It was only a matter of time before Steve Coogan’s feckless, tactless TV/radio personality Alan Partridge found himself in a mockumentary, and so he did two years ago. Once again seeking some kind of redemption and fame, Partridge abandoned his DJ duties to produce, executive produce (not sure what the difference is there except for an extra credit, but never mind), co-direct, and appear in Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle, a one-hour portrait of a divided Britain in 2016, in which all of his unnerving, annoying traits were on full display — arrogance, ignorance, preening self-importance, cowardice, racism, sexism, you name it — as he investigated the haves and have-nots (or, as Partridge would have it, the “haven’ts”) who populated a country he found in “schasm.”
Partridge has remained a mainstay of British comedy culture since he first emerged as a sports presenter on the BBC comedy program On the Hour in 1991; since then, Coogan has steered the character through a variety of radio shows, television comedies, and even in 2013 a feature film, Alpha Papa (co-authored by Armando Iannucci, director of last year’s great The Death of Stalin and a long-time Coogan collaborator, especially on the Partridge shows). Although Coogan has succeeded stateside with films like 24 Hour Party People and Philomena, the latter of which he co-authored and in which he starred with Judi Dench (the film received four Academy Award nominations in 2014, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay), Partridge has never caught on with Americans. Although some of this may be due to British-specific cultural references, I also suspect that Partridge cuts too close to the bone; his vices are fairly unrelieved by any virtues. The British are much better at creating comic characters like this than Americans, witness the likes of Basil Fawlty and David Brent. But in Scissored Isle, Coogan pulls off the somewhat magical feat of making a cutting social commentary while parodying social commentaries — and you don’t need to be British to recognize it.
Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle won two BAFTA TV Awards in 2017 (for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme and Best Writer), as well as an International Emmy Award for Best Comedy that same year. You can see the entire program below; it’s worth your time. (The OED, by the way, defines “chav” as a derogatory term referring to “a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes”; it’s derived from the term “Council House affiliated Vermin.” You’ll want to know that in a minute or two.)