Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sweetie, Darling! The Return of “Absolutely Fabulous”

Christmas has come early to a lot of us who love Jennifer Saunders’s thoroughly subversive celebrity industry comedy Absolutely Fabulous. Originally premiering in the spring of 1992, the British series focused on trend-obsessed PR firm owner Edina “Eddy” Monsoon (Saunders) and her need to continually stay current on fashion trends and celebrity. This involves copious amounts of embarrassment to her straight-laced daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), who instead aspired to be a civil servant or work in the public sector, much to Eddy’s chagrin. Eddy’s best friend, magazine editor (now “lifestyle coordinator”) Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) is continuously drugged up, drunk or at odds with Saffron while egging Eddy to take the worst possible course of action if it meant that they could skip out of work and have lunch at Harvey Nichols. Also hanging around are Eddy’s bizarre assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks), ex-husbands (one gay, one straight), Saffron’s babydaddy and Eddy’s senile but lovingly deadpan mother (June Whitfield).

Over the years, Eddy’s home has been continually upgraded, especially the kitchen in which the action occurs. Despite the current vogue for shooting comedy series as single-camera productions on film, AbFab (as it is affectionately known to diehard fans like me) is still shot multi-camera, in front of a studio audience. And yet it doesn’t remain antiquated or like a product of its times. It’s probably because the bad behaviour, in a reversal of the conventional parent-child relationship, remains one of the most hideously funny dynamics in comedy history.

AbFab returns for only its seventh proper series, not counting the odd Christmas special, this year on Christmas Day. Perhaps this is the key to AbFab’s success, and why they show it at Christmastime every year in the UK: because it’s like the worst family reunion, happening all the time, and it’s pushed beyond the boundaries of proper decorum and sometimes borders on what constitutes human decency, yet it’s strangely accurate in its understanding of dynamics. And at its heart, despite the sick twisted emotional f***withal / buggery (not the literal sense) going on, there’s real love amongst family and friends. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see a middle-aged woman try to desperately appear young, current and hip if she just surrounds herself with the latest trends, music, fashion, etc.? (It’s no coincidence that Eddy worships Madonna, who may not be getting any younger but can stay current better than Eddy possibly can.) The show has a rabid following in the UK and also has an ardent gay following, given that is bitchery remains unmatched on contemporary television.

The brand-new AbFab series promises more pointed British comedy from its creator. Consider that since the series started, the world begat Facebook, Twitter and iPhones. There is a plethora of new material to mine, to confuse and befuddle the entire cast and showcase the insane manners in which Eddy and her PR firm try to keep up. The creators remain tight-lipped on what happens but we can look forward to Eddy and Patsy waking up on a sheik’s yacht, worshipping Madonna, Twittering and – because they haven’t stopped following royalty since Princess Di – some attempt to cash in on Kate Middleton and Wills. I can’t wait.

AbFab’s new series premieres on BBC One on Christmas Day at 22:00 GMT, and on BBC America in January 2012. In the meantime, please enjoy previews of the new series and some classic clips after the jump.

Preview 2: 

Pet Shop Boys video of AbFab theme song, 1994:

Bubble at work:

Is it a bee?

Patsy at work as a "lifestyle coordinator":