The Life of Alan - the Partridge prepares to take flight into TV again
PUBLISHED: 10:40 09 February 2019
Like a considerably less ostenatious phoenix rising from the ashes of a burnt-out career, the Partridge is set to fly again as Alan scores a brand new series with the channel he vowed to never work for again (until they offered him a job).
Alan Partridge’s time in the TV wilderness is drawing to a close - later this month he returns to the BBC for a new series, marking the latest chapter in a career filled with highs and lows – not to mention meltdowns, manslaughter and even a high-profile hostage situation. But just how did Alan get here? Just why was he kept waiting 24 years for another TV series of his own? Did he really assault the Chief Commissioning Director of BBC Television with a lump of cheese? Here, we look at Alan’s meteoric rise to mediocrity.
Hot property Partridge
Alan’s early days saw him get a taste for radio as a DJ for St Luke’s Hospital in Norwich, a role he spent “94 wonderful months” in before being head-hunted by local media mogul, Rich Shayers, for the in-store radio station at a branch of record shop, Our Price. Alan eventually found a home on Radio Norwich before a landmark moment in 1990: Alan was covering an archery event and saw disaster unfold firsthand. A competitor shot and “badly hurt” a steward. It was breaking news and Alan’s coverage was repeated on BBC radio news bulletins up and down the country. Later, he would tell listeners: “Arrows are deceitful. When a cowboy fires a gun, there’s a bang, it’s a warning. Gives you a chance to duck. When a cowboy has an arrow fired at him, he hears nothing... I hate archers, “The Archers” and Jeffrey Archer. You’re all deceitful cowards. I just realised then, that only applies to archers and Jeffrey Archer. But not “The Archers” who… to be fair, are a mixed bag.”
Back of the net!
After an impressive stint as a sports reporter on the local circuit, Alan got a gig on national radio, becoming sports reporter for the BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme, On The Hour, which later transitioned to television as The Day Today, marketed as the BBC’s “flagship news magazine programme”.
It was here that Alan would firmly leave an indelible mark on football folklore with some of his iconic commentary lines - “foot like a traction engine” – still repeated to this very day. The BBC capitalised on Alan’s success and gave him the chance to host his own show on Radio 4: Knowing Me, Knowing You… Aha! A catchphrase and a chat show host were born but it was far from a seamless transition. Some of his misdemeanours on air included hitting child prodigy, Simon Fisher, gambling away his wife’s car, taking cocaine, being openly homophobic to lawyer, Nick Ford and openly patronising female guests. But Chief Commissioning Editor of BBC Television, Tony Hayers, was not deterred and granted Alan a shot at the big time. Knowing Me, Knowing You would arrive on the small screen in 1994.
A rocky road
Ratings for KMKY were a ninth of what the BBC could have expected. The show was littered with controversy. A stunning ABBA medley performed alongside singer, Gina Langland, was an undoubted success but it was vastly outweighed by numerous failures – and they started at the very beginning when studio guest Sir Roger Moore failed to turn up for the opening show. There was a heated argument with transsexual Playboy columnist, Daniella Forrest, a turbulent edition of the show shot with counterparts in France and Alan sacking conductor of his house band, Glenn Ponder, live. But all paled in comparison to the closing moments of the final episode as Knowing Me, Knowing You went out with a bang.
A death on air
One of the final guests of the first series was cynical restaurant critic, Forbes McAllister. A difficult interviewee, McAllister had brought duelling pistols with him. Alan, while inspecting one, was left in shock as it went off, shooting McAllister through the heart and killing him instantly. lan was questioned by police but ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. The BBC commenced an internal inquiry but Alan had a Christmas special written into his contract already – having taken a shot at a guest, he was given a shot at redemption…but it proved to be his final act on BBC television for more than 20 years.
A festive farce
While Alan had blossomed from local radio personality to TV star, his personal life had not been so rosy. His marriage to wife Carol was on the rocks and with Christmas 1995 drawing in, Alan moved out of the family home and the separation weighed heavily on him as he took to the small screen once more for Knowing Me, Knowing Yule. Alan punched paralysed former golfer, Gordon Heron. He then punched Chief Commissioning Editor of BBC television, Tony Hayers, as he tried to intervene. Alan desperately tried to apologise – knowing it could cost him his much craved second series – but Hayers had made up his mind. Alan’s TV career was over.
Smell My Cheese!
Despite setbacks, Alan remained proactive. Unwilling to wait to hear for sure what the BBC would do next, Alan met with Nick Peacock – head of Radio Norwich – at a charity gypsy fight and pitched the idea of returning to work for the station. Peacock was receptive and Alan believed he would soon be fronting Radio Norwich’s breakfast show – only to find out he had been handed a graveyard slot. Up With The Partridge ran from 4:30am to 7:30am. He resided in the Linton Travel Tavern during this time, “a sweet spot between London and Norwich”, as he waited for a definitive answer from the BBC. Alan met with Tony Hayers at the BBC cafeteria for a meeting: it is alleged that Alan, when informed he would not be getting a series or a return to TV of any kind, assaulted Hayers with a chunk of cheese before fleeing the scene.
The long road back
Alan was left to close down his production company, Peartree Productions, and sack everyone working for him as he sought to rebuild his reputation on Radio Norwich. When Hayers died suddenly – having fallen off a roof – he was replaced by Chris Feather, an old friend, who offered Alan a return to TV with a five-year contract. Just as the agreement was about to be rubber-stamped, Feather also died suddenly. Alan unravelled. He was “clinically fed-up” and gorged on Toblerone, putting on huge amounts of weight. As he drove to Dundee in his bare feet, he realised that he’d hit rock bottom.
Beaten but unbowed, Alan set about bouncing back and wrote a book called…Bouncing Back (described by Shakin’ Stevens as “lovely stuff”) and a video, Crash, Bang, Wallop! - a collection of car crashes narrated by the presenter. Handed “the third best slot on Radio Norwich”, he presented Norfolk Nights while fronting a military-based quiz show called Skirmish on the UK cable station, UK Conquest. He shed the Toblerone weight and started to re-establish himself on local radio as Radio Norwich was swallowed up by North Norfolk Digital.
A high-profile hostage
North Norfolk Digital was bought out by a multinational conglomerate and the future was uncertain. Alan was spared, but colleague Pat Farrell wasn’t so lucky. Pat, with grudges to bear, took staff hostage with a shotgun. Alan had managed to escape and subsequently became a police negotiator – while also co-presenting a radio show with Pat from inside the siege. It was national news. Alan Partridge was a name uttered UK-wide once more. Jurassic Park!
Drama in Cromer
In dramatic scenes, Alan was wounded accidentally by Pat’s shotgun and also by a police sniper. Pat was arrested. The conglomerate backed out of the takeover. Alan continued his career on North Norfolk Digital but more controversy in 2016 helped launch a TV comeback. Alan, interviewing teenagers in his studio, “literally went berserk” after being mocked by a teen he called “a chav”. Later, footage of him talking about the incident at a golf club dinner went viral and there were calls for his sacking. Seeking to make amends, Alan made a documentary special entitled Scissored Isle for Sky Atlantic which led him on “a journey of redemption” as he left his vast detached house and headed to the north to see how the other half live. In it, he even confronted pay day lenders: “Are you a coin squirrel?” he shouted at lender Kevin Ruddock.
Having finally convinced the BBC to take him back, Alan has scored a six-part series with the corporation with a programme which borrows much from The One Show and is “a heady mix of consumer affairs, current affairs, viewer interaction, highbrow interview and lightweight froth” pegged by a BBC spokesman as “the perfect shop window for a man of Alan’s gravitas”. Norfolk wishes Alan luck, or at the very least, that he doesn’t accidentally kill anyone.