Viewers’ Guide: Absolutely Fabulous

from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/absolutely-fabulous-prescient-ab-fab

The show Absolutely Fabulous, like one of its main characters, hard-drinking, hard-drugging, surprisingly ancient but well-preserved Patsy Stone, has frequently refused to die. The first three series ran from 1992 to 1995, but two more series and a vast amount of specials, Red Nose Day specials, and even a feature film, were seen as recently as 2016. And with good reason. Rarely has such an unhealthy and co-dependent relationship still shown as much love as that shared between Edina “Eddie” Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley).

Based on a sketch originally performed by Saunders and her comedy partner Dawn French, in which Saunders was the whiny, childlike mother and French the cerebral, long-suffering daughter, the show became a love-hate triangle when it cast the brilliant Lumley as Edina’s longtime (and only real, really) friend Patsy Stone. Always a closed unit unto themselves, the arrival of Eddie’s children, an older son who is rarely seen and a daughter, Saffron, who is as sensible as her mother is drug-addled and flighty, barely disturbed their dynamic. Saffron (and Eddie’s mother June, who often drops by to provide grandmotherly succor for Saffron and toss poisonous barbs at Patsy) seem to exist largely for Eddie and Patsy to insult and deride for their hopelessly uncool personal styles and favored activities. Working, but only just barely, as a PR agent at the head of her own agency and as a fashion magazine editor, respectively, Eddie and Patsy manage to swan through life merely trying to spot trends and dress fashionably, all while ingesting as many alcoholic, narcotic, and age-defying substances as possible.

It sounds terrible. And it is: terribly funny. Terribly smart, and terribly well cast (Julia Sawalha as the “straight man,” in particular, is a revelation as the buttoned-down but still acid-tongued Saffron—she is her mother’s daughter, after all).

Years aired: The first three seasons from from 1992-1995; two more series followed during 2001-2003; the feature film “Absolutely Fabulous” was released in 2016.

Episodes and seasons: If you count the specials as episodes (which Wikipedia does), there are 39. Most episodes had a run time of 30 minutes.

Christmas specials? Yes, 2004’s “White Box.”

Primary Stars: Jennifer Saunders as Edina Monsoon, Joanna Lumley as Patsy Stone, Julia Sawalha as Saffron Monsoon, June Whitfield as Edina’s mother, and Jane Horrocks as Bubble.

Creator and Primary Writers: From a sketch originally by Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French; writers Saunders, French, and Sue Perkins.(L

Setting: London (Urban)

First Aired On: BBC2 for series 1; BBC1 thereafter.

Fun Trivia: A feature-length feature film was released in 2016 and made more than $25 million worldwide.

Saunders’s character’s name Edina Monsoon was a play on her husband Adrian Edmondson’s college nickname, Eddie Monsoon.

Roseanne Barr bought the rights to adapt the series for America in the 1990s, but never followed through on the project.

Although she played her daughter, Julia Sawalha is only ten years younger than Jennifer Saunders.

All out of Absolutely Fabulous episodes to watch? Watch these next, luv:

French & Saunders: Well, why not go for more great comedy from the minds of the people who created and wrote “Absolutely Fabulous”? A sketch comedy program that was most popular throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, and which showcased many media parodies, this one can be a bit hard for Americans to view in its seven-season entirety, but standalone DVDs featuring their best moments are also available.

“Fawlty Towers”: Emphatically not for everyone, even though this short series (12 episodes) can be easily binge-watched and is considered a UK and comedy classic. The prickly owner of a small English hotel, Basil Fawlty, spends most of his time sucking up to anyone aflluent that he can trick into checking in to his establishment, while also raining abuse on his employees and having his many parades rained on by his sharp-tongued wife Sybil. If Edina and Patsy are often unlikable for their harsh judgments, at least they are softened by their loyalty to one another. No one has any loyalty to Basil Fawlty, and that’s what makes this show so funny.

“Toast of London”: Another comedy in which the main character, actor Steven Toast (as played by Matt Berry) has no idea that he is widely regarded as a has-been and a poor actor. Or, if he does, he doesn’t let it bother him unduly as he goes about starring in one dreadful play after another and finding ever weirder women to date.

“Vicious“: Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi star in this comedy about two gay lovers who have been together so long that some of the only entertainment remaining to them is to come up with ever more clever ways to insult one another. Although their friends see them as quite possibly the most toxic duo since Edina and Patsy, this series often ends on a straight-up sweet note, giving the viewer small romantic moments that show the characters’ love for one another.

2 Comments

  1. Unrelated to this, but something your readers may wish to know — the third and final season of Broadchurch begins airing tomorrow (Wed. June 28) on BBC America. I can’t resist any chance to mention David Tennant!!

    • Cardo!
      Thanks for the heads-up! I’m a whole season behind on Broadchurch, having only finished the first season, so I’ll have to wait. And oh yeah, I don’t get BBC America! Difficulties abound! But I will make sure to overcome them, whenever David Tennant is involved!

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