REVIEW: Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle is Partridge at his best
Steve Coogan’s latest collaboration with Sky, a documentary presented by the infamous Alan Partridge uncovering the torturous reality faced by the lower classes (or, as Partridge refers to them, “chavs”), is Partridge at his best: a subtle and clever satire.
The documentary begins with its premise, which is Partridge saying sorry for accidentally calling members of the public “chavs” on more than one occasion. He is genuinely repentant, but – of course – not entirely sure what he has done wrong. It is classic Partridge. In a bid to understand those who he has insulted, he sets off on a journey to understand the working class.
It is a wonderful mockumentary. From the camera angles, to the deliberate use of over-the-top-hooks and to the subjects covered (anyone want to see another montage of the fallen industrial Manchester?), it mocks all the presenting quirks of documentary hosts, low production values and the use of undeservedly emotive language. It examines subjects from an angle that is not quite accurate – Partridge is crestfallen to see the state of Manchester, naturally ignoring that the city is one of Britain’s top performers in regards to economic growth and gentrification.
There are some genuinely laugh-out-loud funny highlights. It doesn’t take long for Partridge to start getting involved with some typical working class jobs, such as a Tescos checkout assistant. Much to his delight, he is extremely talented at scanning items. Another strong point is Partridge’s attempts to integrate into a Mancunian “gang” of young boys, during which he lures them out with cigarettes and takes a fateful nibble from a pill at a house party. The hangover the next day is brilliant.
A typically hypocritical moment is where Partridge attempts to hound down a loan shark who has cheated clients into poverty. Upon learning that the loan shark is a fan of his radio show, Partridge gives him a quick telling off and lets him go, a sheepish expression on his face. Where have we seen that before, I wonder?
An Alan Partridge documentary is not a documentary in that you learn about the subject intended, but the mind of Patridge is insightful all the same. The criticism is adept, yet Scissored Isle never loses its humour. If more television were like this, without resorting to cheapened laughs at the expense of a loss of conscience, television – and particularly comedy – would be a better place.