Alan Partridge's Mid Morning Matters

There’s a tendency to view all the great British sitcom monsters – Fawlty, Rigsby, Garnett et al – as being in the past, preserved in aspic and only rolled out for Channel 5 clip shows. So hurrah for Alan Gordon Partridge, who’s still very much a going concern – even if he has been reduced to the elevenses slot on Norfolk Digital.

These may be straitened times for our host (though, actually, he seems happier than he’s been in years), but Mid Morning Matters, which returned for a second series this week, is the ideal format for us, the viewer. Freed from too much fussy plot business, it’s just the man and his mic – the perfect showcase for Alan’s freewheeling, gently surreal, exquisitely awkward flights of fancy. 100% pure Partridge.

Alan’s day got off to a bad start with an involuntary reflex impression of ‘Sir Jimmy Savile, disgraced Knight of the Realm’. But he was in his element hosting a debate on the Norfolk Hunt, describing the Countryside Alliance as ‘what the National Trust would be if it grew a pair’, and patiently explaining the premise of Minder to a member of the landed gentry. He also concluded that, ‘if a fox was a human being, it would be David Starkey’. Which makes sense.

He’s your classic sitcom tragedy, really – the man constantly defeated by his own self-regarding over-ambition. And Steve Coogan, who co-writes with brothers Neil and Rob Gibbons, plays it so impeccably, it’s easy to take him for granted. There’s fine support, too, from Tim Key as Sidekick Simon, who watches Alan wobbling across conversational minefields with a mixture of amusement and blind terror.

Sure, we could ask again why Coogan, the outspoken Hacked Off campaigner, is taking the Murdoch shilling. And what the heck is something set in Norfolk doing on Sky Atlantic anyway? (As Alan would be quick to point out, its boundaries are actually the North Sea and The Wash.) But let’s just be grateful it exists. Because who else but Alan Partridge would dare tackle the big questions like: ‘Corner shop fizzy drinks – what part of “multi-pack not to be sold separately” don’t they understand?’

Well, there’s Jeremy Vine, obviously. But you take my point.


TV extra:

It’s Not Rocket Science

Since Tomorrow’s World ended, science has struggled to find a home on television. This latest attempt is based around Top Gear-style stunts – in the first episode, an Olympic sprinter raced a Red Arrow jet, while Rachel Riley rode a zipwire through a wall of fire (a step up from Countdown, where the most she has to worry about is making a rude word on the letters board). Meanwhile, Joey Essex watched Ben Miller use a frozen banana as a hammer. It was fun, but I kept waiting for ‘the science bit’.


Sara Cox on Friendship

For the first of a new series of authored documentaries on the rebranded Watch, Sara Cox explored nature of friendship, and how social media might be changing it. The show featured more actual science than It’s Not Rocket Science, including an MRI scan to examine the effect Cox’s friends had on her brain, and the revelation that Facebook and Twitter trigger the same dopamine hit as a Class A drug. It was all quite fascinating (though I did check Facebook a couple of times while I was watching it).

Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 18, 2016

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