Rarely have I come across a television comedy that was more poorly served by the addition of a raucous laugh track, and yet it’s entirely possible that vast swaths of audience wouldn’t realize this was meant to be funny without it. British satirist Steve Coogan (Happy Endings) is an absolute genuis, but his brand of comedy is bleak and bitter, maybe never more so than in this series about a failed talk-show host reduced to working the overnight shift at a downmarket radio station while desperately trying to claw his way back to his former demi-celebrity, and utterly failing. Everything about Alan Partridge’s world is depressingly shabby, from the obstinately bland hotel he calls home to the inconsequence of his ambitions — the episode in which he pitches ideas to a BBC executive for new TV shows for him to host is an excruciatingly piercing satire of the triviality of television. Actually, the same could be said for the show on the whole… and the irony of that may be the biggest meta joke of all here. Extras include commentary tracks by Coogan — both in character and as himself, outtakes, and some of the cleverest DVD menus I’ve ever seen, which ape the in-house TV network of his miserable hotel. Highly recommended… if you can take humor that is, paradoxically, relentlessly sad.
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