Absolutely Fabulous (also known as Ab Fab) was a BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning British sitcom written by and starring Jennifer Saunders and co-starring Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield and Jane Horrocks. It was broadcast on the BBC from 1992 to 1996 and 2001 to 2005. The series is currently being remade for America for 2009.
According to an article published in The Times , the PR guru who inspired the Edina character played by Jennifer Saunders was Lynne Franks. Franks believed Saunders had observed her and her children in detail after joining them on a family holiday. Josh Howie, Franks's son, reported that his mother was upset because one of her best friends "had taken the piss out of her" in a TV show.
The programme circles around Eddy's ongoing struggle to achieve fame, success and a slender figure amidst the disapproval of her daughter and the constant presence of her increasingly senile mother. Throughout, Patsy is at her side encouraging the behaviours that are constantly causing her conflict. Much of the comedy of the show is physical, usually derived from Edina and Patsy's drunken and/or stoned states, with their favourite drinks being Bolly Stolly (a cocktail of Bollinger champagne and Stolichnaya vodka) and later Veuve & Bourb (a mix of Veuve Clicquot champagne and bourbon) or Dom & Bom (a mix of Dom Perignon champagne and Bombay Sapphire gin). The mutual loathing between Saffy and Patsy, as each tries to guide Edina's behaviour, also makes for many comic situations. A recurring gag found new ways for Edina to fall headfirst out of cars, windows, or down her kitchen stairs at least once every series.
Eddy's self-image is based on 1960s counterculture and the world of fashion and celebrity. She is fixated on self-indulgence and her ideas of self-actualization. Eddy subscribes to every trend that arises, including faux-Eastern new age spiritualism and feng shui. She aspires to move in the highest circles of creativity, fashion, and celebrity. She considers herself a follower of the latest trends, but, having no real sense of style of her own, Eddy is actually a fashion victim, parading the latest fashion trends without understanding them or understanding what looks good on her.
She lives in a nice Holland Park house with her daughter Saffy, and owns a public relations firm whose only steady client is 1960s pop singer Lulu, whose professional relationship with Edina is hanging by a thread. In later years, this was switched to model Twiggy and Spice Girl Emma Bunton, who also went to school with Saffy.
Though failing in her business, Edina is desperate to give off the aura of success, wealth and fabulousness, even as her outrageously mismatched and poorly-fitted wardrobe belies this. She is extremely status conscious, loudly clarifying that her house is located in Holland Park whenever someone identifies the neighbourhood as Shepherds Bush.
In an early episode, Edina says that she has always voted Labour, but she notes her disdain for New Labour in the fourth series. She collects hefty alimony payments from her two ex-husbands, Justin and Marshall. Justin (Saffy's father) is gay and for a time has a boyfriend named Oliver. Her first husband, Marshall Turtle – the father of her gay and almost perpetually off-screen son Serge – later marries brash, scheming New-Age Californian Bo Chrysalis (Gaffney), who effortlessly rules over him.
Gay men play an important role in Edina's social self-image, as tokens of fashionability and political correctness. She asserts the former by claiming that "gay men love [her]" and the latter by claiming that "all [her] friends are gay". Taken together, the two would seem to point to unbounded mutual love between Edina and gay men as a class. However, both seem to be questionable. Edina's coveted gay-icon status is belied by the animosity of Oliver, her first husband's partner, although her son Serge's partner seems to be under her spell at first sight. Conversely, there is no evidence in any episode to support Edina's claim to have gay friends, while her feelings towards gay men appear less enthusiastic in deeds than in words, although she is thrilled to learn that her son is gay. Actually, her assertion that "all [her] friends are gay" is used as self-justification. On one occasion, she seconds Patsy's accusation of a "gay mafia" conspiracy to explain their professional failures.
Edina claims to be a Buddhist practising, in her words, "almost religiously." She also claims to be a vegetarian although she is seen eating meat on a few occasions (even raw meat). For dramatic purposes she had been described as being two stone overweight (although Jennifer Saunders clearly isn't). She frequently moans about being too fat; however, she hasn't the willpower to stay on any diet for long. Weak-willed as she is, she spends much of her life caught in an emotional tug of war between Patsy, her lifelong friend and corrupter, and Saffy, her sensible goody-two-shoes daughter.
Patsy was born on 30 October, although her actual age is never clearly divulged, she often states herself to be between 39 and 43. In one episode ("Cold Turkey") a nurse guesses that she is around 65 years old. Patsy also has a sister named Jackie, (as revealed in the episode "Happy New Year") whom Eddy abhors and who twice tried to kill Patsy with drug overdoses. Jackie intimidates Patsy into stating that Patsy is the elder of the two and says, in the same episode, that she is 72, to which Patsy's reply was "my god, then how old does that make me". Patsy usually seems as hard as nails and as cold as ice – especially in her behaviour toward Saffy, her chief rival – but she sometimes reveals a more vulnerable side: in flashbacks to her bleak life with her mother, in her overeager admiration for the awful Jackie, and in those rare moments when Eddy temporarily withdraws her friendship.
Unlike Eddy, she is usually stylishly dressed, and almost invariably wears her hair in a characteristic blonde beehive. She has a well-paying, do-nothing job as a fashion director for a fashion magazine, which she received after sleeping with the publisher. She then went on to work in "Jeremy's" - an exclusive high street fashion store, with celebrity clients such as Minnie Driver (another Bond Girl, in GoldenEye). It is hinted that Patsy has been involved in some questionable activities, such as adult films; she uses her knowledge from that time to blackmail Saffron's prospective mother-in-law. When faced with a situation that someone else might find alarming or disconcerting (such as discovering that Saffron cast a man to play Patsy in a play), Patsy often responds with a cool "yeah cheers, thanks a lot."
During the 1960s in Morocco, Patsy underwent a sex change and briefly lived as a man; but, as Eddy says "It fell off". She is very promiscuous up until "The Last Shout", then begins to lose her power over men. In two episodes ("Door Handle" and "The Last Shout"), it is revealed that Patsy lives in the storeroom above Oddbins, a chain of UK liquor stores. She says that she has not eaten anything since 1973, having had a "stomach bypass". In the episode "New Year's Eve", however, she painfully chews and swallows a potato crisp, then pronounces it "delicious" though she is visibly shaken from having actually eaten something; and in the Christmas Special "Cold Turkey" she renders the entire assembly speechless by demurely asking for a small slice of turkey during Christmas dinner (however, it makes her choke).
She dresses conservatively – indeed, drably – and almost always behaves responsibly; as a result, many unpleasant chores come her way, and she frequently must rescue Patsy and Eddie from sticky situations. Despite this, Patsy resents Saffy so intensely that once she even sells her into slavery in Morocco. Her mother sometimes treats her affectionately, and in one episode even defends her honour against a married-with-children college professor who she feels is deceitfully trying to seduce her (Edina punches him in the face). In reality, it is Saffron who initiated the seduction with innumerable cups of tea and conversation that included girlish giggling and an eyelash on her cheek. Nevertheless, Edina longs for a more exotic, fashionable daughter, and frequently tells her so. Saffy, for her part, passionately wishes to belong to a more normal family, and is once arrested for spying on a random family for her "Observations Diary." Her older brother Serge ran away from home in desperation as a teenager and never calls or writes; nevertheless, he's Eddie's favorite child, even though she can no longer remember what he looks like.
In series four, after completing her education, she writes a play about her life with her mother called "Self Raising Flower"; she means the play to be tragic and is confused when the audience starts laughing. At one point, she becomes involved with New Labour, and says her role model is Cherie Blair. In series five - when she returns home pregnant from a stint of humanitarian work in Uganda - Eddy has nightmares at the prospect of being a grandmother until she learns that Saffy's lover is black, making the baby mixed race and, as such, a fabulous fashion accessory – "the Chanel of babies!" Saffy later gives birth to a daughter and names her Jane; Eddy, however, persists in calling her "Lola".
At some point (presumably when she came of age) Saffron became the legal owner of the house that she and Edina live in (it had previously belonged to her father). In the final episode of the series she at last liberates herself from her mother and Patsy by throwing them out.
Edina addresses her, usually indirectly, as "The Old Woman" and once "Old Caca", never as "Mum" or "Mother". Edina's insults never seem to affect her; in fact, she usually manages to drop a few hard-hitting but humorous insults of her own. Sometimes she recognises the eccentricities of Edina, Patsy and visitors to the house. At times she even seems to see the dysfunctional qualities in Saffy.
In the first episode she is apparently not in regular interaction with the other characters, appearing only in Edina's flashback to her teenage years. By the second episode Fat she is in evidence visiting Edina's home to see Saffy. By the third episode France when she meets Patsy there it seems the two have not seen each other in many years ("Still blonde then?", remarks Gran); here Patsy seems to resent her and apparently the feeling is mutual. (Also, in this early episode where the characters are apparently still being firmed-up, Edina does hug her and call her "mum".) After this it is apparent that like Patsy, Gran is a regular visitor to Edina's home, and that Patsy and Gran seem basically to like one another, despite the odd snide comment.
Later episodes reveal that Gran had been a sort of surrogate mother to Patsy, whose own mother neglected her; however, their relationship is ambiguous. Patsy shows her some respect, even helping her and calling her "Mrs M". Mrs Monsoon sometimes makes condescending remarks about Patsy, even in her presence, once telling Edina that "poor-dear-sad-old Patsy" is not a suitable or reliable friend. Gran has occasionally confused a transvestite for Patsy.
When Mrs. Monsoon's husband dies ("Death"), Edina infuriates Saffy by responding to the news with a blank stare and the question "Did he leave a will?". Gran doesn't seem to care much either, realising that she'll have a bit more room at her house. Patsy attempts to comfort her by awkwardly patting her head and saying "I condole you", adding cheerfully that Mr M "chose the right season to go, as black is in this season". Gran seems to appreciate this fashion tip.
Mrs. Monsoon displays a kleptomanical streak at times, taking random items from Edina's household (mugs, ashtrays, clothing) and donating them to the charity shop she volunteers at, "Bric-n-Brac-n-Knic-n-Knack-n-Things." She's been known to turn Edina's high-style clothing into other things (such as "the only genuine LaCroix-Versace-quilty-bedspread in existence").
After series three her mental faculties begin to decline and she increasingly inhabits a strange world of her own. In only one scene throughout the entire run of the show are she and Edina alone together, and it's an awkward experience for both of them.
She is inexplicably made editor of Vogue magazine, but she soon returns to Edina and it is not clear that she ever took up her new position. In fact, she resigns her position as Edina's PA on two other occasions. Edina tries to fire Bubble for gross incompetence, but Bubble sues - and wins - the right to keep her job. Unfortunately for her, the details of her job were not specified, so Edina makes Bubble her maid. Later, Bubble abandons Edina when her PR company is on the verge of being taken over by Claudia Bing.
There is some variation in her character across episodes. During the first season episode Fashion she was dim, but slyly aware of Edina's silliness. In Fat she seemed to be developing a level of intelligence, but this proved fleeting. At times she taunted Patsy and was shown to be well-aware of the ridiculousness of her situation. In the second season episode New Best Friend she taunted Edina and Patsy over their age and fractious relationship. During the last series she sometimes assumes an affected and insulting snobbery, looking down on Edina and Patsy, and even big celebrities like Elton John and Minnie Driver. She occasionally rebukes Edina for her irresponsibility, and annoys her with her mad but hard-hitting insights into the celebrity-driven society Edina moves into. From the beginning she is insulting to Patsy, subtly exposing her superficiality. But in later episodes she is not so subtle.
In later seasons Bubble's lookalike cousin Katy Grin (also played by Horrocks), is introduced. Katy is a slick but sly and snobbish television presenter with a standard Received Pronunciation who shows no real affection for any of the other characters, gleefully issuing bitchy backhanders at Edina, Patsy and Saffy, in particular. She has a baby son, the father is from a sperm bank.
Absolutely Fabulous first aired on 12 November 1992, and ran for three series until 4 May 1995, when the sixth episode of series 3 was billed as the last-ever episode. However, the following year in November 1996, two specials, called "The Last Shout", were broadcast and were also billed as the last-ever episodes. Both 'last episodes' featured end sequences with flashes to the future. However, after writing Mirrorball, Jennifer Saunders decided she had more ideas, and on 31 August 2001 the fourth series premiered. A further series and three specials followed, the last of which aired on 25 December 2004. In July 2005, Saunders announced she would not be writing or playing Edina again, stating "The 6am calls to go to make-up and all the promotional work wear you down. I would like to write and direct — that would be my joy".
In addition to the official theme song, in 1994, the Pet Shop Boys recorded a song for Comic Relief using excerpts of dialogue from the series put to dance music. The music video featured clips from the show and specially recorded footage of the Pet Shop Boys with Patsy and Edina.
A proposed American remake that would have starred Carrie Fisher was put into motion by Roseanne Barr but never got off the ground. However, Barr did incorporate many elements of the show into the final season of her eponymous show Roseanne in which her character wins the lottery, Saunders and Lumley reprise their Absolutely Fabulous characters Edina and Patsy. Mo Gaffney also appeared in the episode, but not as her character Bo.
An American sitcom called High Society was not a direct remake of Absolutely Fabulous but was clearly inspired by it. This toned-down adaptation starred Jean Smart and Mary McDonnell and lasted only a shortened single season, but did garner an Emmy nomination for Jayne Meadows in the role of McDonnell's character's mother.
It was announced on October 7 2008, that an American version of the series is currently in the works. The series will be relocated to Los Angeles. Saturday Night Live writer, Christine Zander is currently writing the scripts. Saunders will executive produce along with Zander, and BBC Worldwide's Ian Moffitt. The new series is produced by Sony Pictures, along with BBC Worldwide and indie Tantamount, and will be made for Fox.
The pilot of "Mirrorball" is included in the Special Features of the American DVD release of the fourth season. Several jokes and plotlines of the pilot episode were used in the eventual season premiere of the fourth season of Ab Fab, albeit with the original characters.
Series 1-5, in addition to the specials "The Last Shout" and "Ab Fab: New York" (Released under the title "Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Special" and "Absolutely Fabulous: Gay" in the UK), have also been released on DVD by Warner Brothers and BBC Video in Region 1 (US/Canada). The original French and Saunders sketch is an 'extra' on the Series One DVD (on both the UK, US and Australian versions), and the pilot of Mirrorball is an extra on the DVD of Series 4. Each series' DVD also features a fifteen-minute outtake reel. On 16 October, the 2004 Christmas special "White Box" will be released on DVD with two featurettes ("How to Be Absolutely Fabulous" and "Ab Fab Moments") and the original sketch from French and Saunders that served as the basis for it. It is unknown at this time whether or not the 2005 Comic Relief special will be included as another extra on this DVD.
On 27 May 2008, Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything was released on DVD in region 1. All episodes from the five seasons of AbFab are included. The 9 Discs included are,
Disc 9 is a compilation of the specials, The Last Shout and Gay.
|Series 1||3 October 2001||Includes 15 Minutes Of Outakes||1.Fashion, 2.Fat, 3.France, 4.Iso Tank, 5.Magazine, 6.Birthday|
|Series 2||28 February 2002||Includes Photo Gallery & 15 Minutes Of Outakes||1.Hospital, 2.Death, 3. Morocco, 4.New Best Friend, 5.Poor, 6.Birth|
|Series 3||1 July 2002||Includes 15 Minutes Of Outakes||1.Door Handle, 2.Happy New Year, 3.Sex, 4.Jealous, 5.Fear, 6.The End|
|The Last Shout||20 July 2001||Part 1 & 2||The Last Shout Part 1 & 2|
|Series 4||8 August 2002||Includes 15 Minutes Of Outakes||1.Parallox, 2.Fish Farm, 3.Paris, 4.Donkey, 5.Small Opening, 6.Menopause|
|White Box||3 November 2005||???||Christmas Special - Series 5|
|Series 5||???||Includes Movie Length "Gay". Not on all Copies However.||1.Cleanin', 2.Book Clubin', 3.Panickin', 4.Huntin', Shootin', Fishin', 5.Birthin', 6.Schmoozin', 7.Exploitin', 8.Cold Turkey|
|The Complete Collection||20 April 2006||Every Single Episode||Series 1,2,3,4 & 5|