Alan Partridge : Knowing Me, Knowing You/Knowing Me, Knowing Yule - Complete BBC Series  [DVD]
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Aha! Alan Partridge, 'King of Chat' (or alternatively the chat show host from hell), manages to rub all of his guests' backs up in all six episodes from the first series of 'Knowing Me, Knowing You'. Finest comedy moments include the 'head shlapping' bald Brummies, the famous ABBA medley, 'Cheeky Monkey' and the French clowns. Steve Coogan is Partridge, Patrick Marber, David Schneider, Rebecca Front and Doon MacKichan are the regular guest stars, while the writing staff includes Coogan, Marber and Armando Iannucci. Whilst 'Knowing Me, Knowing Yule...' sees Alan Partridge return in this one-off Christmas special, in the comfort of an exact replica of his Norwich home. The self-styled king of chat uses his incisive questioning skills on a whole host of minor celebrities (portrayed by the regular cast), whilst trying to secure a second season of his regular chat show.
Ah-Ha! In 1995 Norwich's most famous son Alan Partridge made the transition from radio to TV with Knowing Me, Knowing You, a chat-show so wholly misunderstood that one clever-clog TV critic described it as "moribund". By way of rebuttal, just consider Alan's parade of fantastic guests, including a hypnotist who persuades Alan that he's an owl; a US pop diva with whom Alan shares a memorable Abba duet that happens to be in all the wrong keys for him; raunchy male dance-act Hot Pants; Cirque des Clowns, whose extreme violence upsets Alan; and, most exciting of all, Roger Moore (via mobile phone from a traffic jam on the Chiswick roundabout).
Steve Coogan's creation fell on hard times later--as chronicled in the magnificent I'm Alan Partridge Series 1 and Series 2--but here he's revelling in his prime-time exposure with no thought of becoming "clinically sad" or gorging on Toblerone bars. Co-writers Armando Iannucci and Patrick Marber lovingly recreate everything that's fake and contrived about the whole chat-show genre: the shameless plugging, the recalcitrant celebs, the novelty acts and, most of all, the insufferably smug host oblivious to his own tediousness. Coogan's regular guests are ably played by some faces familiar from The Day Today: Rebecca Front, Doon MacKichan, David Schneider and Patrick Marber himself. Other game guest stars are John Thomson (as a naval officer also called Alan Partridge) and Minnie Driver (as a transsexual agony aunt), not forgetting Steve Brown as disconcertingly gay music director Glen Ponder.
The high-water mark of Alan's career arrived with his Christmas special Knowing Me, Knowing Yule in which his own living room was lovingly recreated at Television Centre. Unfortunately, and despite the presence of Mick Hucknall, the new Chief Commissioning Editor of BBC TV, Tony Hayers, is deeply unimpressed with the show and gets punched in the face by Alan, who, it turns out, is handy with a turkey. On that bombshell, Alan's career took a downward turn.
On the DVD: Knowing Me, Knowing You is a two-disc set including all six episodes and the Christmas special. There's a group commentary throughout with contributions from Armando Iannucci plus Patrick Marber, Rebecca Front, Steve Brown and Dave Schneider speaking in and out of character. Other extras include the original pilot show, Alan on Comic Relief, Alan's rural rambles, his TV trailers, plus stills and cast biographies. --Mark Walker
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I particularly liked the episode that was set in Paris. Co-fronting it was a chic and professional Parisienne doomed to suffer quite shameless Frog-bashing from Alan. At the end of that episode, after he'd insulted the French to the point of no return, AP glibly announced that he hoped Britain and France would be just a little closer because of his ground-breaking show.
The Yule one showed AP managing to offend both Christians and Jews, pyrotechnicians, his disabled guests,his gay co-presenters and patients in the local children's hospital. The episode resolved a few things touched on in the earlier programmes, especially AP's boasting of the mega bucks spent on his tacky studio sets in comparison to the need for dialysis machines. Special guest on that show (To Alan, because he wanted to schmooze) is Tony Hayers (Schneider), the commissioning editor for BBC tv. Hayers finally pulls the plug on the expensive sets, the product placement and lastly, on Alan's career. This cringey crescendo provides the set up for the Patridge/Hayers animosity and sensitivity in the next series.
I didn't think much of the "extras" of this DVD but then I never buy DVD's for anything other than the movies/programmes themselves. This is a 5 star series and Alan Patridge is one of the great, comic monsters.
For me this series is not as brilliant as the later ones and a minor irritation is that, despite their best efforts of disguise, his "TV guests" were mostly played by the same actors.
Overall, though, if you like laughing at other people's misfortune or embarrassment then the Alan Partridge series is for you. There are also some very clever human observational moments, which the writers get just right. One minute you warm to Alan the next you find yourself cringing at something he's said. That's what's so "loveable" about him! Partridge does not intentionally say unpleasant things to his guests; his almost childlike character does not really understand what he's saying!
Having already bought the other two Partridge DVDs (obviously from Amazon!) this was a welcome addition to the collection and sets the tone for the others. If you've not seen Alan Partridge this is a perfect introduction. Some people compare Partridge to other popular comedic characters such as David Brent (The Office) or Basil Fawlty (Fawlty Towers) but I believe Alan is unlike any other!
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