A show from overseas that satirized recreational drug and alcohol use, then gathered a cult following here in America you say? Yes I do: “Absolutely Fabulous” a/k/a AbFab.

29 Jun

In this satirical British sitcom, which eventually became a cult hit on American cable, concerns two vulgar self-centered fashion victims chain-smoking, champagne swilling, drugs abusing, caviar munching, terrorize their daughter, and tried in vain to mingle with the beautiful people—Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders creator and writer of the show) and her sleek, slutty, boozed-up best friend Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) (aka Pats and Eddy) are ’60s survivors and fashion-world wannabes; Pats works for magazines, while Eddy owns a PR firm which you will see in the clip is sarcastically described by her accountant as a “business” that never really seems to have any clients.

These women of means live a hard life of drinking, drugs and other hangovers from the 1960’s party years of London.  They tie their identities to the self-delusion of a glamorous London lifestyle, while trying to make back on to the “A” lists at parties.

Pats inhabits the attic of a liquor-store franchise, while Eddy lives in a well-to-do flat thanks to the double alimony from her two ex-husbands, a gay antiques dealer and a recovering alcoholic. When she’s not fighting with her responsible teenaged daughter, Saffron “Saffy” Monsoon (Julia Sawalha), and her oblivious, tongue-in-cheek mother (June Whitfield), Eddy stages fashion shows, jets off to photo shoots, pays charlatans to put her in touch with her inner child, and tries every weight-loss cure known to man — except curbing her debauched lifestyle.

The open and accepted use of recreational drugs and booze by Pats and Eddy (unheard of in U.S. TV, only adds to the humor.  It is not very often you find yourself laughing when two middle-aged women are doing blow, booze and cigarettes to get through the day.

“AbFab,” as it’s known, began its life as a sketch called “Modern Mother and Daughter” on the BBC comedy show French & Saunders. Although frequent Saunders collaborator Dawn French played the daughter part in the original sketch, she bowed out in favor of half-Jordanian, half-British actress Sawalha, a Press Gang vet who was closer to the character’s age.  Patsy — played like a coked-up Dynasty caricature by former Bond girl and New Avengers star Lumley — wasn’t a part of the original sketch but quickly became a favorite of drag queens everywhere.  In addition to cameos from celebrities such as Helena Bonham Carter and Naomi Campbell, AbFab included frequent appearances by Little Voice star Jane Horrocks (as Eddy’s airhead assistant, Bubble) and Nil by Mouth star Kathy Burke (as straight-talking magazine editor Magda).  Although one BBC development executive’s reaction to the pilot was, “I don’t think women being drunk is funny,” a secretary handed out tapes in secret to her friends, and soon the buzz about the show became deafening.  The first series premiered on BBC 1 on November 12, 1992, but didn’t make its American until July 1994, when Comedy Central began airing perpetual reruns of the show.

Three six-episode series were broadcast in the U.K. in 1992, 1994, and 1995, followed by a two-part TV movie, Absolutely Fabulous: The Last Shout, in November 1996. In 2000, as Saunders was working on a new program called Mirrorball that reunited much of the AbFab cast, she decided to switch gears and revisit her best-known characters in a fourth AbFab series, which began airing on August 31, 2001. Co-funded by Comedy Central, the new series began its U.S. run a few months later, on November 12, 2001.  Although Roseanne purchased the rights to develop an American version of the show in 1994, the first international adaptation of the program to see the light of day was the 2001 French film Absolument Fabuleux.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that this is the funniest TV sitcom ever made.—however I would call it a tier one program.  The blatant change of a show openly using recreational drugs (at the time) was revolutionary and makes for some extremely funny situations particularly when Saffron a/k/a Saffy tries to get involved to curb this reckless behavior.  I must confess that if I had a daughter, I would have named her Saffron and called her Saffy for short because of the show.  I have included my favorite episode in full because it truly embodies the shows unique perspective and sense of humor.

Based on my experience, AB Fab is a love it or not like it (versus hate) kind of a show.  I enjoy it and if you the like the episode provided here then watch some more otherwise abandon ship.  The episode is from Season 2 No. 11 entitled “Poor.”



Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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2 responses to “A show from overseas that satirized recreational drug and alcohol use, then gathered a cult following here in America you say? Yes I do: “Absolutely Fabulous” a/k/a AbFab.

  1. Robert Juettner

    June 29, 2013 at 10:37 am

    JP, given the recent revelations of NSA spying on us with the help of the phone and internet companies, I would like to suggest a review of the President’s Analyst. Bob



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