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Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge (1994-95)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge (1994-95)
BBC, tx. 16/9/1994 - 29/12/1995
6 x 30 min episodes plus 1 special, colour
DirectorDominic Brigstocke
Production CompanyTalkBack
ProducerArmando Iannucci
Written bySteve Coogan
 Armando Iannucci
 Patrick Marber

Cast: Steve Coogan, Steve Brown, Rebecca Front, Doon Mackichan, Patrick Marber, David Schneider, John Thomson

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Former sports reporter Alan Partridge hosts his first - and last - television chat show.

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When writer/producer Armando Iannucci asked comedian Steve Coogan to improvise a generic sport reporter for Radio 4 news spoof On the Hour (1991), little did either realise what they'd started. The pair subsequently developed the character in spoof chat show Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge (1992-93), again for Radio 4, revealing more about the Norwich-based broadcaster's ultimate ambition to become a television star.

Partridge made his small-screen debut as the inept sport correspondent of The Day Today (BBC, 1994), the ground-breaking spin-off from On the Hour, before finally securing his dream job. The TV adaptation of Knowing Me... parodied the kind of light-entertainment chat show that had all but expired by the mid-1990s, but its satirical targets were clear. Partridge's hubris, banality and ersatz chumminess were never intended to parody any particular media personality, but he was an instantly recognisable type nonetheless.

But more than being simply an attack on the chat show genre or on egregious TV presenters, Knowing Me... was a showcase for a generation of writer/performers rapidly emerging as the new doyens of comedy. Coogan, fresh from the Paul Calf Video Diaries (BBC, 1993-94), was establishing himself as a leading character comedian, and he submerged himself completely beneath Partridge's asinine tics, rampant narcissism and barely concealed desperation.

Partridge hosted from a shiny-floored studio set, from which he would deliver a tortuously pun-laden monologue, endure stilted banter with his band leader, and clumsily insult his guests. The central joke of a chat show being hosted by someone so utterly unqualified for the role was inspired.

The series climaxed with Partridge accidentally shooting a guest dead, leaving his television career in tatters, but he returned to the chat show format with the festive special Knowing Me Knowing Yule with Alan Partridge (tx. 29/12/1995), in which he sealed his fate by attacking the BBC's commissioning editor with a frozen turkey.

The attention to detail that typifies Coogan's work was arguably compromised by the studio audience being in on the gag, as well as having almost all of Partridge's fictional guests played by the same recurring cast. But with the standard of material and performances so high, such a minor deficiency is easily excused.

Coogan and Iannucci would drag Partridge into ever more excruciating backwaters in the quasi-naturalistic sitcom I'm Alan Partridge (BBC, 1997-2002), securing his position as one of British comedy's most iconic creations.

Paul Whitelaw

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Video Clips
1. A couple of ponces (2:12)
2. The beauty contest (2:02)
3. Partridge Over Britain (4:46)
Complete fifth episode (29:05)
Day Today, The (1994)
I'm Alan Partridge (1997)
Coogan, Steve (1965-)
Iannucci, Armando (1963-)
Mackichan, Doon (1962-)