Back and as squirm-inducing as ever, Alan Partridge determinedly, expertly annoys everyone in a second season.
This recap of This Time With Alan Partridge season 2, episode 1 contains spoilers.
If you’ve missed This Time With Alan Partridge, and I’m sure we all have, the second season premiere opens with a welcome reminder of how Steve Coogan’s British talk show pastiche gets down. As Alan emerges from Dressing Room A in Broadcasting House, after some “me time before the This Time“, his co-host Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding, still expertly indistinguishable from an actual talk show host) leaves Dressing Room One after “having her makeup applied by two women in a very specific way.” It’s time for This Time, the show that “covers the full spectrum of human life. From aqua-aerobics to abortion, from zebras to Zionism.” Wonderful.
The unconventional opening is a request from a primary school student who wants to see the inside of the presenters’ dressing rooms, so cue zingers about 1970s sexism and state education. Lynne (Felicity Montagu), we learn, has a new hip, so she’s cutting around the studio like “Robocop or Oscar Pistorius.” There’s also a new producer in, a younger chap from E4, which Alan is predictably unhappy about, especially since the theme tune and title graphics have already gotten more hip. Trust Alan to determinedly resist the march of progress.
The first guest of This Time With Alan Partridge season 2, episode 1 is body language expert Clarissa Hoskin (Leila Farzad), and since this is a field that Alan has some previous experience in, he simply can’t accept the notion that he knows less than the expert — or indeed that the field is a serious scientific one. The merits of maintaining constant eye contact are discussed — Alan for, Clarissa against, whether it develops rapport or otherwise — and there’s a magical second of physical comedy when Alan slyly uncrosses his legs when Jennie draws attention to promoting sock brands. Alan’s demonstration of how to enter a conference or a party is classic Partridge, reminiscent of re-enacting James Bond credits sequences or using a train toilet without using one’s hands.
Where the show excels, as before, is in taking standard Alan-ready segments and using them to poke fun at the inner workings of television production, such as a segment in which Alan explores the benefits of silence with a catty monk, Father Paul (Simon Kunz), which is mostly an excuse to take potshots at the BBC and Holly Willoughby, though it does build to a hilarious payoff when Alan is finally broken by the ordeal. “Silence is golden? Bronze, at best.”
Simon Denton (Tim Key) has a slightly expanded role in This Time With Alan Partridge season 2; he now takes live calls as well as collected tweets, even if he’s not exactly sure how to work the system. Ruth Duggan (Lolly Adefope) also returns, although with the same role of deliberately antagonizing Alan by disagreeing with every word he says. (Alan’s excited “60,000 what, Ruth?” comeback is one of the best gags of the episode.) Since Jennie is now dating Sam Chatwin (Simon Farnaby) things between him and Alan are even more awkward than usual, but it’s basically a class war. (Sam fondly remembers going to “Keeeenya” with his father in the long school holidays.) Chatwin proposing to Jennie live on-air throws the show’s timings off completely, meaning that Alan has to rush his big finale segment in which he reunites two long-lost brothers under the guise of one of them winning a caravan. A disaster, as ever. But, contrary to Alan’s claims, it makes for great television.