North Norfolk Digital radio, with the whole programme done as if filmed on webcams in the studio.

The Daily Telegraph's reviewer describes it as "If anything, this first film is even darker in hue than the last Partridge series, I’m Alan Partridge, which concluded in 2002. Our anti-hero’s hair is more lank, his clothes more appalling and his demeanour more obviously desperate. There’s an audacious passage in which Alan tries to recall what he has for lunch the previous Sunday, and can’t; the result is an excruciating 30 seconds of dead air. And, of course, he hasn’t located his sensitivity gene – he can be relied upon to spray around tasteless comments about, say, Jonestown and the child protection register."

The Guardian had an article on Monday all about the background to Fosters sponsoring the webseries and the kinds of budget involved. It is a really interesting case study of media in the online age and the changing distribution models that this has brought about.

Apparently, Fosters paid the production costs, which were still similar to those for making a TV show, even though it has more limited camera use and the single set of the radio studio.

The first episode has over half a million hits on YouTube with later episodes currently on around 150,000 and even though a new comedy on Channel 4 would expect to be seen by 1.5m to 2m viewers, this is still seen as a success. The aim is to resell the programme to a conventional broadcaster after the internet airing is complete and then to sell it overseas and put it out on DVD.

So Partridge for the web- of course there are loads of clips from all the old series and all kinds of one-offs on youtube and the Alan Partridge app is one of the most popular on the iPhone, even though it just consists of a whole load of his banal catchphrases. I quite like the sporting mashups various people have done using his lines from 'The Day Today':

Alan on music:

Alan meets his namesake

Alan's story on the spoof 'Anglian lives'

I shall be looking forward to every episode of the new webseries as it seems once again that the team who created him have produced something which hits the zeitgeist.

Footnote: the series is not available to US viewers, so a protest movement has broken out, starting with this mashup protest video

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