Sunday, 7 November 2010

"Do you ever have dark thoughts?"

Jurassic Park! Alan Partridge is back, currently starring in a series of short online snippets sponsored by a certain manufacturer of cooking lager. The first episode bears all of the usual hallmarks and the addition of Tim Key as Sidekick Simon ("Man the barricades!") for some spurious banter works well. It's a little forced in places, but for the most part a very welcome return.

I do wonder, though, what Stewart Lee will have made of friend and collaborator Armando Iannucci's involvement, given his bilious Edinburgh Festival rant in the summer...

Coogan has also returned to the mainstream media with new sitcom The Trip, which features he and Rob Brydon playing caricatures of themselves on a national tour reviewing restaurants. It's directed by Michael Winterbottom, who has already worked with Coogan on 24 Hour Party People and with both of them on A Cock & Bull Story.

The premise, essentially, is to milk the generally amicable but subtly competitive relationship between the two that the latter film first showcased, as Stephanie Merritt acknowledged in her recent profile piece on Coogan for the Guardian. The first episode took a while to get going, but once they were duelling with impersonations over dinner the concept's strength really shone through.

A Friday evening in also gave me the opportunity to catch up with the first two episodes of the second series of Getting On. Somehow the award-winning first series completely passed me by, but I'm pleased to report that it's quality viewing. Given the frequently harrowing subject matter, "dark" hardly does it justice - but the hospital staff's gallows humour (which I imagine strikes a chord with NHS employees everywhere) ensures there are enough laughs to prevent it from becoming too bleak.

Nice to see that Jo Brand, a former psychiatric nurse, isn't the only person involved to be drawing usefully on personal experience - Peter Capaldi has also clearly picked up some directorial tips from his time as Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, while Joanna Scanlan, who also featured in Iannucci's political sitcom, co-stars and co-writes here.

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