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The Independent Culture
`I'm Alan Partridge', Vols 1 & 2, pounds 12.99 each

HOLED UP in a motorway travel lodge, his chat show canned and his wife departed, Alan Partridge is, as he might put it, up a creek without a mid-sized outboard: the Travel Tavern receptionist can only stifle a snigger when he tells her what vandals have scrawled on his beloved Ford Granada; the BBC commissioning editor is unmoved by Alan's ideas for relaunching his television career (whatever its educational benefits, Knowing M.E., Knowing You is a non-starter).

In fact, so minutely is Partridge's personal and professional hell detailed that you're well into the second of the six episodes before it dawns on you how radically different this second Partridge vehicle is from the first Knowing Me, Knowing You. That set itself up as a chat show, in which Alan never lost an opportunity to upstage, humiliate or enrage his guests with his golf-club bar prejudices and fairway wisdom. Those involved may have been fictional but there was a hilarious, ghastly truth in the jibes and stilted bon mots that Partridge traded with the D-list celebrities that graced his sofa.

Knowing Me, Knowing You set its sights as much on the chat show as did the feckless Alan. I'm Alan Partridge gives him nowhere to hide, however, placing Alan in a more traditional sit-com setting. There's a bit of media leg-pulling as we see the depths to which Alan has descended, hosting his early morning Norwich radio show, Up With The Partridge. But, for the most part, the series rests on Steve Coogan's superb performance and the well-handled development of Alan from a classic grotesque to something (God forbid) slightly more sympathetic.

He's still as monstrous as ever, abusing his personal assistant and mercilessly patronising everyone who makes the mistake of talking to him for more than 30 seconds. However, you always felt that Coogan had a sneaky liking for his finest creation and occasionally you even end up feeling sorry for him.