Can a character who’s insanely popular and influential in the U.K., but all but unknown the U.S. audiences, make sense to audiences stateside? Is it funny to people (such as myself) who have never watched a minute of Partridge until now?
I’m happy to say that, despite my total unfamiliarity with the character, I laughed a lot at “Alan Partridge,” thanks to a witty script, a funny conceit for a movie, and a magnetic comedic performance from the character’s creator, Steve Coogan.
Coogan has been playing the Partridge character, a narcissistic TV/radio host, in various media for two decades, and it’s spoken of in rapturous tones by certain comedy nerds. However, Partridge has never quite broken through stateside the way, say, the Ricky Gervais version of The Office did.
Known in Britain as “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa,” and released across the pond last year, “Alan Partridge” drops Partridge into a radio station in Norwich. When an evil corporation buys the station and threatens layoffs, there’s a hostage situation (instigated by a rival host, played by Colm Meaney) that comprises most of the movie. Will Partridge save the day, or will his narcisicism- and need to be “the face of the siege”- get the better of him?
The transition works, I think, because it’s not like obnoxious TV hosts are something unfamiliar to American audiences. Until recently, we even shared one of England’s own. There are also very familiar references to corporate takeovers of media and downsizing, along with bullshit phrases like “multi-platform content delivery.”
Will Alan Partridge take off in America? Maybe, maybe not. But he certainly deserves to.