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Out of all the various incarnations of Alan Partridge I think I still like the original radio series the best. The first television series of Partridge (where he's living in the travel tavern) was brilliant and the second series (where he's living in a caravan and has a Russian girlfriend) was pretty awful at times but the radio series was consistently funny and inventive and worked wonderfully in the audio medium. The radio series (Knowing Me Knowing You) was first broadcast in 1992 and featured six episodes. There are only the last two on this disc (both are 30 minutes or so long) but you can buy a disc with all six on it and that's probably the one to go for if you find a good deal. The basic premise/joke of Knowing Me Knowing You is that East Anglian local sports presenter Alan Partridge has been given his own national radio chat show but he is (of course) the last person in the world who should be hosting one. He's tactless, arrogant, dim, bombastic, patronising, politically incorrect and usually ends up insulting his guests. Partridge is though always oblivious to how awful his show is. In his mind he probably thinks he's Jeremy Paxman. Steve Coogan is brilliant here as Partridge and the radio series contains some of his best moments I think. It's quite good fun trying to work out how many real presenters there are in Alan Partridge. There's a bit of Richard Madeley, a bit of Terry Wogan, a bit of Adrian Mills and several others besides. I should mention too the regular supporting cast in the series (Patrick Marber, Doon MacKichan, Rebecca Front and David Schneider) who play the various guests. Marber in particular is very funny with some of his characters.
Although you only get two episodes here it does contain probably my favourite out of all of them. Each episode features Alan interviewing three guests and the one here where he interviews Tony Hayers (Commissioning Director of BBC Television and his great arch nemesis), fashion designer Yvonne Boyd, and the cantankerous peer Lord Morgan of Glossop, is brilliant. It's the last episode of the series and Alan doesn't know if he has a second series yet but he's confident and even thinks a move to television could be on the cards. 'In this business people get hot. And when a property gets hot you handle it with kid gloves... and, er, oven gloves outside the kid gloves...' It just so happens that his first guest is Tony Hayers (Schneider) - the man who will decide is Alan has a second series. Hayers is there to take telephone calls about the BBC but Partridge is of course is obsessed with buttering his guest up and even has a plant call from someone who goes into great detail about how Pear Tree Productions (Alan's company) could move to television with a minimum of fuss. There is a lot of great stuff in this one. Alan praises the BBC for high quality drama like Inspector Morse and The Darling Buds of May and when Hayers tells him those are ITV programmes he scrabbles around for a BBC show to praise and can only think of Noel Edmonds' House Party. 'Yes, that us,' sighs Hayers.
There's a great call too from a woman who pleads with Hayers not to let Partridge on television, explaining that in her view Knowing Me Knowing You is the most offensive show she's ever heard and that Partridge is rude, patronising to his female guests and once hit a child prodigy on air! 'Listen love,' says Partridge. 'In the cut and thrust of a chat show, people are going to get hit!' Alan's interview with fashion designer Yvonne Boyd (played by MacKichan and an obvious riff on Vivienne Westwood) is less funny but still fun as Alan, inevitably, ends up falling out with her. Boyd designs 'clown type' costumes' and asks why Alan's bank manager couldn't wear them when he says they are not suitable for everyday use. 'Because he'd look ridiculous!' replies Alan. 'He'd look like a CLOWN!' The best is saved for last though when Alan interviews the irascible no nonsense elderly peer Lord Morgan of Glossop (Marber). 'He once reduced David Frost to tears, ' goes Alan's introduction. 'In a televised debate with feminist Andrea Dworkin he caused outrage when he told her to shut up and shave!' This has perhaps my favourite set-piece in the entire series when Lord Morgan dies (his wheezing death throes clearly audible) but Alan doesn't notice because he's too busy talking about what his entry in Who's Who would be! When he does finally realise his guest has died he organises a minutes silence but then keeps interrupting it by listing motorway service stations drivers might like to pull over at to observe the silence!
It's a slight shame that the other episode here is a departure from the others and doesn't work quite as well. It's a 'Live from Las Vegas' special where Alan is in America (of course he's not really) and lumbered with American co-host Sally Hoff (Rebecca Front). Alan doesn't take took kindly to having a co-host and continually undermines her and cuts her off to maintain control. This is fun but none of the guest characters are that memorable. Marber is Sally's husband Conrad Knight - a British actor (with a voice clearly taken from Roger Moore) and keeps plugging his range of socks. David Schneider fares much better as a Jewish comedian called Bernie Rosen who bombs and tells a load of awful jokes that bewilder Alan. Little Englander Alan is astonished when he hears that Rosen has never heard of Tommy Cooper and tells his own 'Jewish joke' which of course backfires in the usual Partridge way. It's quite good fun here though when Alan is asked what his favourite sitcom is and talks about his great love for Robin's Nest with Richard O'Sullivan! The last guest is Jack 'the Black Cat' Calson (played by Marber) and this doesn't go anywhere terribly funny. Alan ends up gambling with his guest and his wife's car ends up being put on the line.
This is great fun on the whole and contains arguably the best episode but if you are interested you might as well look for the disc than contains all six episodes. At the time of writing you can buy this two episode disc used for under a fiver.