It's been a decade since the last series of I'm Alan Partridge on BBC Two and while the character has never truly gone away - thanks to a mixture of stand-up, books and most recently the brilliant Foster's Funny online series - these two new Sky Atlantic specials with Norfolk's most notorious broadcaster couldn't be more eagerly anticipated by fans of Steve Coogan's legendary creation.
Watch the preview of Welcome to the Places of My Life:
The first special Welcome to the Places of My Life is up there with the funniest work of Coogan's career. A one-hour doc following Alan acting as a tour guide around his favourite destinations (Thetford Forest) and daily stop-offs (his local newsagent), the show is rich enough and hilarious enough to make you long for a full series.
"A Partridge pilgrimage. A Partrimage. A Pilgrimartridge. A Partrimiligrimage."
Coogan recently commented on the "crudeness" of early Partridge and it's easy to understand why the comic is so critical of his old work when you tally up the gag count in these 50 minutes.
No pause of breath, glance at the camera, one-liner or voiceover is wasted. Every intonation or stumble on a country walk is worthy of a fit of giggles.
There are classic Partridgisms at every turn ("It is larger than a good quality dentists' and could house a Tesco Express," "No amount of chemicals can counter the fact that four children in 30 will p*ss in the pool and one in 100 will go further"), instantly quotable catchphrases ("Flying AIDS!" "Brouhaha!") and firm reminders that for all his talk of "birds", it's the same old Alan ("If you get The Guardian, you get a free chocolate bar." "Yes... and you also get The Guardian").
For hardcore fans there are plenty of nods and winks to previous Partridge outings. A phonecall to his long-suffering PA Lynn ("The only person they'll let you examine is yourself and God knows what you'll find") and a jaw-achingly funny run-through of the dramas of Norwich Town Hall during an infamous debate about inner city parking.
However, Places of My Life isn't just a nostalgic nod to a great comic character. Coogan in auto-pilot as Partridge would always be funny, but this special has pathos, it advances the character further than it's ever been before and most importantly it has some of the biggest laughs you'll find in 2012.
"Ross Kemp nailed it when he said it was equidistant between chit-chat and analysis."
In many ways it feels like a precursor to the much-talked-about Partridge movie, which is expected to begin shooting this year. The mundane life of Alan, whether it's killing time in his local swimming pool or wandering aimlessly through the forest, doesn't on paper scream with big-screen potential.
But the beauty of Coogan's performance and the subtle brush strokes of writers Rob and Neil Gibbons bring a pathos and emotional connection to Alan, which makes the character more than a 2D caricature.
Alan may have started out as a bumbling Richard Madeley-esque wally. But there is a tragedy to his character, a warmth to him and glimpses of self-awareness that hopefully the movie will explore in greater detail.
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At the end of the episode, viewers are shown the two flipsides of Alan's character. On one hand he's mucking around in a car and dishing out choc-ices. On the other, he's pondering the pointlessness of the Coke vs Pepsi wars ("I just thought, who gives a s**t. What a colossal waste of everyone's time!"). Perhaps for the first time, we genuinely feel sorry for Alan. For all his PC slip-ups and selfishness, there's a side of him that just wants to be loved.
In the long list of great British comedy characters - Basil Fawlty, Del Boy, Norman Stanley Fletcher, David Brent - Alan Partridge sits comfortably alongside the best and if you don't already believe that, this special should give you enough chuckles to convince you otherwise.
Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life airs on Monday, June 25 at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.