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I TALK This Time with Alan Partridge

Jurassic Park! Alan Partridge has finally made his return to the BBC, 25 years since he last hosted a show for the broadcaster. But was it the glorious return we all so desperately wanted it to be?

After all the hysteria surrounding his return to the BBC, This Time with Alan Partridge hasn't disappointed. It's Alan, back where he belongs and back at the top of his game.

In short, yes. That's because the first episode of This Time with Alan Partridge sets the series up to be less of a recruitment drive for new fans and more of a reward for lifelong Partridge fans - many of whom have stuck by Alan for the best part of three decades, through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let's not forget, the reason why Alan has been absent from the BBC for 25 years is because he shot a guest live on television and if that wasn't enough to end his relationship with the BBC, repeatedly asking its Head of Programmes Tony Hayers to "Smell my cheese!" during a now infamous meeting, almost certainly was.

Fast-forward 25 years and seemingly out of nowhere, Alan has been invited back onto the BBC and given a second chance co-hosting popular magazine show This Time alongside Jennie Gresham, played by Susannah Fielding. But it's not a permanent job, he's simply filling in for regular co-host John Baskell who has suddenly been taken ill.

With an opening feature on baby leopard seals, a VT on how best to wash your hands and an overly complicated digiwall which doesn't work, comparisons between This Time and The One Show are inevitable - and for many that's what this show will be, a well-observed, properly laugh-out-loud funny parody of The One Show. And that's fine, but for original fans of Partridge this new series offers so much more.

As I watched the first episode (and indeed the second episode which I've also seen), that this is Alan's final chance at mainstream success. We know it and the sad thing is, so does he.

After praising his use of a long word, Alan tells Jennie "I'm keen to give it my best" and there's such a sincerity to his response that us as viewers don't quite know how we should react to it and neither does Jennie. We both wait for the punchline, but the punchline never arrives.

Even when a viewer tweets in "Good to see you back on the BBC after your falling out" Alan responds with an uncharacteristic humility admitting that if this were to "lead to bigger things, great. If not and I'm back on local radio, equally great."

Hold the front page, turns out Alan really is trying his best and finally understands that in order to hold down a job at the BBC he has to behave himself. But surely it's only a matter of time before this new filter fades? Both you and I know that it won't be long before Alan finds himself digging holes he can't get out of.

Of course so much of the brilliance of Alan Partridge is down to the way in which Steve Coogan plays him. It's a character he knows inside out, completely embodies and is able to portray with an apparent ease that leaves viewers believing Alan is real,

In fact Coogan has Alan down to such a fine art that it's often not the dialogue that offers some of the funniest moments during the first episode of This Time with Alan Partridge. Just a small glance to camera or an awkward raise of the eyebrow can say much more about Alan than perhaps dialogue ever could. That's something he's earnt throughout the years.

What I particularly enjoyed about the new iteration of Alan Partridge was that the series combines what we loved about Knowing Me, Knowing You with what we loved about I'm Alan Partridge. Each episode plays out in real time but unlike Knowing Me, Knowing You we don't get to see all the VTs.

Instead, it's during these off-air moments where the camera resets and the make-up team carry out their top-ups that we see Alan's desperation and vulnerability - never more evident than when reunited with his long-suffering PA Lynn, played by Felicity Montagu, who feels she has to reassure Alan that he's doing a good job.

Starring alongside Coogan, Fielding and Montagu in the opening episode are Tim Key who reprises his role as Simon Denton from Mid Morning Matters, Cariad Lloyd who plays creator of new documentary Ice Pups, Alice Clunt... sorry, Alice Fluck and Lolly Adefope who plays This Time reporter Ruth Duggan who revels in disagreeing with everything Alan says following a previous incident at The Pride of Britain Awards.

Whether or not new fans will take to Alan remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure and that's that Alan Partridge is a perfect fit for a show like This Time and whilst his return to the BBC should have happened years ago, I'm just thankful that it's here now. After all the hysteria surrounding his return to the BBC, This Time with Alan Partridge hasn't disappointed. It's Alan, back where he belongs and back at the top of his game.

If you enjoyed the first episode, and let's be honest why wouldn't you have done, then brace yourself for episode two which in my opinion is even better. It features some of Alan's finest material to date and the best part of it all is that we get to witness how we thought Alan would behave in 2019. Believe me, once that filter fades, it's glorious to watch.

This Time with Alan Partridge continues Mondays at 9:30pm on BBC One


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