In case you missed the announcement, the BBC’s Director of Comedy quit this week.
Obviously, your first response to that news would have to be “Wait – the BBC had a Director of Comedy?”
You might then wonder why he’d jumped ship. Perhaps he had just found out the BBC was bringing back Peter Crouch and Maya Jama to “add some funny” to the European Championships this summer.
Or maybe he’d watched last Friday’s return of This Time with Alan Partridge and decided to get out before things got really awkward.
On paper, moving the latest incarnation of Steve Coogan’s greatest creation from Monday nights to form a Friday double bill with Have I Got News for You? seemed a solid enough idea.
Sadly, the plan had flaws. Firstly, viewers didn’t desert the debut series of This Time in their droves simply because it didn’t fit in with their watching diary.
Secondly, Have I Got News for You? has been slowly dying for a bad four or five years now.
Ian Hislop appears to approach each show as if he’s chairing a Private Eye editorial meeting, while his opposite number Paul Merton looks like he’d rather be on a train somewhere.
Last Friday we witnessed the unedifying sight of Merton, the Mullet of Mirth, displaying an astounding lack of self-awareness as he took the mickey out of Tony Blair for having a bad haircut.
Oh, and they’ve also started doing “Eric Pickles is fat” jokes again. (I’m assuming there was a bet in the production office.) Compared to that, Partridge as the bungling host of a tame current affairs show is an absolute feast of fun. Unfortunately, compared to any other Partridge programme, it’s a borderline insult.
There are one or two decent laughs per episode, but I generally find myself wondering why they didn’t just do a straight parody of The One Show and leave it at that.
Instead, Coogan has been indulged to the point where no one dared tell him that Partridge’s seven-minute monastery segment was at least six minutes too long, or that he needs to stop doing that silly voiceover voice for no reason.
To be fair, This Time’s main failing cannot be pinned on Coogan– although, in a way, it can.
The fact is there are so many late middle-aged male hosts following the Partridge blueprint these days, that a cringey, needy, gaffe-prone windbag is no longer an extraordinary sight for viewers.
And that’s before GB News has even launched.