Rebecca Front, Patrick Marber, David Schneider, Amelia Bullmore, Sally Phillips, Ruth Jones, John Hannah, Jennifer Hennesey, Vincent Regan
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
hose who regularly find their television sets tuned to BBC America will certainly appreciate the worth in a set called “The Steve Coogan Collection.” Indeed, at the mere mention of his name, many of the Anglophiles who frequent this site have no doubt stopped reading in favor of clicking on the Amazon link to order a copy. The average American, however, probably doesn’t even know his name, which is a perversely impressive accomplishment for someone who bookended his performance as crazed director Damien Cockburn in “Tropic Thunder” by playing Octavius in the “Night at the Museum” films. In fairness, however, even the Brits still tend to think of Coogan as someone whose best work has been on the telly, and if you’ve never seen him work in that medium, then “The Steve Coogan Collection” is a fantastic place to start.
If you had to pick one character that Coogan is best known for playing, it’d be an utterly clueless chat show host named Alan Partridge. Although he first appeared on a BBC radio show (“On the Hour”), the character transitioned to television via the news program parody, “The Day Today,” eventually earning his own series. Included in this set are all six episodes of that series, “Knowing Me, Knowing You… with Alan Partridge,” and although its popularity makes it the perfect way to kick off the collection, it’s also a good way to quickly confirm whether or not your comedic sensibilities match Coogan’s. He’s a master of the pitch-perfect parody, and here he tackles the talk show, offering up a fake host who interviews fake guests, with neither party breaking character at any point during the proceedings. It’s kind of like watching a Roland Emmerich film: you know what you’re seeing is fake, but you’re in awe of the man’s ability to make it look real, and you still shudder a little bit despite yourself. In addition to the six episodes of “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” Alan’s Christmas special is also included – it is, of course, entitled “Knowing Me, Knowing Yule” – but that’s far from the end of his saga. Although his (fake) TV show has been (fake) canceled, he refuses to go down without a fight, and the battle is detailed in excruciating but hilarious agony during two seasons of “I’m Alan Partridge.” If you thought David Brent came across as completely clueless and utterly inappropriate in “The Office,” then you’ll love watching Alan flounder through his attempts to corral himself a comeback.
“Saxondale” finds Coogan playing a former roadie who’s now working in the pest control industry. Imagine Dale Gribble from “King of the Hill,” substitute his paranoia about the government with a never-ending supply of rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, and you’re starting to get the idea. Fortunately, Saxondale’s relationship with his significant other – played by Ruth Jones, of “Gavin and Stacey” fame – is decidedly more secure than Dale’s, possibly because they’re like rabbits in the bedroom. “Saxondale” isn’t a bad series, but nor is it the sort of thing that would do much to say, “Well, he’s finally gone and made us forget about Alan Partridge.” One could, however, say that about “Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible,” but only if you’re familiar with the Hammer Studios horror films that Coogan was parodying in the anthology series; by aiming at such a specific target, viewers are more likely to stare blankly or chuckle uncertainly than laugh uproariously.
Also here is “Coogan’s Run,” a six-episode series which explored the various residents of the town of Ottle, with Coogan playing different folks in each installment, including computer software salesman Gareth Cheeseman, nightclub entertainer Mike Crystal (and his alter ego, Clint Stallone), and museum curator Tim Fleck. Also found amongst the characters, however, are the stars of two further discs within the set: siblings Paul and Pauline Calf, both played by Coogan. They turn up in “Paul and Pauline Calf’s Video Diaries,” then resurface in the oddly-titled live special, “Paul and Pauline Calf’s Cheese and Ham Sandwich.” Lastly, the final disc of “The Steve Coogan Collection” introduces us to “The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon,” a Eurovision winner from Portugal who has ostensibly taken the United Kingdom by storm.
As you can probably tell, “The Steve Coogan Collection” is a lot to take in, and with a pricetag of over $100, it’s not the sort of thing that you’d dive into blindly, which means that precious few outside of the usual BBC DVD audience will ever plunk down the dough to investigate its contents. If you don’t fall into that group, however, and any part of this review has managed to tickle your fancy, you’d be well advised to rent “Knowing Me, Knowing You…with Alan Partridge” from Netflix, and once you’ve laughed yourself silly, then move on to the next show. If the laughter doesn’t stop, then it won’t be long before “The Steve Coogan Collection” ends up on your must-buy list.
Special Features: Prepare to geek out, Coogan fans. As it usually does with its DVD releases, BBC Home Video has done right by you with its bonus material. On the Alan Partridge front, there’s the original test shoot for “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and his Comic Relief spot from 1995, but there are deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes and making-of featurettes, interviews, and commentaries spread liberally throughout the 13-disc set, along with bonus programs like “Paul and Pauline Calf Live on Saturday Zoo” and “Introducing Tony Ferrino: Who and Why?”