In this weekly column, I’ll introduce you to the world of British comedy in the chronology of how I, an American anglophile, discovered it in my life. This week: Saxondale.
I’m sort of breaking my own rules this week. I’m skipping over a couple of shows (The Office and The Mighty Boosh) because they’re so popular and so well known, I feel a little silly covering them. I promise to double back and chat about them when it seems less obvious.
When it comes to Steve Coogan, I’ve sort of reverse engineered my my appreciation for his work. The way it’s supposed to go is, you watch Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge, fall in love with Coogan’s smug hilarity, then move on to its follow up series, I’m Alan Partridge, catch a glimpse of him in Curb Your Enthusiasm or Night at the Museum, then one fine golden day, discover his brilliant and woefully underrated series, Saxondale.
I, however, discovered Saxondale first.
I’d never heard of Saxondale when one day a good friend of mine and fellow British comedy fanatic snagged some torrents online and handed me the first complete season on DVD. There was a post-it note on the case that implored me to, “WATCH THESE IMMEDIATELY!”
I did, and I was very, very glad.
Saxondale follows the adventures of former Jethro Tull and Metallica roadie Tommy Saxondale (Coogan) as he settles down in the suburbs. Tommy has traded lugging drum kits and screwing groupies, for a job as a pest control man who lives in domestic bliss with the love of his life, Maggs.
Created and written by the dynamic duo of Steve Coogan and Neil MacLennan, Saxondale is a spot-on portrait of a man trying to reconcile hum-drum middle age with the wild, rock and roll lifestyle of his younger years.
Saxondale on wasps:
Coogan, like Peter Sellers, is a comedic chameleon, and he plays Tommy pitch-perfectly. With a pony-tail, bit of a belly, scraggly beard and mid-life crisis sports car, Coogan brings to life an absolutely believable and heartbreakingly awkward (and at times tragic) figure.
Suffering from anger management issues, every episode of the series cold opens with a quick scene of Tommy in group therapy:
The characters that populate Tommy’s world range from sympathetic supporters like his girl Maggs, to old friends still trying to live the rock dream, to antagonists who belittle and torment him at every turn. But mostly, Tommy is his own enemy. Like David Brent and Larry David before him, Tommy will always go for the over-opinionated, uncomfortable social interaction, and he pays for it dearly…the universal rug ever being pulled out from under him.
At times, it can be brutal to watch, but Saxondale skirts the perfect line between comedy and tragedy. I can not recommend it more highly.
And yeah, Alan Partridge is pretty good, too.
Start your Saxondale adventure here!
Curtis Gwinn is a writer and comedian living in LA. He’s written for The Onion, MTV’s Human Giant, Comedy Central and FOX Searchlight Pictures. He also co-starred in and co-wrote Fat Guy Stuck in Internet on Adult Swim.