Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Review
As a dedicated fan, I am delighted and relieved to report that Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is miles ahead of the summer’s competition in terms of laughs. In a season of apocalyptic comedies, it’s oddly reassuring that there’s actually more humour in 89 minutes of silliness set almost entirely in a Norwich radio station. Steve Coogan first played Partridge on Radio 4 in 1991 as an incompetent radio reporter, and the character has inevitably risen to the big screen – fittingly, still in the world of radio. After two decades, the persona is so beautifully crafted (without over-exposure) that he easily fills up the running time. Similarly, I imagine newcomers will only need a few minutes to appreciate the local DJ’s traits: a very minor celebrity trapped in a circle of arrogance, pathos and loneliness. But there’s so much more to the character, and Alpha Papa throws in a surprisingly dangerous premise that would never suit the TV platforms. Set at North Norfolk Digital, a sacked DJ (Colm Meaney) takes the building hostage and hogs the airwaves. Meaney’s bitter DJ informs the police he will only negotiate with his ex-colleague, Partridge, who now has the chance to save the day – but by ending the siege, or sticking up for a fellow supporter of old-fashioned radio? As Dog Day Afternoon (and to a lesser extent Airheads) proved, Stockholm Syndrome is a lubricant for tense humour (Tim Key is forced to joke at gunpoint), which is where Partridge’s character has always thrived – making accidentally offensive comments in a nervous atmosphere, whether on TV, radio or pitching ideas to the BBC’s commissioning editor. When hostages open up, it becomes a sudden death version of The Breakfast Club with an even cheesier soundtrack.