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Alan-Partridge-Alpha-PapaMost big films get a spe­cial level of pro­mo­tion before they are unleashed on the gen­er­al pub­lic – they get what we call a ‘radio preview’.

This is where a couple of hun­dred ran­dom cit­izens turn up at a cinema, hav­ing won tick­ets to a film they can’t remem­ber the name of, get jol­lied along by a couple of minor loc­al celebrit­ies in branded appar­el (best known for get­ting up early and talk­ing into micro­phones), get asked col­lect­ively wheth­er they feel “all right” (and answer col­lect­ively in the affirm­at­ive), and then have bags of con­fec­tion­ery thrown at them in exchange for answer­ing trivia questions.

They are then made aware of oth­er pro­mo­tions and prizes – more excit­ing and luc­rat­ive than this one – avail­able to lucky listen­ers who get up as early in the morn­ing as the jolly branded-appar­el-wear­ers, reminded that there are already free tick­ets to anoth­er film – also more excit­ing than this one – avail­able “just by listen­ing to Dig­ger and the Toer­ag on Blah FM in the morn­ing”, then the lights finally go down and the dis­trib­ut­or des­per­ately hopes this charade will turn into some pre­cious, low cost, word-of-mouth pro­mo­tion in time for the open­ing weekend.

As you can prob­ably tell, I detest these events and do my utmost to avoid them, but there will be one com­ing up in Decem­ber that I would love to be fly on the wall for – the ‘radio pre­view’ for Alan Part­ridge: Alpha Papa. I can’t wait to see the faces of the ‘jocks’ when they see their world of giveaway fun-size Snick­ers® pro­mo­tions, late-night phone-ins, traffic updates and microwaved instant cof­fee laid bare by the wit and wis­dom of Steve Coogan and the finest of his alter egos, Alan Partridge.

The time is the present, and sports­caster and former TV chat show host Part­ridge has carved out a mod­est middle-aged career for him­self as host of Mid-Morn­ing Mat­ters on loc­al radio sta­tion North Nor­folk Digit­al. He has a sponsored car (with some of the trim­mings), he’s no longer liv­ing in a cara­van and, frankly, things are look­ing up. But the winds of change are blow­ing through the Broads.

NND has new own­ers and they want a change of format – less talk, more easy listen­ing – and a name change to Shape, of all things. Some of the older voices are con­cerned for their jobs, but Alan knows how to look after him­self, ensur­ing that lov­able Irish rogue Pat Far­rell (Colm Meaney) gets the chop first. When Pat returns to the stu­dio bran­dish­ing a shot­gun and takes the staff host­age, it’s up to Alan to make use of his not­able tal­ent for empathy and become a siege nego­ti­at­or and hero of the hour.

As a mock­ery of a radio world that I know only too well, the Alan Part­ridge movie is abso­lutely razor-sharp. It’s a world pop­u­lated by not-quite-grown-ups who would stab their best friends in the back for a shot at a drive-time slot. As a satire of mod­ern life and all its drib­bling inan­ity, it is hil­ari­ously painful.

Finally, as a big-screen vehicle for one of the greatest com­ic char­ac­ters ever cre­ated, it is without peer. Some of us are old enough to remem­ber when film ver­sions of Brit­ish tele­vi­sion com­ed­ies meant Are You Being Served? on the Costa Brava. This is not that. Alan Part­ridge: Alpha Papa is the fun­ni­est film of the year and fun­ni­est Brit­ish film since Four Lions.


December Film Recommendations


The Hob­bit: The Des­ol­a­tion of Smaug

(Peter Jack­son)

Reports from unnamed Miramar sources sug­gest that part two of The Hob­bit saga might be less than three hours long, which will be a bless­ing for some of us.

 The Secret Life of Wal­ter Mitty

(Ben Stil­ler)

Ben Stil­ler is a much more inter­est­ing dir­ect­or than his work as an act­or for hire would have you believe, and the buzz about his whizzy rework­ing of the 1947 Danny Kaye clas­sic star­ted late last year.


(Steph­en Frears)

There’s a ser­i­ous side to comedi­an Steve Coogan (see main art­icle) too, which is on dis­play in Philom­ena, where he plays a world-weary journ­al­ist help­ing Judi Dench find her son, for­cibly giv­en up for adop­tion in Ire­land 50 years earlier.

The Wolf of Wall Street

(Mar­tin Scorsese)

Mar­tin Scorsese reunites with Leonardo DiCaprio for an epic black com­edy about excess and mal­feas­ance in the world of high (and low) fin­ance. Writ­ten by Board­walk Empire cre­at­or Ter­ence Winter.


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