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Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2003)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2003)
BBC, tx. 12/11/1992-24/12/2003
30 x 30 min episodes across 5 series, plus 4 specials, colour
Production CompaniesBBC, Saunders and French Productions
Written byJennifer Saunders
Script editorRuby Wax
DirectorsBob Spiers, Dewi Humphreys, Christine Gernon, Tristram Shapeero

Regular Cast: Jennifer Saunders (Edina Monsoon); Joanna Lumley (Patsy); Julia Sawalha (Saffron); Jane Horrocks (Bubble); June Whitfield (Mother)

Show full cast and credits

The life of jet-setting PR agent Edina Monsoon and her relationships with her best friend Patsy, her disapproving daughter Saffron and her bewildered mother.

Show full synopsis

Written by and starring Jennifer Saunders, sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (BBC 1992-) follows the exploits of obnoxious PR executive Edina Monsoon (Saunders) and her vice-laden, fashion magazine-editing hanger-on of a best friend Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley). It was inspired by a French & Saunders (BBC 1987-) sketch that played comically on a mother/daughter role reversal.

While her comedy partner Dawn French was taking a break from television after adopting a baby, Saunders developed the idea into a series, centred on the relationship between the smoking, drinking, partying, foul-mouthed Edina and her sternly studious, clean-living daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha). Launched in 1992 to critical and popular acclaim in the UK, the show, quickly dubbed Ab Fab, became a huge international success, even prompting an abortive attempt by Roseanne Barr to adapt the show to a US format.

Besides the mother/daughter role reversal, much of the show's comedy derived from women indulging in unashamed decadence, hedonism and outrageous, unladylike behaviour in the absence of men. Old-fashioned physical comedy also played a part, and audiences came to anticipate Edina's regular tumbles down the kitchen stairs.

The third series was intended to be the last. The final episode even featured an epilogue that flashed forward 25 years to show that little had changed in the Monsoon household: Edina and Patsy were attempting to continue their antics despite dentures and wrinkles, while Saffron (now a mother herself) was still a disapproving dullard. However, the show's enduring popularity resulted in several revivals.

The later shows, although passably funny, appear stale and repetitive by comparison with earlier episodes, and rely too heavily on the novelty of guest appearances from the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Emma Bunton. Despite efforts to update the pop cultural references, the show's very '90s premise means it feels somewhat stranded in the 21st Century.

Nevertheless, Ab Fab's influence in raising the profile of women in British comedy and serving a female audience is incalculable. Besides the role of Saunders and, indirectly, French, it was script edited by Ruby Wax and boosted the developing careers of Sawalha and Jane Horrocks (who played Edina's feather-brained PA Bubble), while reviving those of veterans June Whitfield (wonderful as Edina's long-suffering mother) and Lumley, who, new to TV comedy, hit a career peak as Patsy.

Hannah Hamad

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Video Clips
1. Bubble (1:53)
2. 'The '70s are back' (1:59)
3. Drunken driving (4:14)
Complete episode 5 (28:29)
Lumley, Joanna (1946-)
Saunders, Jennifer (1958-)
Spiers, Bob (1945-2008)
Wax, Ruby (1953-)
Whitfield, June (1925-)
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