In this satirical British sitcom, which became a cult hit on American cable, a grotesquely self-centered fashion victim chain-smokes, swills champagne, abuses drugs, munches caviar, terrorizes her daughter, and tries in vain to mingle with the beautiful people -- all in the company of her sleek, slutty, boozed-up best friend. Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and 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 whose biggest client is '60s has-been Lulu, of "To Sir With Love" fame. These women live in a cloud of self-delusion about the supposed glamour of their London lifestyle, forever attempting to claw their way past the velvet rope. 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 being horrible to her dowdy, unflappable teenaged daughter, Saffron (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 decadent lifestyle. Thanks to its shrill satire, over-the-top costumes, outrageous excess, and all-around camp appeal, Absolutely Fabulous became a pop-culture phenomenon that spawned two Sesame Street characters, a slew of slang expressions ("Sweetie darling, I'm chanting as we speak"), and even a Pet Shop Boys charity single. The actual theme song, sung by Julie Driscoll and Adrian Edmondson, is a cover of "This Wheel's on Fire," a '60s obscurity written by Bob Dylan and the Band's Rick Danko.
"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 includes 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 beeb secretary handed out tapes in secret to her friends, and soon the buzz about the show became deafening. The first series premiered on BBC1 on November 12, 1992, but didn't make its American bow 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. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi
- Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, (more)