As funny and sneakily genius as ever, Alan tackles #MeToo, the history of profanity and shellfish on another episode of This Time.
This recap of This Time With Alan Partridge Episode 5 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
As soon as you hear the recognizably nasal voice of Alan Partridge intone, “Right, start cheering” to a car full of scantily-clad beauties at the beginning of This Time With Alan Partridge Episode 5, you immediately get a sense of what’s coming. The car rolls onto the set as Alan handles the intro, sparing time to give one of the girls a pat on the arse as she exits. Then, a very brief anti-exploitation song-and-dance number from the cheerleaders. Oh goodness, you think, Alan’s going to talk about #MeToo, isn’t he?
Yes. Yes, he is. After assuring everyone that the girls had all given their consent to being objectified and that the one he spanked was just a boy in a wig called Peter, Alan made clear that it wasn’t just time to speak about women, it was “high time, on This Time.” Oh, lord.
And it’s relentless right from the beginning. “If anyone’s sitting there thinking, ‘Oh look, there are two presenters, and one of them’s a bird,’ you’re right, a partridge is a bird. This is a woman, and a bloody good one.” He’s talking about his co-host, Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding), whom he interrupted to make the point and continues to talk over as he drops the inevitable buzz-term, “tash-hag #MeToo”. How wonderfully insufferable.
The individual zingers (“I love women,” says Alan’s idiotic tech support Simon Denton (Tim Key), “but I couldn’t eat a whole one.”) come too thick and fast to list, so a brief summary of the segments will have to suffice. The first is an interview with Radio 4 feminist Dee Gilhooly (Ellie White) which swiftly goes off the rails when Alan phases out completely (“It makes me physically sick to say this, but I was miles away,”), argues about the inaccuracy of a turbocharger analogy (this he tries to rescue by saying the knowledge had been imparted to him by “an engineer in oily overalls called Karen”), and then admits that he has, along with other men, stood and slow-clapped women attempting to parallel park.
The simmering undercurrent of This Time With Alan Partridge Episode 5 is Alan’s increasing frustration at the idea that women’s issues are best discussed by women; he’s desperate to be part of the conversation by furiously policing random terminology and expressions, managing to bungle virtually all of them, and pulling up everyone else (including poor Simon, forced to pretend not to find mother-in-law jokes funny) so that he looks like an ally. As always the humor is the disconnect between how everyone sees Alan versus how he sees himself; not only is he not as tactful, open-minded and sensitive as he thinks, he isn’t any of those things at all.
During a cooking segment with Cockney geezer chef Ralphy Moore (Jamie Demetriou), Alan accidentally ingested shellfish and began entering anaphylaxis, which would come back to humiliate him later, after a typically testy back-and-forth disagreement with reporter Ruth Duggan (Lolly Adefope), and a brilliant look at the history of profanity with linguist Dr Hilary Couchman (Polly Kemp), where Alan was made noticeably uncomfortable by his interlocuter’s potty-mouth, and by not being allowed to touch historical documents. (An additional star should probably be awarded to This Time With Alan Partridge Episode 5 for the genius touch of bleeping out the word “country”.)
The finale was a hilarious outro performance by Alan’s mixed vocal harmony group The Quavers, with Alan’s lips now having swelled to colossal proportions. This Time With Alan Partridge Episode 5 was as rife with silliness as ever, but also just as rich with genius detail and comedic expertise. What might happen in next week’s finale is anyone’s guess.