ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA
UK, 2013, 90 minutes, Colour.
Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney.
Directed by Declan Lowney.
For British television watchers, Alan Partridge could be a household name. But, beyond the shores of Britain and beyond his favoured Norfolk, he is not so well-known. And this provides a difficulty for a feature film based on a successful television program. Because it has run for so long, the writers and actors are so familiar with the character that they take many things for granted which an audience new to the show may well find strange. And this seems to be the case with Alan Partridge.
For a long time, Steve Coogan’s creation has appeared in many television series. Partridge has been a lively, not admirable, media personality but, in this film, he is now in his mid fifties, co-hosting a radio program in Norfolk. Which means that the film is also a satire on commercial television.
The radio station has fallen on hard times and is being taken over by an aggressively commercial company. Old DJs must go and the choice comes down to Alan Partridge or his friend, Irishman, Pat Farrell, played with vigour by Colm Meaney.
Partridge’s style is immediately communicated in his attitude towards his fellow-host, always silencing him, and blithely carrying on as if the program were completely his own. He is supportive of his friend, Pat Farrell who does the late night shift, and goes in to the new director and board to plead his cause for staying on. When he notices that the alternative to be sacked is himself, he immediately urges them to sack Pat. Which they do.
And Partridge manages to ignore the forlorn Farrell.
But Farrell is not quite so forlorn, taking the board members as hostages during a party and not wanting to communicate with the police except through Alan. This gives Alan an extraordinary new platform, not only a hero in the public’s eyes, but liaison with the police despite his initial fears and touches of cowardice, but going on air to co-host a program with Pat, siege and all, playing popular music, taking phone-in calls, frustrating the police.
This means that the audience is far more on Pat’s side than Alan’s, especially as he continues through the siege, hiding in a room for a liaison with one of the staff, ingratiating himself with the police who become frustrated with his lack of cooperation, double-dealing with Pat all the time, and drawing on the advice of his personal assistant and then turning on her when she is interviewed on television.
In fact, there are some funny and ironic lines, and Alan Partridge gets itself into precarious situations, especially trying to get in a window and having his trousers caught so he gets more media exposure than he anticipated. Of course, he is found out, and that means Pat pursuing him with a rifle and a crisis on the pier.
It may be that in the series, Alan Partridge became a lovable rogue even when people raised their eyebrows at his behaviour. But, an audience plunged into his story without preparation, sees him as more rogue than lovable, despite the comedy, and so it does not sympathise with him as might have been expected.
1. The popularity of the Alan Partridge character on television? For so many years? Steve Coogan, the producers and writers, the invention of this character?
2. The prospect of moving from television to feature film? The presuppositions of the film-makers? The response of the fans? Those not in the know and unfamiliar with the series and finding difficulty in relating to the character and his situations?
3. The humour of the film? British? Ironic? Deadpan humour? Satirical situations? The sending up of the commercial radio world? The police? Sieges?
4. Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge, the long development of the character, his role in the media, his self-centredness, meanness towards others, his now being in his mid-50s?
5. The introduction to Alan Partridge, on air, his putting down of his colleague and silencing him? His self-importance? The friendship with Pat Farrell? The friendship with the woman at the office, not knowing she was married with children? His minder and his treatment of her, her advice, sometimes taking it , sometimes not?
6. The takeover of the new company, wanting new policies for the radio, the sacking of DJs? The camera scanning the photos of the celebrities? Pat and his fearing he would be sacked? Asking for Alan’s help? Alan and his coming into the meeting, his manner of talking, the points made, the discovery of the truth, his own potential sacking, his turning against Pat, writing on the butcher’s paper that he be sacked?
7. Pat and his reaction to being sacked, 30 minutes, talking to Alan, Alan pretending to be on the phone? His callous disregard of Pat?
8. The party, Alan’s behaviour, the manager and his support of Alan, Alan and his ambitions?
9. Alan outside, with his minder? Her character, concern, later going on television, the make-over, his seeing her, angry, sacking her, her finally coming to his rescue, re-instatement?
10. Pat and the siege, Alan finding the group in the room, Pat and his gun? His grievances? The character of Pat, Irish, in Norfolk, the memories of his dead wife? His motivation for the siege, anti-establishment?
11.Pat wanting to communicate only through Alan? Alan and the police, his backing down, twisting the arguments, wanting some self aggrandisement? Putting on the bullet-proof vest? Awkwardness with the various members of the police, the commander, the officer in charge, the women police?
12. Alan, his dealings with Pat, double-talk? With the hostages? Taking the woman into the closet and the sexual encounter? Pat and his telling the truth about the woman and her family? The awkwardness of bashing his assistant? And his being tied up with the pot-looking top and the hole for the rifle? And his deadpan commentary?
13. Alan and Pat, the decision to have the radio program going, the selection of music, Pat going to the library for Willie Nelson, the phone-ins and support? The exasperation of the police?
14. The dealings with the manager, his trying to take over? Alan and his going outside, locked out while phoning? Trying to get in again, his trousers being caught, his falling down, his being exposed, the police with the gun, the photographer?
15. The final mix-ups? Inside the studio? Pat getting out? The truck? The chase through the town? Arriving on the pier? Pat and his memories of his wife on the pier?
16. On the pier, but discovering the butcher’s paper and the truth about Alan and his stance? The rifle? Michael, the comic scenes for him as security guard, driving the truck, finishing up in the water, never found? The rifle, Alan’s tactics, and fears? The police? Pat being taken?
17. Alan and his weighing up the possible celebrity moments? Going back on air, getting the plum job, with his assistant? Pat and the phone calls from jail?
18. The satiric tone of the film, Alan Partridge as an unsympathetic character, Pat as a sympathetic character, the interplay in the siege, the final resolution and Alan triumphant?