Despite my long acquaintance with the Partridge phenomenon, I find myself utterly unprepared for Alan’s practical demonstration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
As Alan explains during his short filmed insert on CPR during This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1); although the British Heart Foundation use a basic head-and-torso model for their training, Alan prefers a full-sized 35kg realistic human replica with workable joints for his monthly practice.
Lugging the petite, fully dressed female model from the loft of his spacious home, it slowly dawns on us, if not Alan, that this “replica” he purchased from his friend – the late Pate Gabbatiss – some years ago is in fact a sex doll, complete with full lips and generously proportioned mouthparts to which Alan eagerly “docks” in the initial stages of saving its life after a putative overdose.
In this scenario, Alan is rescuing his sister-in-law Eileen, who has OD’d because she hates his brother so very much. “Come on Eileen” is the heartfelt plea as he checks for pulse and breath. As a musical accompaniment to the saving of a silicone love doll’s life, Alan rejects the usual beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees (“namby pamby”) in favour of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”, a “pounding rock number that injects a welcome dose of realism”.
I am racking my mind to think of a funnier bit of Partridge/Steve Coogan over his eventful 28-year long career but can’t. The chocolate-sex session/dirty protest in the Linton Travel Tavern; the full stilton slammed into the face of BBC head of commissioning Tony Hayers; the “king and car” sequence on Mid-Morning Matters; hiding in the septic tank of the chemical toilet on the Radio Norfolk roadshow bus; conversations with Michael at the BP garage: all brilliant, but none more genius than this.
Quite unnecessarily, at the conclusion of Alan’s first-aid class he advises This Time viewers: “Don’t forget to clean the mouth.” Rinsing Eileen’s cavity may be relatively straightforward, but not cleansing the memory of the image of Alan Partridge pummelling a rather primly-dressed sex doll. It is a wonder that, with its poor head bouncing as it does on hard flooring, the doll retains a beatific smile throughout. Lovely stuff.
In that respect at least, Eileen the doll resembles Alan’s co-presenter Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding), who seems to have got the knack of dealing with Alan by a mixture of humouring his eccentricities and ignoring his unscripted outbursts about his former wife, Carol. Somehow the pair of them manage to navigate a series of standard fluffy news-magazine items that quickly degenerate into unbroadcastable outrages against taste and decency, “Eileen” serving as a symbol of the show’s awfulness.
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They include the absurd entrapment of Monty Don (playing himself), who eventually settles for a product placement bribe of £1bn; a gentle interview with a centenarian about the secret of her long life which shortly morphs into some racist reflections on the end of British rule in India; a This Time campaign for a monument to police dog bravery that elicits a text from Neville in Swansea asking, “Why are people happy to throw money at a few dead police dogs but they can’t find any for child refugees?”; and a jokey end-piece with a Sligo farmer/ Alan look-alike (played nicely with comedy teeth and ruddy cheeks by Coogan) that ends with the man giving a hearty rendition of the pro-IRA anthems “Come Out Ye Black And Tans” and “Men Behind the Wire”.
Not for the first time, then, Alan Partridge has made television history. As Partridge-superfan Jed once said, “You’ve still got it Alan. I don’t care what they say.”
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