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Funny and painfully tragic character-piece on top of light entertainment satire
Recently I heard an interview with Armando Iannucci on the Sound of Young America. He was promoting In the Loop of course but he was asked about his career and so on and the conversation took in Alan Partridge and other shows. It reminded me that, while I can remember the show from the time, I never really paid much attention to it while it was on and that I should probably borrow the DVD from a friend and try it. I did this recently and managed to wolf the whole thing down in a matter of days (it is only essentially 7 episodes long). Alan "shot to fame" as a sports presenter and has landed his own talk show a bit in the mould of Terry Wogan but on BBC2. He has done this despite being incredibly unsuited to the job a fact demonstrated by his ratings and his inability to cope with anything beyond his own superficial blandness and punning.
As such the show is a good example of the awkward, pained comedy that the British do seem to do well the comedy of embarrassment. It is a simple concept that, in fairness, probably couldn't have been sustained for much more than the one season and Christmas special that it got, because it does elevate itself to breakdown level within this timer period and the "joke" is essentially the same each time. That "joke" though is the character of Partridge himself a local celebrity who is a sheen of catchphrases and corny jokes, popular with the elderly in Norwich no doubt but far from being the type of person you want to host a live TV show. He is unable to deal with anything that happens that is out of the ordinary not only can he not deal with it but he cannot prevent himself being frustrated on air and this is generally what happens.
This works as well as it does because of Coogan. He takes some great writing and delivers it with commitment and realism that stops his character being a clown but rather a tragic figure who is floundering at every step, frantically denying reality to himself for as long as he can before moments of resignation or anger reveal that he does know it. It is both funny and painful to. That it happens against the backdrop of a solid lampoon of inane "light entertainment" makes it a very engaging show. I will not say I was rolling with laughter at every minute but it did consistently amuse me because of Coogan. The supporting cast are not quite as good but do still do good work as guests alongside this disaster of a man some mock him, some go along with it as best they can and some do both. Front is the most varied of the regulars and is good for it but personally I was surprised by how many times Marber essentially did the same character. Schneider is good in a few small turns while John Thompson is brilliant as the only person who comes over more pathetic than Partridge himself.
It will not please all viewers but Iannucci crosses a satire on light entertainment with a great car-crash of a character to great effect. Frequently funny and consistently amusing, KMKYWAP is short and sweet as a season, staying around just long enough to do the job and creating a great character in the meantime.
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