Get ready for more cringe-making moments as Steve Coogan’s alter-ego returns in a second series of This Time with Alan Partridge on BBC1.
The comedy sees the inept broadcaster presenting a weekday magazine programme with co-host Jennie Gresham (Susannah Fielding). Similar to The One Show and This Morning, the show also includes segments from roving reporter Ruth Duggan (Lolly Adefope) and social media expert Simon Denton (Tim Key).
"We want to deliver telly people talk about," explains Alan. "What BBC execs call water cooler TV, even when you point out everyone works from home these days so office water coolers are just stagnant receptacles going mouldy round the nozzle."
Meanwhile, there are also glimpses at some of the goings-on behind the scenes where his ever-faithful assistant Lynn Benfield (Felicity Montague) is on hand to help her boss through any personal issues or professional mishaps.
In the first series shown in 2019, Alan was hired to stand in as co-presenter of This Time, when one of the regular hosts fell ill. Despite some awkward gaffes and getting into trouble with his bosses over his behaviour towards Jennie, Alan’s now established as the show’s co-presenter and he’s desperate to hold onto his new career-reviving role…
Here, Alan reveals all about the show’s return, working with his co-host Jennie and a typical day in the life of a broadcasting legend…
For the uninitiated, how would you describe This Time?
"It’s what’s known as a magazine show, bottling all of the magic of magazine reading and translating that into 30 minutes of TV. It’s all your favourite magazines rolled into one. It’s as informative as the Reader’s Digest, as entertaining as Private Eye pre-Hislop and as sassy as Bunty!"
What kind of subjects does the show cover?
"What doesn't it cover? Current affairs, hot button topics, global issues, everyday niggles, some very light politics — pitched at or below GCSE level — all held together with good old fashioned chat, which by the way is baked into the format. We underfill the show by about 30 per cent to allow for nattering."
What’s it like working with your co-presenter Jennie Gresham?
"We approach our roles as co-anchors slightly differently. One of us can be seen presenting umpteen other BBC shows from Walking the Lakes with Jennie Gresham to The Unexplored Brontes with Jennie Gresham. The other one prefers to dedicate him or herself exclusively to This Time because he/she happens to think the show and our viewers deserve that, but each to their own. We’ve had our ups and downs, but are we friends? Are Ant and Dec friends? Are Holly and Phil? Are Richard and Judy? No, of course not! It’s very much like a marriage in that we sit next to each on a sofa, we don’t face each other when we talk and there’s no sex or suggestion of sex."
What’s a typical day like for you while working on This Time?
"I like to arrive early. I often bring in a box of doughnuts for the team and say ‘dig in’ while I stand beside the box to ensure no one takes more than their allocated one. At the editorial meeting we’ll discuss items we can cover in future episodes. After lunch, another meeting, this one running through that evening’s show.
"I tend to tune out of this one. It is possible to over-prepare for a show. Instead I prefer to experience parts of the show as a viewer would — which means sometimes I won’t really know who a guest is until they come on, or what Jennie’s report is about or why the man in my earpiece is saying I have to walk to the other side of the studio.
"And then it’s all about getting ready for the show. I’ll sit in hair and make up for half an hour and then retire to my dressing room to instantly redo my hair, unmaking all the mistakes the hair stylist wouldn’t have made if she’d been listening. Then I dress, do 10 push ups, finish the doughnuts if there are any doughnuts left, and wait for the show to start."
How have you coped with the Coronavirus restrictions on set?
"We have regular testing which I’ve not enjoyed. I’ve got an overactive gag reflex which makes it an ordeal so I’ve had to develop a routine. I numb the throat with an anaesthetic spray, blindfold myself, put on some loud music, open my mouth and count to 500. The covid tester sneaks in, swabs, and leaves. I can get to 500 without even knowing I’ve been tested."
Before joining This Time, you hadn’t presented on the BBC for 25 years. What’s it like to be back?
"It’s like stumbling across a long-discarded pair of trousers you’d outgrown decades earlier, but now due to a new fitness regime and a bout of gastric flu, they fit again. You put them on, savouring the snug grip of waistband on midriff. It feels intensely satisfying!"
This Time with Alan Partridge begins on Friday 30 April on BBC1 at 9.30pm.
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