Ah-ha! In 1995, Alan Partridge made the transition from radio to TV with Knowing Me, Knowing You
, a talk show so wholly misunderstood that one 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; an American 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, but here he's reveling in his primetime exposure with no thought of becoming "clinically sad" or gorging on Toblerone bars. Co-writers Armando Iannucci and Patrick Marber lovingly re-create 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 re-created at Television Centre. Unfortunately, and despite the presence of Simply Red's 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.
Knowing Me, Knowing You is a two-DVD 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