THE 1990s were a great decade for comedy on TV. Commissioning editors were willing to take risks with untested talent, helping create some of the best sitcoms and sketch shows British audiences have ever seen.
The likes of Vic and Bob, Chris Morris, Father Ted and Spaced made it a golden era for the medium and sitting there right at the top of the tree was Alan Partridge – the fictional sports reporter and chat show host made flesh by Steve Coogan, who first appeared on Radio 4’s On The Hour in 1991.
The hit comedy returns to BBC One next year with Coogan confirming that Alan’s Little Englander attitude will provide fertile material for unpicking the EU vote, among other topics.
In the meantime this BBC Two documentary told the much-loved character’s history through excerpts and interviews with the writers and cast, including key figures in his creation, such as Patrick Marber and Armando Iannucci and actors including David Schneider, Sally Phillips and Felicity Montagu.
The details about Alan’s creation and early days were real treats for Partridge geeks.
We learnt it was Marber who spotted the real potential in the character and who began to create Partridge’s fascinating back story. He was originally supposed to come from Milton Keynes but the new town was deemed to obvious compared to Norwich’s “blank canvas” and the fact it was just that bit too far from London.
Elsewhere, Coogan told a lovely story about how Roger Moore’s father had berated the James Bond actor for not turning up to one of the episodes of Knowing Me Knowing You, the elderly man believing it a real chat show.
Then there were the clips of course which remain some of the funniest moments in the history of British comedy.
Partridge’s meeting with BBC commissioning editor Tony Hayers (“smell my cheese”), Alan’s big plate, his various scraps with DJ Dave Clifton and of course the legendary non-meeting with Dan in the car park.
What a fine job writers Rob and Neil Gibbons have made of resurrecting Partridge in recent years was made clear from the excerpts from Mid Morning Matters, Alpha Papa, Scissored Isle and the two brilliant books, I, Partridge and Nomad, and if the programme’s main aim was to whet the appetite for the new series, it was job very much done. Back of the net!