To the extent that Steve Coogan has been (undeservedly) a failure on the American big screen, everything he has done on the English TV screen has been brilliant.
His first BBC hit, Knowing Me, Knowing You… with Alan Partridge, introduced a now-ubiquitous TV type: the self-serving, self-deceiving vainglorious middle-management buffoon who sidesteps the enmity of all those around him with timely idiot-savant gestures of honesty and decency. Yes, we’re talking about David Brent (and Michael Scott) here. The success of the Partridge character has been well documented, and
sadly bafflingly predictably, the wikipedia page for the now beloved fictional character is far more detailed than the one for the actor who conceived him. Which brings us to Tommy Saxondale, the next great Steve Coogan character.
Formerly a heavy metal roadie to the greats (except for Led Zeppelin), Saxondale now pays the mortgage on his suburban semi-detached as an exterminator, coming home every night to his younger girlfriend Magz, who owns a t-shirt shop in the mall called “Smash the System.”
Tommy is lost in the world, and he is angry. He clings to the faded glory of hedonistic rock and roll rebellion, seeking everywhere to stick it to a Man who doesn’t exist, wearing his obsolete youth culture signifiers as if they were his last tattered tour shirt (he drives a hot rod and has a mullet, but appears comfortable in neither). What Saxondale really likes, now that he’s in his fifties and has a grown daughter, is a nice cup of tea and a little Enya.
Each episode begins with a vignette from Saxondale’s anger-management group therapy sessions at the local library. Each of these vignettes ends in failure. And though the first few episodes present Saxondale as a readily accessible caricature of type (the aging burnt-out rocker who refuses to shake your hand in a normal way and insists on clasping it like you’re about to arm wrestle; and hates suits, also), there develops very quickly a real character beyond all the laughs (and there are many), who is so fucking confused and angry about where his life has taken him that the few moments of genuine happiness he’s allowed are as heartbreaking and memorable as they are ridiculous (when he bests an animal rights protester, when he wins his fare dodging case in court by pretending to be deaf. Mainly, though, it’s very funny. So that’s probably why you should rent it.
The show had 13 episodes and aired in the UK in 2006 and 2007. Apparently, there is talk of an NBC adaptation coming soon, which could be fine, as there isn’t anything particularly English about Saxondale, beyond his name.