Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
Britain has the greatest television comedy characters ever. As long as there have been sitcoms, there have been amazing British comedy creations. From Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, through Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, continuing with Borat and Ali G and more recently, David Brent. That’s without mentioning the hotel manager who does a great goose step.
One of the best comedy characters is Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. This is a character who has transformed and evolved through lots of different TV series, literally showcasing his slow career demise. From a sports anchor on “The Day Today” through to his own chat show and then onto two sitcoms which track his career as it treads water precariously.
It had been a long while before we got to see Partridge again, the second series of “I’m Alan Partridge” finished in 2002 and it wasn’t until the beer company, Foster’s, decided to fund a web series resurrection of the brilliant character that we got see him on-screen again. Mid Morning Matters is a lot simpler than anything that Partridge has done before, set entirely in one radio studio set, it follows Partridge as he broadcasts his radio show on an obscure digital channel in the mid morning.
That is the stroke of genius here. There is very little in the way of story or development of characters because it is just a small snippet of Partridge’s day. The show and the character is improved by being so much more stripped down and simpler. I think the show would always have struggled to recreate the best of Partridge, his previous sitcom. Without put upon PA Lyn or Geordie, ex-soldier Michael, the show would feel like it was a shell of what it once was.
What Mid Morning Matters gives us is pure Partridge. Some of the best parts of his previous shows were the radio openings and endings. It’s not just a showcase for Coogan’s greatest comedy creation but actually a great parody on broad, mainstream, commercial radio. From the ridiculous jingles to the inane questions (What is the best way to wash your towels? What kind of car would English Kings and Queens drive?). It makes for fantastic comedy because most of us would have been in a car, listening to some of this inane but often compelling radio.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have great characters supporting Partridge. Developing the radio setting further, some of the best moments are when Partridge is joined by a guest. Never anyone famous but instead, a lady who helps him test wine but instead gets him drunk or a man who looks into his quite boring family history but then manages to embarrass Partridge on his own show. It’s a great opportunity to see the arrogant, self-centered and ultimately tragically deluded character that is so funny to watch.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a story running through the series. There is some sort of connection between the episodes, namely with the relationship of Alan Partridge and Tim Key’s Sidekick Simon slowly dissolving. From finding out his sidekick was another show to being victim of a prank, this is the story which evolves over the very segmented format.
It’s that segmented format which is the only negative about Mid Morning Matters. It was originally a series made up of twelve, fifteen minute episodes. Sky TV, who bought the rights ahead of the BBC, have put these episodes together to create six, half-hour shows and it sometimes feels too quick. Stories are over before they have really evolved and some of the jokes could do with having slightly longer to grow and build to a climax.
It’s a small complaint though and doesn’t do enough damage to the show to really bother it. I’m not sure it’s as good as I’m Alan Partridge but that is probably because that show has so many classic tv moments now. It does still hold up against past Partridge and is a very good continuation of the classic characters story.
Overall, Mid Morning Matters proves that there is life in the classic British comedy characters. It is classic Alan Partridge, the character still works today as much as he did over ten years ago. The sitcom is much simpler than any previous format and that helps it work. The stories are quick but very funny and the support from Tim Keys as Sidekick Simon adds a great new dimension to the show. I just hope a film doesn’t ruin all this great work.
Best Episode – Mustard and Pepper; This is one of the great guest episodes, as we watch Partridge slowly get drunk as he learns how to test wine.
Best performance – Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge
Should there be another season? – Yes. There is loads of life left in Partridge. I just hope there is loads of life still in the character after he has had his own film.
Season Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)