Absolutely for beginners: What you need to know about England's latest comedy import

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated August 12, 1994 at 12:00 PM EDT
Everett Collection

Absolutely Fabulous

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Sweetie, darling, delicious news: In England, Absolutely Fabulous — known, in the affectionate diminutive, as AbFab — is a monster TV hit for the BBC on the order of Fawlty Towers. Who could resist the adventures of a couple of hard-drinking, chain-smoking, drug-taking fortyish shopaholic best friends who are slaves to every lifestyle and fashion trend from leather jackets clanking with hardwear to sensory-deprivation tanks? The series, which debuted in 1992, has been slow in coming to the States — the 12 existing episodes are unrelentingly offensive to anyone with a Political Correctness Club membership card, and each is an ungainly BBC-size 30-plus minutes long. But last month Comedy Central finally took the plunge (in one nine-hour AbFab marathon, the network tripled its average ratings). And now you can watch glorious wretched excess on Saturdays at 4:30 p.m., Sundays at 11 p.m., and Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Get ready for divine decadence:

Patsy and Edina are without any redeeming social value. Insistently so. Patsy is named as the floozy in a sex scandal with a member of Parliament; Edina advocates colonic irrigation, reflexology, and Buddhist chanting. Patsy is jealous of any attention Edina pays to her daughter, Saffron, and tries to sell the conservative teen into white slavery in Marrakech; Edina is jealous of anyone thin. ”Edina’s a cross, old, sad, mad bitch,” says Jennifer Saunders about the character she plays. ”Patsy’s a fash-mag slag,” says Joanna Lumley about her role.

They attract interesting friends. By the second season, AbFab had a Larry Sanders-like cachet; cool British celebs have been keen to guest-star. Look for Miranda Richardson, Richard E. Grant, Germaine Greer, and Helena Bonham Carter.

They will not appeal to the Masterpiece Theatre set. Which may be why PBS, the home of so many drippier Britcoms, wouldn’t go near AbFab. Although neither, originally, would Comedy Central, which passed on the series the first time it was offered. ”We didn’t turn down the show because we’re censors,” says Mitch Semel, senior vice president for programming. ”We turned down the show because basically we’re dopes.”

They won’t be around forever. AbFab is completing production on its third season of six episodes, and after that, Saunders swears, she’s through — although there is talk of a movie version. In the new season (due here in spring 1995), Patsy and Edina come to New York, where they have been lured to work for an American magazine that sounds suspiciously like Vogue. Fabulous, sweetie, kiss kiss.

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Absolutely Fabulous

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