More chaotic and less consistent it might have been, but This Time with Alan Partridge Episode 4 is still prime Alan, right when we need him most.
This recap of This Time with Alan Partridge Episode 4 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
There have been many versions of Alan Partridge over the years; talk show host, late-night digital radio DJ, and chubby divorcee who drove to Scotland barefoot while scoffing Toblerone. But the best Alan is the one with just enough rope to hang himself. In This Time with Alan Partridge Episode 4, we find him installed as the permanent co-host of This Time, and confident enough in his new position to be barking orders at the production staff, chugging Jennie’s (Susannah Fielding) water, and investigating unofficial product placement in the BBC.
There’s a particular way Alan says the broadcaster is “left-leaning” that gives his personal politics away; Alan has always sat somewhat to the right of center, all the better to skewer the tabloid press that Coogan so publicly despises. His prejudices always creep through. Towards the end of This Time with Alan Partridge Episode 4, an Irish farmer part-timing as an Alan impersonator (also played by Coogan) breaks into song. “That was like an advert for the IRA”, Alan mutters to Jennie.
Jennie doesn’t get the credit she deserves as a character, not just in how she brings the best out of Alan, but in how she gives the Alex Jones-style happy-clappy presenter archetype a bit of an off-camera edge. She clearly despises Alan or at least thinks he’s an idiot, and how she buttons that up during the on-air segments is really well modulated.
This week’s episode felt busier than usual. As well as the aforementioned undercover sting, there was also time for Alan to have his credit card details stolen, a congratulatory phone call to a racist woman who had just turned 100, a tortuously awkward, satellite-delayed video chat with overseas reporter Ruth Duggan (Lolly Adefope), and Alan’s once-a-month CPR practice on what he claimed what a high-quality built-for-purpose dummy but was quite clearly a sex doll.
On balance, This Time with Alan Partridge Episode 4 felt a bit less consistent than prior episodes, even if it hit the mark more often than not. But the series even at its worst is very cleverly written, managing to satirize one talkshow-telly trope after another and poke affectionate fun at more hot-button social issues than you can count. The show’s love of language is always evident, as is its love of Alan, who is now so well-known to the public and to Coogan and siblings Rob and Neil Gibbons, who write him, that we’re witnessing him in a new prime. Our current culture needs an idiot like Alan to unpick the absurdity of it all, and if we can laugh with him, hopefully, we can find a way to laugh at ourselves.