Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
UK 2013. 90m, StudioCanal/BBC/BFI/Baby Cow
Blu-Ray: StudioCanal (UK)
When a disgruntled former employee of a local radio station holds his erstwhile colleages hostage at gunpoint, an inept presenter named Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) finds himself chosen as the unlikely negotiator...
It's been quite a trip for the comedy creation that is the superficial and self-loving media figure Alan Partridge. Created by Coogan and Armando Iannucci for spoof Radio 4 show On The Hour, he moved to TV in BBC2's The Day Today, before his own chat show Knowing Me Knowing You. Then his downfall was chronicled in I'm Alan Partridge, where we found him sacked by the BBC and exiled in the East of England, hosting the early show on Radio Norfolk.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa picks up the story several years later, as North Norfolk Digital (as the station is now known) is taken over by a big media group and rebranded as Shape to appeal to a fresh audience. Sensing the axe about to swing, Alan saves his own skin by somehow convincing the bosses to fire evening host Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), who doesn't take the news too well...
The transfer to the big screen is, for the most part an enjoyably smooth one. The situations have enough cinematic scope to justify the transition, and yet feel like a natural extension of their origins. The mistake many big screen versions of TV favourites have made over the years is taking characters we have grown to enjoy watching, then shoehorning them into scenarios which bare little or no relation to the source material (Sex & The City 2, anyone?). I'm pleased to say that Partridge's cinematic debut avoids such pitfalls, and also has plenty to enjoy for those unfamiliar with the character. It's certainly one of the funniest Brit-comedies in some time.
On top of all this, there are plenty of well aimed pot-shots at the inanity and homogenisation of local commercial radio in Britain, where conglomerates owning multiple stations churn out the same pre-selected predictable playlist from Perth to Penzance, and the chat and phone-ins deal with the most mind-numbingly trivial bunk (see previous piece here).
Don't believe me? Next time you're setting your radio alarm, tune it to your local commercial station. You'll see I'm right... Such stations across the UK (with a few notable exceptions) are full of duplicates of the Shape staffers. With Alan Partridge, Coogan and Iannucci just might have inadvertently chronicled the changes for the worst in the UK media since broadcasting was deregulated.
Or maybe that was what they intended all along?
Original Theatrical Trailer: