1. Steve Coogan – Bouncing Back
Steve Coogan’s had the sort of career that could be pored over for a very long time. Moments of genius, moments to forget and the occasional bursts of tabloid scandal (hello Courtney Love) have all been part of his life in the spotlight. Recent creations such as Saxondale, despite their strengths, failed to garner the same adoration as Alan Partridge. Meanwhile other projects like his recent live shows were critically panned altogether. But this year has seen a majestic return to form with the help of his old Norwich dwelling alter-ego and, well, himself.
One of the biggest surprises of the year was the announcement that Alan Partridge would be returning, albeit in collaboration with Fosters and simply in an online capacity. Eyebrows were understandably raised but the new run of online Alan Partridge webisodes have been a roaring success and the talk of further episodes has already begun. In Alan Partridge’s Mid-Morning Matters Alan continues his slide into radio obscurity, now hosting North Norfolk Digital’s Mid-Morning Matters assisted by Partridge-in- the-making, Sidekick Simon (played by Tim Key). Resurrecting such a huge character was no doubt a risk but its quality (and popularity) hasn’t dipped. Long may Alan’s slide continue.
But not one to risk it simply playing on former glories, The Trip was a different kettle of fish altogether. Playing ‘himself’, Coogan travels the country with Rob Brydon, also playing himself, as part of a series of restaurant reviews. This rather post modern approach nodded towards Extras and the soon-to-air Episodes, a fact that some have held to the detriment of The Trip. But to do so would have been to overlook what was the finest pieces of TV comedy of the year. In some respects a nice follow up to the underrated feature length Cock and Bull Story, the comedy comes from the pair of them sat over exquisite meals bickering over their careers, their lives and their skills as impressionists. Yet it’s also a show full of poignancy. We see Coogan struggling with his lot, a lonely tortured artist who should, in his mind, be a worldwide star, troubled by the shadow of Partridge and his turbulent personal life. Meanwhile Brydon, while constantly put down by Coogan for his career choices (despite his obvious affection for his companion), is the less ‘credible’ but ultimately the more content of the two.
Away from Coogan and Brydon’s relationship, Michael Winterbottom’s direction is unobtrusive and the stunningly tranquil surroundings add to the gentle pace of the comedy. It all adds up to make The Trip a beautiful work of tragic-comedy. It’s not just been 2010’s most significant television triumph but also one of the best pieces of work that either Brydon or Coogan have been involved in. Ultimately this is Coogan’s best character yet and by showing us the real Steve Coogan he may just achieve everything he claims to crave and more.