Interview: Alan Partridge on BBC One's This Time with Alan Partridge.
In This Time with Alan Partridge, Alan (Steve Coogan) handed a career lifeline - the chance to stand in (temporarily) as co-host.
His first return to live television since his 90s chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You was cancelled after a guest was fatally shot on air, This Time is the perfect shop window for a man of Alan’s gravitas and will, or should, see him finally recognised as one of the heavyweight broadcasters of his era.
The show itself is a heady mix of consumer affairs, current affairs, viewer interaction, highbrow interview and lightweight froth; very much the sweet spots for a man whose CV boasts over two decades of weekday local radio. And with an array of diverse subjects on the agenda, it promises the perfect fit for a man whose broadcasting style has been described as ‘equidistant between chitchat and analysis.’
Alan took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to tell us what we can expect...
Alan Partridge, it’s been 25 years since your last BBC presenting job.
It has. But very soon I’ll be parking ma backside on the This Time sofa, just inches from regular host Jennie Gresham, a broadcaster I genuinely admire. If it’s not verboten to say this in the current climate, she’s the thinking man’s thinking woman and provides not just eye candy, but ear candy and even brain candy too at times. She’s that good.
How did your return to live TV come about?
Well, as you may have read, regular presenter John Baskell has become rendered unwell - it’s not my place to divulge the nature of his illness but I believe it’s to do with his heart, brought on by good living and his almost heroic refusal to ever exercise. So with a few days’ notice, I got the call. And although my schedule is as clogged as John’s arteries (get well, John) I consider it my public duty to stand in for as long as John is away. Anyway, it won’t be for long. If John can fight this with a fraction of the vigour he uses to fight for presenting work he knows has already been promised to other people, he’ll be on his feet again in no time.
You’re used to helming your own shows. Have you co-presented before?
I’ve presented daytime radio alongside a man called Simon Denton for several years. But that’s not co-presenting. In relation to me, Simon’s position contractually is one of total subordination. He’s a sidekick - at best. And he knows that.
So no, co-presenting is not a dynamic I’m used to, but I’ve been working on a few things. So when Jennie’s reading the autocue I might turn my head to face her to simulate listening, or frown solemnly if she mentions ‘cancer’, or wait until it’s my turn to speak and then prefix it with ‘That’s right, Jennie.’ Loads of things you can do.
How do you and Jennie get along?
Gotta say, we’ve only just met but already we have a chemistry that sizzles like liver in a hot pan and crackles like a genuine house fire. We joke about it ourselves! I said to her, “Jennie, in the words of Grease, we go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong.” And did she laugh! (Yes.)
What can you tell us about the show? Are you a fan of This Time?
If I’m honest, I’m not super-clued-up on the show itself? I’m not an avid watcher of BBC One, since I don’t like documentaries about supermarkets or period dramas featuring bonnets. But I’ve circled a bit on a This Time press release here that describes it as a '30-minute mixture of studio chat, rigorous interview, hard-hitting VTs and a generous helping of fun, covering news, issues and consumer affairs'. Whereas I’m more of a Nazi Megastructures man.
It’s a little more serious-minded that the rest of your output.
I’m cool with that. I pull no punches, push the envelope and punch my weight when push comes to shove - if that makes sense.
How would you sum it up?
Ha! Believe me, I don’t have the time to sit around thinking up marketing taglines for the show. Wish I did! But I suppose if pushed I’d say something like: if you’ve got time to give This Time your time, then it’s time to let This Time spend time making your time a good time on This Time with me, Alan Partridge and I’m sorry I’ve forgotten the woman’s name,
What changes can we expect with you in the hot seat?
And it is a hot seat. There’s an exposed bit of metal frame that cooks under the studio lights and if you sit right back and your shirt rides up, it scalds you on the back. So you just have to sit forward and/or make your shirt stays tucked in.
And what changes can we expect?
Fear not, I’m not going to eff with a winning formula. But I do have a phalanx of fresh ideas that’ll benefit the show no end, including the introduction of my longtime radio sidekick Simon Denton. Adept at reading out tweets and providing a sideways look at news, he’ll be our social media reader-outer.
Anything to add?
Not really, just please please please please please please please watch the show.
This Time with Alan Partridge starts 9.30pm on Monday 25 February, BBC One.