|First appearance||Radio: On the Hour
Television: The Day Today
|Created by||Steve Coogan
|Portrayed by||Steve Coogan|
|Occupation||Radio and television presenter|
|Significant other(s)||Sonja (separated)|
|Relatives||Dorothy Partridge (mother)
John Partridge (grandfather)
Alan Gordon Partridge is a fictional character portrayed by English actor and comedian Steve Coogan. Partridge is a tactless and inept television and radio presenter who often insults his guests. He is arrogant, with an inflated sense of celebrity, and often resorts to treachery and shameless self-promotion. Coogan described Partridge as a Little Englander, with right-wing values and poor taste in music and clothes.
Partridge was created by Coogan and Armando Iannucci for the 1991 BBC Radio 4 comedy programme On The Hour, a spoof of British current affairs broadcasting, as the show's sports presenter. In 1992, Partridge hosted a spin-off Radio 4 spoof chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, which transferred to television in 1994. The character appeared in a two-series BBC sitcom, I'm Alan Partridge, in 1997 and 2003. In 2011, a bestselling fictional autobiography, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan, was published. A feature-length film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, was released in August 2013.
Critics have praised the character's complexity, realism and pathos. He has been described as a British "national treasure", and the Guardian described him as "one of the greatest and most beloved comic creations of the last few decades". According to Den of Geek, Partridge has so influenced British culture that "Partridgisms" have become part of everyday vernacular.
Alan Partridge was created for the 1991 BBC Radio 4 comedy programme On The Hour, a spoof of British current affairs broadcasting, as the show's hapless sports presenter. The character is portrayed by Steve Coogan and was created by Coogan and writer Armando Iannucci. The show's other writers Patrick Marber, Richard Herring and Stewart Lee wrote much of Partridge's original material, although Herring credits the creation mostly to Coogan and Iannucci. According to Iannucci, he asked Coogan to do a voice for a "generic sports reporter": "Someone said, 'He’s an Alan!' and someone else said, 'He’s a Partridge!' Within minutes we knew where he lived, we'd worked out his back story, what his aspirations were." Coogan had performed a similar character for a BBC college radio station at university.
Following On the Hour, Partridge presented six episodes of a spoof Radio 4 chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, first broadcast on 1 December 1992. In 1993, On the Hour transferred to television as The Day Today. In 1994, Partridge presented a television version of Knowing Me, Knowing You and a Christmas special, Knowing Me, Knowing Yule, in December 1995.
In 1997, Coogan starred as Partridge in a sitcom, I'm Alan Partridge, written by Coogan, Iannucci and Peter Baynham. The sitcom follows Partridge after he has been left by his wife and dropped from the BBC; Partridge lives in a roadside hotel, presents a graveyard slot on local radio, and desperately pitches ideas for new television series to the BBC. A second series of I'm Alan Partridge was broadcast in 2002. Iannucci said the writers used the sitcom as "a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England." In March 2003, the BBC broadcast a mockumentary, Anglian Lives: Alan Partridge, about Partridge's life and career.
After I'm Alan Partridge, Iannucci said he had felt the character was "kind of dead". However, in 2010, Partridge returned in a series of YouTube shorts, Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge, with Partridge DJing on a digital radio station. The shorts were written by brothers Neil and Rob Gibbons, who submitted scripts to Coogan's production company. According to Neil Gibbons, Coogan "invited us in, our sensibilities chimed, and before we knew it, Mid Morning Matters was up and running. We wrote it as if it was our baby, and though there was a sense that we were standing on the shoulders of giants, I think we were like two pairs of fresh eyes, and Steve seemed to fall in love with the character all over again." Coogan said they chose the web format because "it was a bit underground, a low-key environment in which to test the character out again. And the response was so good, we realised there was more fuel in the tank." The shorts were later broadcast by Sky Atlantic.
In 2011, a mock autobiography, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan, written by Coogan, Iannucci and the Gibbons brothers, was published in the UK. An audiobook version recorded by Coogan as Partridge was released on CD and downloadable audio formats. Coogan appeared as Partridge to promote the book on The Jonathan Ross Show show on 1 October 2011. The book received positive reviews and became a bestseller. A second autobiography is due in 2016.
On 25 June 2012, Partridge presented a one-hour Sky special, Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life, taking the viewer on a tour of Norfolk. It was followed the next week by Open Books with Martin Bryce, a mock literary programme discussing Partridge's autobiography.
On 7 August 2013, a feature-length film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, written by Coogan, Iannucci, Baynham and the Gibbons brothers, was released in the UK. The film sees Partridge enlisted as a crisis negotiator during a siege at his radio station. The film was directed by Declan Lowney and co-produced by StudioCanal and Coogan's production company Baby Cow, with support from BBC Films and the BFI Film Fund. It received positive reviews and opened at number one at the box office in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Alan Partridge is an incompetent and tactless television and radio presenter. Though he often offends his guests, Iannucci said he was "the perfect broadcaster for these times, when there are 24 hours to fill and dead time is a crime – he has a unique capacity to fill any vacuum with his own verbal vacuum." The Independent described his voice as having "false urgency", "ringing declarations" and "nasal cadences forever veering between triumph and disaster". For earlier versions of the character, Coogan used a different voice, which he described as a "more nasal" version of his own, imitating sports commentators such as Elton Welsby, John Motson or David Coleman.
Partridge is socially inept; he enjoys correcting others and his relationships with women are dysfunctional. Partridge has an inflated sense of importance and celebrity. According to the Telegraph, he is "utterly convinced of his own superiority, and bewildered by the world's inability to recognise it – qualities that placed him in the line of comedy lineage that runs directly from Hancock, Captain Mainwaring, and Basil Fawlty." His need for public attention drives him to deceit, treachery and shameless self-promotion, and sometimes violence; in the Knowing Me, Knowing Yule Christmas special, he punches a BBC boss and a paralysed former golfer, and in an episode of I'm Alan Partridge he attacks a BBC boss with a cheese.
Coogan described Partridge as being "on the wrong side of cool". According to Forbes, Partridge has "parochial bad taste". He is a fan of the Daily Mail newspaper, James Bond films and Lexus cars. His music taste includes Wings and the Swedish pop group Abba, naming his son Fernando and his talk show Knowing Me, Knowing You after Abba songs. Partridge's catchphrase, "Aha!", also comes from Abba. In earlier incarnations, Partridge's wardrobe includes a blazer, badge and tie, driving gloves, and "too-short" shorts, styles he described as "sports casual" and "imperial leisure". According to Iannucci, by the time of Alpha Papa Partridge's wardrobe had "evolved to the Top Gear Presenter Circa 2005 stage," with sports jackets and a "borderline-foppish" fringe. Coogan began performing the character when he was 26 and used to wear ageing make-up, which became unnecessary as he aged.
Partridge holds right-wing views, and Coogan described him as a Little Englander, with a "myopic, slightly philistine mentality". Earlier versions of the character were more bigoted, but the writers later found there was more humour in having him attempt to be liberal. Coogan said: "He's aware of political correctness but he's playing catch-up. In the same way that the Daily Mail is a bit PC – it wouldn't be openly homophobic now – Alan is the same. He tries to be modern."
Despite Partridge's flaws, his creators and critics see him as an empathetic figure. Baynham told the Guardian that "despite the fact that people say he's awful, a lot of the time we were trying to build empathy: you're watching a man suffer but also at some level identifying with his pain." Guardian critic Alexis Petridis wrote that "one of the reasons audiences find him funny is that they recognise at least a bit of themselves in him." Felicity Montagu, who plays Partridge's assistant Lynn, felt that Alan was a good person "deep down" and was really "vulnerable and lovable".
According to Coogan, Partridge was originally a "one-note, sketchy character" and "freak show", but became "more and more refined as sort of a dysfunctional alter ego." Iannucci said that Partridge stays optimistic because he never sees himself as others see him. Rob and Neil Gibbons felt that by the time of Mid Morning Matters, when Partridge was working for an even smaller radio station, "he was more at peace with himself" and that his lack of self-awareness saved him from misery.
Reception and influence
Vanity Fair described Alan Partridge as "a national treasure ... a part of British comedy heritage as John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty and Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean." According to Variety, in Britain "Alan Partridge is a full-on phenomenon, a multiplatform fictional celebrity whose catchphrases, mangled metaphors and social ineptitude are the stuff of legend and good ratings." The character is less well known outside the UK, but according to Anchorman director Adam McKay “every American comic knows who Steve is, whether it’s Stiller or Ferrell or Jack Black or me ... and everyone watching those [Partridge] DVDs had the same reaction. How did I not know about this guy?” Indiewire wrote that "few Americans may know, but Partridge is a something of a comic icon across the pond ... Before there was Ron Burgundy for the Yanks, there was Alan Partridge for the Brits." In 2012, the Guardian wrote: "By rights, Alan Partridge should have been dead as a character years ago, the last drops of humour long since wrung out ... but Steve Coogan keeps finding ways to make him feel fresh."
Reviewing Alpha Papa in 2013, the Independent wrote that "Partridge is a disarming creation" and that despite his flaws "we always root for him." In 2014, Guardian writer Stuart Heritage described Partridge as "one of the greatest and most beloved comic creations of the last few decades." In 2015, the entertainment news site Mandatory described Partridge as "a fascinatingly layered and fully realized creation of years of storytelling and a fundamentally contemptible prick — he feels like a living, breathing person, but a living, breathing person that you want to strangle." The Telegraph credited the character with influencing "awkward" sitcoms such as The Inbetweeners, Nighty Night and Peep Show, and wrote: "Never has one actor so completely inhabited a sitcom character. We believe Partridge is real, from his side-parted hair down to his tasseled sports-casual loafers."
According to Den of Geek, the character has so influenced British culture that "Partridgisms" have become part of everyday vernacular. "Monkey Tennis", one of Partridge's television proposals, has become shorthand for absurd television concepts. Another of his proposals, "Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank", was used by the hostel booking site Hostelworld as the basis of a 2015 television advert with boxer Chris Eubank. "Accidental Partridge", an unofficial Twitter account which collects quotes reminiscent of Partridge's speech from real media figures, had attracted 144,000 followers by May 2014. In July 2015, an art exhibition inspired by the character opened in Norwich.
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