Binge-r #134: This Time With Alan Partridge + Black Summer
THIS TIME WITH ALAN PARTRIDGE
Streaming Service: ABC iview
Availability: All six episodes now streaming
Brought to life by Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci for BBC Radio in 1991, Alan Partridge has become an emblematic British comedy character: a vainly desperate television presenter with no understanding of how he appears to others who usually runs aground thanks to his excruciating self-obsession. Coogan’s alter-ego hasn’t always been widely seen in Australia – in the 1990s there was a perpetual passages of video cassettes lent from aficionados to initiates as the cult of Partridge, in all his Abba-loving, casually xenophobic glory, grew and grew. It wasn’t altogether surprising, then, when this new six part series, the first Alan Partridge Project in several years, appeared without notice on the ABC’s iview streaming website.
Forewarned or not, This Time is an impeccable comic creation: skilfully written, perfectly played, and hilariously timely. It has sequences that build, with inexorable dread for the looming setback, with clockwork precision, so that aside after aside culminates in a heinous assumption of an undeserved spotlight. It also puts the character back in his best format: playing a television or radio host putting himself out to an audience (the 2013 action-comedy feature film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, was a lesser effort). Initially filling in on the nightly BBC magazine show This Time, Partridge sees his flailing career resurrected even as his colleagues, led by increasingly dismayed co-host Jennie Gresham (a spot on Susannah Fielding), watch on in disbelief. You could make a beguiling supercut solely of flummoxed reaction shots from those placed in Partridge’s proximity.
Presenting to the public and complaining in private, Partridge exerts a ludicrous centre of gravity, naturally taking over and supplying pre-recorded segments that allow him to run wild – a spot on corporal punishment in schools goes to daft extremes, with Partridge naturally invoking his squash coach in a demonstration of the ideal paddling technique. Partridge’s lecherous self-belief and right wing belittlement of others come with a casual acceptance – with his driving gloves and bad photograph poses he’s too buffoonish to be a bully. This is not the scorched earth humour of the ABC’s breakfast show satire, Get Krack!n, but it is both deeply accurate and consistently funny, with a skerrick of sympathy for a man happily working beyond his capabilities. And the very Alan Partridge kicker? It’s currently only available to stream until May 5. Get to it.
In Brief: BLACK SUMMER S1 (Netflix, eight episodes): A minimalist genre series, Black Summer gets back to the basics of a zombie apocalypse, beginning with the harried evacuation of an American town’s residents and never really pausing. Following individual survivors who fall into groups out of shock and necessity, the narrative moves from minute to minute so that any sense of safety – or the desire to solemnly reflect on what is happening – is shut down by the next appearance of the flesh-eating undead. The inspiration is George Romero’s ground zero zombie films, with a touch of Max Brooks’ novel World War Z, although these creatures run, which really lowers the odds. The early episodes, which begins with Rose (Jaime King) being separated from her daughter, emphasise how thin society’s veneer is: looting, murder, and worse are implied, but staying alive is the only motivation. The handheld camera roams the littered streets, and the gore is matched by very real split-second calculation such as will this door hold? Consider it a welcome B-movie antidote to bloated post-apocalyptic fare such as The Walking Dead.
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
New on Netflix: Brie Larson directs and stars, alongside her Captain Marvel co-star Samuel L. Jackson, in Unicorn Store (2019, 91 minutes), a glitter and whimsy comic fantasy about personal fulfilment that’s too often forced; The Big Short (2015, 130 minutes) is a blackly comic retelling of the GFC’s creation, told from the perspective of the outliers who profited from it with Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, and Steve Carell defining the failings.
New on SBS on Demand: A precursor in some ways to Mad Men, Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm (1997, 109 minutes) dissects life in the commuter belt of upstate New York just as the counterculture years run aground, with an impeccable cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, and Tobey Maguire illuminating fractured families and privileged mores.
New on Stan: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017, 106 minutes) is a showcase for Annette Bening, who plays 1940s Hollywood star Gloria Grahame in a bittersweet romantic biopic co-starring Jamie Bell; The future crimes of 20th century Europe fuel an inexplicable horror film in The White Ribbon (2009, 138 minutes), Michael Haneke’s unsettling black and white depiction of life in a traditional (and corrupted) German village prior to World War I.
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