Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Place of My Life, Sky Atlantic, Monday
Veep, Sky Atlantic, Monday
Walking and Talking, Sky Atlantic, Monday
Sky Atlantic may be small, but it's attracted three top-notch comedies from British writers
Three programmes from Sky Atlantic? Who has that? Ten million people, that's who. Many might find it noxious even to think of paying to watch a Murdoch channel. But make no mistake, Sky Atlantic is a player. Until now, all the hoo-hah has been about its dramas: Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Game of Thrones. But this week it was all about comedy – and it was preceded by a lot of buzz.
Its Monday-night triple play kicked off with the return of Alan Partridge to TV, with the hour-long travelogue Welcome to the Places of My Life. It's hard to quote from the show, as pretty much every line was a winner. Even the throwaways – "I'm halfway through my Norfolk odyssey, but if you've just joined us, it'll still make sense" – struck home.
So it was that Alan took us round the places that made him who he is, from his desk at North Norfolk Digital's offices (at 800sq ft, larger than a good-quality dentist) to Thetford Forest: "For some it means dogging or suicide, but I'm old school and I'm going for a walk."
Coogan was note perfect: the glances to camera, the over-inflated ego, the strange belief that he is still living the life. Ruddy great stuff.
Utterly inhabiting her character, too, was Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who pulls off a marvellous turn as the titular vice-president Selina Meyer in the HBO import Veep. Though coming from The Thick of It writers Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell, Veep is less a harangue about political spin, more an examination of an absence of power; it is not for nothing that Potus never calls.
With rapid-fire dialogue rarely heard this side of Aaron Sorkin, Veep's debut hits an almighty rate of jokes a minute, from PR parody ("Glasses on? The intellectual look? No, glasses look weak. It's like a wheelchair for the eyes") to pop culture mud-slinging. ("Don't talk like that to me, Doogie Howser," says the long-in-the-tooth head of press to a White House lackey. "I don't know what that means," comes the twenty-something's reply.)
If there is to be a criticism, it is that we have yet to meet a monster of the order of Malcolm Tucker. But this is a different kind of show, where swearing is used as part of the patter rather than as an attack dog; this isn't about the wider issues of broken America, after all – it's about a dysfunctional office. It's not quite tip top, but it's oh so nearly there. Having seen episodes two and three, I can say it's well worth sticking with, as the characters develop.
Finally, Kathy Burke's autobiographical four-parter Walking and Talking, in which two 14-year-old girls walk the streets of punky north London in the 1970s, talking almost as swiftly as the Veep lot but about boys, alcoholic dads, weight problems and boys. It sounds slight, but it's given extra oomph by the terrific Jerry Sadowitz as the "fruit and nut case" Jimmy the Jew, and Burke as a misanthropic nun, who embarks on a terrific take-down of her fellow sister's appreciation of Boney M.
It might have been the least slick of the three shows, but it was also perhaps the most genuine, giving a real sense of Burke's childhood fears and thrills. And it's well worth catching by those 10 million of you who do have Sky Atlantic.
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