TV: This Time With Alan Partridge, BBC One

this-time-with-alan-partridge

And so Alan Partridge returns from exile. To the BBC after his recent outings with Sky and to television after his time on North Norfolk Digital. When the regular male co-host of live weekday evening magazine show This Time is indisposed Partridge gets the call to join Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding) on the sofa. The result is every bit as carpet-chewingly, wince-makingly funny as one would hope.

Coogan is on excellent form as his alter ego, from his micro-nervy facial expressions, to his quiet desperation and to his sofa position a little too close to Jennie Gresham. And most of all it's down to the inappropriate things he comes out with, from discussing the hand cream he uses to avoid cracked skin to demonstrating during an item on hygiene how it is possible to use a toilet without getting bacteria on those creamy hands. From Mid-Morning Matters to fecal matter.

The format is a fairly basic one, replicating the One Show template of gear-switching from heavy to light subjects. And various familar comedy faces – Cariad Lloyd, Lolly Adefope and Liam Williams – make welcome appearances too. It's also great to see Tim Key along again for the ride as "fairly gifted" Sidekick Simon, although his role taking a sideways look at current affairs does feel a little shoehorned in. I can just about accept Partridge getting a second crack at primetime but how did Simon get invited along too? Anyway, Key is so naturally funny I'm not complaining.

The nearest comparison is probably to imagine The Larry Sanders Show co-presented by Richard Madeley, though there are also similarities here to the Julia Davis breakfast TV pilot Morning Has Broken, which was never aired but briefly surfaced online last year. There's also a bit of an echo of Brass Eye's satirical sensibility, particularly when Partridge steps into a giant CGI Petri dish during his piece on germs. This might not always feel totally original, but there is certainly no shortage of classic laugh-out-loud lines from Coogan and co-writers Neil and Rob Gibbons.

In the first episode we don't really see much outside This Time - the action consists of a broadcast of the programme and some off-camera glimpses of Alan when he is having a break during filmed inserts. Maybe things will open out later on. Good to see his PA Lynn (Felicity Montagu) again too. Will Alan be a success on This Time or will it end in another disaster? Either way it's wonderful to have him back and as cack-handed as ever. 

This Time With Alan Partridge, 9.30pm, BBC One, Mondays from February 25.

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