Steve Coogan wants more live Alan Partridge & preps Thatcher TV drama

Monday 10th June 2024, 8:39am by Jay Richardson

Alan Partridge - Stratagem. Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Steve Coogan plans to perform live as Alan Partridge again, has confirmed that there will be no more This Time... and is making a drama about Margaret Thatcher's relationship with the political journalist Brian Walden, he has revealed.

The comedian appeared on Dermot O'Leary's Radio 2 show at the weekend to promote the publication of Partridge's latest memoir, Big Beacon, in paperback. And he told the presenter that he was keen to follow-up the character's 2022 Stratagem tour.

"Probably yes, at some point" Coogan said. "I'd like to do some other stuff first and I'll go back to him. I do a lot of serious stuff and then, when I need a laugh, we'll get together and do some Partridge."

Although he confessed to having fallen out of love with his most famous creation in the past, since successfully diversifying his career into television series such as Jimmy Savile drama The Reckoning and Bafta-nominated films like Philomena and Stan & Ollie, Coogan has found returning as Norfolk's most gaffe-prone broadcaster more rewarding.

"Once I was able to do other things and had this opportunity to explore different topics and subject matters and write other things, it tickles that itch" he said. "As long as I can do that and I get the balance right I like to come back to Alan because he's like putting a warm dressing gown on. It feels so easy."

And Did Those Feet... With Alan Partridge. Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

However, his upcoming BBC One mock-travelogue, And Did Those Feet... With Alan Partridge, signals the end of magazine show pastiche This Time With Alan Partridge, which co-starred Susannah Fielding, Felicity Montagu and Tim Key, after two series on the corporation's flagship channel between 2019 and 2021.

"They say if you want to make a character very successful or make a successful show, you have to just do the same thing over and over and over again" Coogan told O'Leary. "Like Curb Your Enthusiasm or something like that, which just builds and builds and it becomes entrenched in the consciousness. But we feel like to stop us getting tired or stuck in a rut we have to change things up.

"We try to vary the format, we do podcasts, we do books, do TV, and we're in the middle of doing another TV thing. So if anyone feels like there's some sort of starvation there of Alan or someone who needs a fix of Alan, there are these dysfunctional people out there ..."

And Did Those Feet... With Alan Partridge. Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Midway through shooting the six episodes of And Did Those Feet..., which are expected to air later this year, Coogan explained that the series was about "mental health", with "Alan, trying to grapple with it and weirdly in a ways that is actually constructive but not because that's the way Alan intended it.

"As far as Alan's concerned, he's heard a lot of people talking about mental health, he wants to jump on the mental health bandwagon."

Calling his Partridge co-writers Neil Gibbons and Rob Gibbons "geniuses", he said they'd allowed him to "reboot" the character. "They've dialled in more empathy for Alan, made you feel a bit more sorry for him, he is such an idiot shall we say.

"For Shakespeare fans he's a bit like Malvolio, he's a bit pompous and ham-fisted, clumsy. He's sincere but he just gets the wrong end of the stick. He's well-meaning. He's not wicked, he's misguided."

The trio never take Partridge's success for granted he added, approaching each new outlet for the character with a determination not to let their standards slip.

"I always treat it like it's the first time I'm writing it, so you don't get lazy, you don't get complacent" Coogan maintained. "We feel like you've got to sing for your supper, it's got to be really good because there's a lot of people waiting to say: 'oh, he's jumped the shark, he's not funny anymore, why's he still doing it?' So we like that kind of challenge, we're going to push it to make it better.

"I do it because I like to do it, not because I have to do it."

Steve Coogan

Later in the interview he revealed that he is set to play political interviewer Walden in an upcoming television drama alongside Flowers and Succession star Harriet Walter as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Thatcher considered the tenacious Walden, a former Labour MP who became ITV's chief political interviewer, her favourite interlocutor. Walden, in turn, described her as his favourite interviewee.

However, the pair never spoke again after a damaging 1989 interview for the Prime Minister in the wake of Chancellor Nigel Lawson's resignation from her cabinet, after she was unwilling to sack her economics adviser Alan Walters.

Walden quoted a Conservative backbencher describing her as "slightly off her trolley, authoritarian, domineering, refusing to listen to anybody else". Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister the following year.

"Brian Walden was the arch, in-depth interviewer in the old days when they had long-form interviews where you'd interviews a politician for 50 minutes, doesn't happen anymore" Coogan observed. "He was a little later than [David] Frost but he was in the same mould.

"He was ITV's star interviewer, interrogator. And anyway, I'm doing a drama with Harriet Walter as Margaret Thatcher. I start shooting that soon."

Reflecting on the pair's relationship, he added: "Margaret Thatcher and Brian Walden had a kind of strange friendship that was sorely tested towards the end of her tenure, so it's a fascinating story ... what's interesting about Margaret Thatcher, and I was not a fan I have to say. But the interesting thing about her is that she was state educated and most politicians, certainly most Conservative politicians tended to be privately educated.

"[She and Walden] both got scholarships to Oxford, so he felt a kind of kinship, they felt like outsiders as far as being outside the Establishment. So that bonded them but their politics were slightly different. He moved towards hers', becoming disillusioned with Labour, though he was always on the side of the ordinary working man."

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