Monday, June 19, 2006 by

It’s good to see Steve Coogan back starring in a BBC2 sitcom. His intermittent forays into Hollywood have hardly propelled him into the A-list of stardom (Around the World in 80 Days anybody?)

Saxondale is his latest attempt to show that he isn’t merely a one-trick pony forever destined to be remembered as Alan Partridge. Unfortunately, any new character devised by Coogan is always going to be compared to the bitter East Anglia-based DJ. Tommy Saxondale is very different in many ways, but retains much of Alan’s tactlessness when dealing with other people (“I went off like Krakatoa”, when discussing sex, “Listen you bloody dildo”, and insulting somebody by declaring “You’re orange!”).

The episode opens with Tommy attending, and then swiftly leaving, an anger management class. This theme is obviously going to resurface in later instalments, but for now Tommy is happy to take out his irritations and frustrations on the local pest population. He freely recognises he has a problem with his temper, and that he needs to deal with it, but doesn’t seem to have the patience to cope with the people he encounters at the classes.

Like Les McQueen from The League of Gentlemen, this former roadie spends his time reminiscing about the good old days and boring people rigid in the process with his tales of rock. In a vain attempt to remain cool, he drives a bright yellow mustang (complete with “Flight 93 – Let’s Roll” bumper sticker), wears a leather jacket and keeps his greying hair at a 1970s length. We learn he has recently come through a divorce and that he hates his ex-wife; he has a daughter (who we will no doubt meet at some point in the series); and he lives with his girlfriend Magz in their nice house in Hertfordshire. They freely discuss their bizarre sex life, not only amongst themselves, but also in front of other people, including new assistant Raymond (played by the curiously-monikered Rasmus Hardiker).

Raymond gets his job as Saxondale’s deputy following a series of interviews in which none of the other candidates prove suitable. They are either clever than Tommy, too old to do the job or too boring. Ray seems to fit the bill though and ultimately ends up moving in with Tommy and Magz. Again proving just how tactless he is, Tommy offers Raymond the use of his 1970′s Danish porn mag collection.

Due to the nature of the writing, Saxondale at times does feel just a bit too slow. There are a few moments that raise a chuckle in Coogan and co-writer Neil MacLennan’s script (Morwenna Banks, playing yet another receptionist, is fairly good for example) but no eye- wateringly funny bits. It seems as though they are attempting to create a show with a mix of comedy and misery rather than concentrate purely on the laughs.

The best moments come when Tommy goes hunting rogue pigeons, shooting one with a rifle, then with a pistol just to make sure. He sees pests as his enemy and goes after them in the manner of a big game hunter, seemingly forgetting the fact he is working on an industrial estate and not the African plains.

Tommy isn’t a particularly likeable character, unlike Partridge. For all of his foibles and quirks, Partridge can be quite a funny and interesting personality. Tommy, on the other hand, is fairly dull, with a strong, pedantic belief he is right, and that procedure in pest control must be strictly followed to the letter at all times.

From seeing just the first episode it seems unlikely Saxondale is going to capture the public imagination in the way Alan Partridge, or even Paul Calf did, But there was enough in this episode to warrant further viewings.


Comments are closed.