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From Across the Pond: "Saxondale"

Knowing me, knowing you. A-ha.

It's very easy to think that Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge, the character he created and played on several comedy series including Knowing Me, Knowing You and I'm Alan Partridge. But if Coogan isn't Alan Partridge, neither is the boozy, bawdy Tommy Saxondale, the character he now portrays (and co-created with Neil MacLennan) in the new BBC comedy series, Saxondale, set to make its U.S. debut next month.

Unlike the pretentious and preening Alan Partridge, Tommy Saxondale is a man of the people. Well, he's a man of a nation of one, anyway. A former rock group roadie, Tommy has become a pest control specialist living with Welsh girlfriend Magz (Nighty Night's Ruth Jones) who runs Smash the System, a t-shirt shop selling anarchist clothing, including a dubious line of t's featuring unexpected people (i.e., the Mona Lisa) smoking pot. Magz manages to ground the easily enraged Tommy a bit and keep him from veering off into a tirade about his ex-wife or similar subjects. That said, he's just awful to her at times but Magz barely seems to even notice. Ah, love.

Tommy is an anti-establishment hellion who seems to have suddenly realized he's actually a sad middle-aged man driving around in a van killing rodents (and birds, mustn't forget about birds) and who constantly spars with Vicky (Morwenna Banks), the flinty receptionist who hands out jobs at the Pest Control Center. If Tommy has dreams of grandeur, it's Vicky who promptly knocks him right back to earth with her cutting banter and vicious repartee. It's only natural then that Tommy should have anger management issues and the pilot episode begins, in fact, with his walking out on a therapy group.

What this man needs is a good sidekick... some punk kid too stoned or naive to tell Tommy to stop droning on about his glory years. Enter teenager Raymond (Rasmus Hardiker), desperate for a job and a fresh start somewhere, who gets pulled into Tommy's world after applying for an assistant pest control specialist. Tommy instantly takes a shining to this gawky, innocent lad, hiring him on the spot... and offering him the glamorous opportunity to become his and Magz's lodger as well (for a profit, naturally). And so the disused box room in Tommy and Magz's place becomes Raymond HQ, though the poor lad isn't likely to have any privacy with Tommy barging in constantly and sharing with him the art of pest control. That is, when Tommy and Magz aren't going at it.

As Tommy Saxondale, Coogan completely disappears inside the role to create the portrait of a man on the brink of self-loathing (or self-love, depending on your view) living in a world he just can't connect with. Saxondale is definitely more low-key than Partridge but he's also filled with a bitterness that's at times tough to swallow. It's a pretty bleak picture of an aging hipster but Coogan somehow makes Tommy oddly sympathetic, even when he's tormenting Raymond or Magz (the scene in the box room is a comedic gem) or verbally battling with Vicky. As Magz, Ruth Jones has a sweetness that mellows Coogan's acidity; scarily they manage to balance one another out. One can help but feel bad for Raymond and the mess he's just landed himself in and Rasmus Hardiker perfectly embodies the googly-eyed 19-year-old with pitch-perfect guilelessness.

Tommy and Raymond's first assignment: deal with a pigeon infestation at a warehouse... and with the animal rights protestors who are picketing the site as well. And Tommy just does that with typical aplomb, a well-developed sadistic streak... and a pellet gun.

I dare say you wouldn't see Alan Partridge doing that...

"Saxondale" is scheduled to premiere on BBC America on October 13th at 11 pm ET (8 pm PT).

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Jericho (CBS); The Biggest Loser (NBC; 8-10 pm); America's Next Top Model (CW); Dancing with the Stars (ABC); Bones (FOX); Desire (MyNet)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); One Tree Hill (CW); Grey's Anatomy (ABC; 9-11 pm); Justice (FOX); Fashion House (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Kidnapped (NBC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Jericho.

I've seen the shortened version of the original pilot and, wouldn't you know it, CBS was kind enough to send me the newer version and the second episode of Jericho as well. I'll be giving it a second chance tonight to see if I can invest in yet another serialized drama this season...

10 pm: Kidnapped.

You can check out my review from a few months ago here. I was burned by Vanished, but I am hoping that Kidnapped makes the grade. Let's see how America feels tomorrow.

10 pm: Project Runway on Bravo.

On tonight's episode, it's down to the final four contestants. Who will be eliminated next? Will it be Michael (please no), Jeffrey, Uli, or Laura? To be honest, I'd be perfectly happy with Michael, Uli, and Laura as the final three designers. Jeffrey just irks.


Anonymous said…
my tivo tells me that tonight's PR is a repeat of last week's, but I tivo'd it anyway, it case tivo lied.
Anonymous said…
Yep, it's a rerun, according to the good folks at Blogging Project Runway.

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