Absolutely Fabulous, often called Ab Fab for short, released Absolutely Everything in 2008, comprising all of the episodes and specials, as well as a wealth of bonus features. With new material only weeks away, it’s time to look back at that awesome collection, and perhaps pick up a copy and watch it marathon-style, preparing for the return of two of the funniest ladies to ever grace the television.
The story by now is familiar the world over. Edwina “Eddy” Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders, French and Saunders) is a PR agent who wants desperately to keep up with the latest trends and seem young, which she does while abusing drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for viewers’ sakes), her best friend, magazine editor Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley, Corpse Bride), is just as bad, not only enabling, but participating in Monsoon’s crazy schemes. Edwina’s daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha, Lark Rise to Candleford), provides balance, as the sane one of the trio, acting more the parent than child. Saffron does have a mother figure to rely on, in Edwina’s own Mother (June Whitfield, Last of the Summer Wine). Rounding out the cast is Jane Horrocks (Fifi and the Flowertots) as Bubble, Eddy’s idiotic personal assisstant.
Created in the early 1990s by Saunders and Dawn French, Absolutely Fabulous originally ran for three seasons. Series one finds Eddy drinking heavily and trying to lose weight without putting in any effort. Eddy also adopts a baby, holidays in France, and “celebrates” her 40th birthday. Series two finds Eddy facing being a tabloid sensation, the death of her father, and a trip to Morocco, as well as dealing with Patsy burning her kitchen and her husbands cutting off her alimony. The final series sees Saffron leave for college, and Patsy loose her magazine. Depressingly, the two friends must deal with serious change in their lives, which they aren’t thrilled about, and end up turning on each other, before reuniting in New York City.
Then some thought Absolutely Fabulous would end, as it faced cancellation. However, the following year, the two-part special, “The Last Shout,” made it to air. Saffron heads for the altar, much to Eddy’s chagrin. When Eddy learns the would-be husband is rich, though, she changes her tune. That is, until God intervenes, much as she might have with keeping the series going.
It is five more long years before series four begins. But begin it does, as Eddy and Patsy find all new trouble to get into. They bemoan the loss of their rock idols, and wish they were in Sex and the City. Edwina convinces Saffron to do a fashion show with her in Paris, and Saffron writes a play about her mother, which isn’t too flattering. Also, the ladies face menopause. This series is followed by another special, where Edwina seeks her son in New York, and considers what it means to be gay.
Series five comes to life in 2003, and begins with a pregnant Saffron returning from Africa. Eddy builds a panic room and runs into Minnie Driver (playing herself). Patsy and Edwina go hunting, and Edwina erases lost Beatles recordings and loses Saffron’s baby. This series is followed by three specials, which find Edwina celebrating a family Christmas and remodeling her kitchen.
Each of these episodes and specials have their own great jokes. The characters do grow over time, but the core of who they are remains the same, making them layered, complex people, even when they appear goofy on the surface. Patsy and Eddy belong up there with the great female duos of all time, like Lucy and Ethel and Laverne and Shirley. Only better, because with all of the time off between fresh content, the series writers are able to come up with the best possible uses for their creation, and nothing is diluted by overuse. The fact that there are three brand new specials coming in January is a testament to how enduring this series is, and how much esteem fans hold it in.
However, the enjoyment of Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything does not stop with the episodes themselves, as great as they are. There is a behind the scenes featurette, a clip show where Edina looks back upon her crazy life, and a handful of comedy sketches, including the one that predates the series, and which Absolutely Fabulous is based on. There are also photo galleries from the show, a look at Lumley’s modeling days, and audio commentaries from Saunders and Jon Plowman, which give some real insight into their creative process. Many outtakes are included, and perhaps because of the immense humor the actors involved can channel, they tend to be much funnier than in most DVD sets.
A real treat is the pilot episode of a series that never happened called Mirror Ball. In it, the main cast of Absolutely Fabulous play other characters, giving them a showcase for their range as performers. It’s not as good as the main series, but it’s a real treat to see everyone together in such a different light. It also makes one wish that Mirror Ball had been picked up, as it would have definitely been a nice companion show, though it was not a spin-off.
In all, Absolutely Fabulous is well worth the price, currently $83.99 on amazon.com. There is a lot here, and it’s a gem for any DVD collection. Pick up a copy today, and get ready for more laughs, coming soon!