Television: Knowing me, knowing who?

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Steve Coogan has more characters than the Chinese alphabet. He possesses that rare ability to instantly inhabit another person and then just as quickly discard him (or her). You probably wouldn't recognise him walking down the street "in civvies". He sheds skins as fast as a snake in the Mojave Desert.

His latest incarnation is "The Lisbon Lothario", Portuguese Euro-singing sensation, Tony Ferrino. We get to know what ticks beneath that shimmery shirt (and tight trousers) in two seasonal specials.

The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon (New Year's Day 9.20pm BBC2) is billed as "a thrilling roller-coaster risotto of music, dance, laughter, tears and moustaches". He duets with guests Mick Hucknall (who also made an appearance in last year's Knowing Me, Knowing Yule... with Alan Partridge), Kim Wilde and Gary Wilmot on some of his timeless hits, such as "Help Yourself" and "Fishing for Girls".

We are also promised a touching rendition of "Bigamy at Christmas", the B-side of his current single. The producers of the show explain that: "They don't make shows like this any more - and after watching The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon, you'll remember why." Introducing Tony Ferrino: Who and Why? A Quest (Fri 3 Jan 10pm BBC2) is brought to our screens courtesy of VideoFerrino (Europe). In no way should it be construed as a massive plug for Ferrino's CDs, videos and wide-ranging allied merchandising. Nor should it be seen as an infommercial about the very competitively- priced financial services he has to offer.

This hard-hitting probe gets to the man behind the chest-hair (although the whereabouts of the fourth Mrs Ferrino remain a mystery).

Think Tom Jones crossed with Julio Iglesias - only funnier.

LEST WE FORGET

Alan Partridge, the most chillingly accurate embodiment of daytime TV this side of Alan Titchmarsh. Starting as the patterned-V-neck-jumper- wearing presenter of the "Desk of Sport" on Radio 4's On the Hour, and then its TV version, The Day Today, Partridge spun off into his own chat- shows - Knowing Me, Knowing You. The real chat show is dead (just ask Gaby Roslin); long live the spoof.

Paul Calf, the Mancunian yob with the only hairdo in Britain worse than Barry Venison's old one. With his hatred of students and love of lager, Paul is about as appealing as a "bag o' shite". Just for good measure, and to prove what good legs he's got, Coogan has thrown into the bargain Paul's sister, the splendid slapper, Pauline.

Gareth Cheeseman, the salesman from hell who stormed through "Dearth of a Salesman". He did his best to convince himself that he was born to sell by snarling "you're a tiger". He is the least-developed of Coogan's characters, but the one with perhaps the most mileage.

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