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Better known in these parts for his role in Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People (and the occasional spot of Courtney Love-banging), Steve Coogan has been a part of two our our ten favorite television programs: Chris Morris' The Day Today and his own I'm Alan Partridge. Coogan played Partridge in both of those series, so it was with some trepidation that we approached Saxondale, his new one. (BBC America, Fridays at 11.)
Coogan has spoken about wanting to make his comedy more generous, which is rarely a wise formula when it comes to humor. As it turns out, we needn't have worried: Saxondale is brilliant and funny in spite of its genuine warmth. Coogan plays Tommy Saxondale, a former Jethro Tull roadie who now works as a pest control agent. The comedy in Saxondale comes from Tommy's inability to contend with a world that's abandoned the spirit of the sixties; he's a free-thinker in an age of iPods and willing conformists. (Each episode opens with a monologue delivered to his court-ordered anger management class; it's generally the highlight of the show.) There's an incredible sweetness to Saxondale, but don't let it fool you: At its heart, this show is about the baby boom generation facing its own mortality, and, hell, what's funnier than that? While one of the delights of Partridge was cringing at Alan's narcissistic behavior, Saxondale makes you cringe for Tommy. That's a much harder trick to pull off. This is a show you should be watching.