Monday, June 19

Hits and misses

Piers Morgan makes Steve Coogan's new character seem more agreeable than a teatime biscuit, says Mark Lewis

Saxondale (10pm BBC2) is Steve Coogan’s latest attempt to crawl from under the shadow of Alan Partridge. That it has taken so long is testament to his original genius. David Jason shook off Del Boy by being the best television actor of his generation, and growing a big hairy grey moustache; John Cleese shook off Fawlty by merit of his previous canon, and his transformation into film actor/director; and, despite Extras, Ricky Gervais is yet to disown David Brent.

Coogan is in the same situation. Saxondale is occasionally laugh out loud funny. But the character’s similarity to Partridge is impossible to disavow. He is like a cross between Partridge and Brent, with the former’s ability to destroy people with cutting put-downs and the latter’s almost endearing inability to recognise his own vulnerability. It is a little churlish to criticise a sitcom whose first episode was quite so genuinely funny, but high standards beget unreasonable criticism.

The biggest problem with Saxondale is that its tone is so similar to I’m Alan Partridge. In Partridge, the plot and characters’ actions allow near-cartoon situations where the audience don’t have to believe what’s on screen could be true. So nobody on screen laughs when Partridge does something funny. Saxondale is deliberately more realistic, and yet the onscreen characters are still not allowed to laugh.

Still we’re laughing at home.

But not as much as Piers Morgan, the former Mirror editor who has been laughing since he published fake pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqi citizens, and yet somehow continues to conjure new TV jobs for himself. Apart from his semi-regular celebrity based dirges, his weekly political show with Amanda Platell was like a competition between the two to be the most disagreeably rubbish political commentator. And was promptly canned.

But still he appears. You can’t sack me, I’m famous (BBC1, 10.45pm) is Morgan’s latest lightweight television documentary. It follows the story of FA secretary, Faria Alam’s affair with England football manager, Sven Goran Eriksson. It features an Alam interview with Morgan during which she kisses and tells while asking, ‘why am I battered, bruised, slated in every paper?’ of the former Mirror editor on primetime TV.

Even so, Morgan – who somehow manages the gall to use Platell as a pundit – performs his biggest trick yet. He manages to let the public believe that Alam is only the second worst person in the world.

No comments: