|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. A parody of British television personalities, Partridge is a tactless and inept television and radio presenter who often insults his guests and whose inflated sense of celebrity drives him to treachery and shameless self-promotion. Coogan described Partridge as a Little Englander, with right-wing values and poor taste.
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. Coogan starred as Partridge in a two-series BBC sitcom, I'm Alan Partridge, in 1997 and 2002, which earned two BAFTAs. The character returned in 2010 with a web series, Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge, followed in 2011 by bestselling spoof autobiography, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan, and in 2013 a successful feature-length film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Critics have praised Alan Partridge's complexity, realism and pathos. Vanity Fair called him 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.
Creation, Knowing Me, Knowing You and move to television
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, portrayed by Steve Coogan. The show's writers Armando Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Richard Herring and Stewart Lee wrote much of Partridge's original material, although Herring credits the creation to Coogan and Iannucci. Iannucci asked Coogan to do a voice for a generic sports reporter; according to Iannucci, "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 said Partridge was originally a "one-note, sketchy character" and "freak show", but became "more and more refined as sort of a dysfunctional alter ego" over the years. He 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. The series saw Partridge annoy and offend his guests, and coined the character's catchphrase, "Aha!" In 1993, On the Hour transferred to television as The Day Today, in which Partridge reprised his role as sports reporter. In 1994, Knowing Me, Knowing You transferred to television; the series ends with Partridge accidentally shooting a guest and attacking a BBC commissioning editor, ending his television career. It was nominated for the 1995 BAFTA for Light Entertainment Performance. A Christmas special, Knowing Me, Knowing Yule, was broadcast in December 1995.
I'm Alan Partridge
In 1997, Coogan starred 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; he lives in a roadside hotel, presents a graveyard slot on local radio, and desperately pitches ideas for new television shows. Iannucci said the writers used the sitcom as "a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England." It won the 1998 BAFTA awards for Comedy Performance and Comedy Programme or Series.
In 1999, Partridge appeared on the BBC telethon Children in Need, performing a medley of Kate Bush songs. A second series of I'm Alan Partridge was broadcast in 2002, following Partridge's life in a static caravan with his new Ukrainian girlfriend after recovering from a mental breakdown. In March 2003, the BBC broadcast a mockumentary, Anglian Lives: Alan Partridge, about Partridge's life and career. In 2008, Coogan performed a stand-up tour titled "Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge and other Less Successful Characters", featuring Partridge as a life coach.
Mid Morning Matters, autobiography and feature film
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 company Baby Cow Productions. According to Neil, 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. Sky will broadcast another series in February 2016.
In 2011, a spoof 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. In October, Coogan appeared as Partridge to promote the book on The Jonathan Ross Show and BBC Radio 5 Live. 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 Partridge's home county Norfolk, for which Coogan won the 2013 BAFTA for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme. 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 film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, written by Coogan, Iannucci, Baynham and the Gibbons brothers, was released in the UK. It was directed by Declan Lowney and co-produced by StudioCanal and Baby Cow Productions, with support from BBC Films and the BFI Film Fund. The film sees Partridge enlisted as a crisis negotiator during a siege at his radio station. It received positive reviews and opened at number one at the box office in the United Kingdom and Ireland. On 18 December 2015, Coogan co-presented a special Christmas episode of the Channel 4 chat show TFI Friday as Partridge.
Alan Partridge is an incompetent and tactless television and radio presenter. He is socially inept, often offending his guests, and 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, for example, he punches a BBC boss and a paralysed former golfer.
Partridge holds right-wing views; 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."
According to Forbes, Partridge has "parochial bad taste", and Coogan described him as "on the wrong side of cool". He is a fan of the Daily Mail newspaper, James Bond films and Lexus cars. His music taste includes Wings and 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 describes 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. As Coogan aged, the ageing make-up he wore in earlier performances became unnecessary.
Guardian critic Alexis Petridis wrote that "one of the reasons audiences find [Partridge] funny is that they recognise at least a bit of themselves in him." 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." Felicity Montagu, who plays Partridge's assistant Lynn, felt he was a good person "deep down" and actually "vulnerable and lovable". Iannucci said that Partridge stays optimistic because he never sees himself as others see him, and that despite his failings 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." Rob and Neil Gibbons felt that by the time of Mid Morning Matters, when Partridge is 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 2008, Brian Logan wrote in the Guardian that though Partridge was created as a satire of the "asinine fluency of broadcaster-speak" of the time, his study of character traits gave the character a timeless quality. In 2012, Guardian writer John Crace 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 said he was "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 Partridge 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, Alan Partridge 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 proposal, "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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