Sweetie darlings! It’s almost here! Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie premieres this week here in the US and we couldn’t be more excited (for proof, just take a peek at our previous AbFab posts here and here). But what exactly is AbFab and what’s the big deal? While AbFab had a successful and popular run on Comedy Central here in the US in the ’90s and on BBC America more recently, some may be new to the iconic UK series, or just discovering AbFab for the first time.
The Beginnings: French and Saunders
Absolutely Fabulous actually began as a small, recurring sketch called “Modern Mother and Daughter,” featured on French and Saunders, a classic UK sketch comedy TV show created and written by UK comedy legends Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. The sketch featured a mother and daughter duo living out reversed roles: Saunders’ hard-partying role of the mother (at the time, named Adrianna, but later changed to Edina) was reliant on her stable and responsible daughter (Saffron, played by French) for emotional support. Many believe that Saunders’ character of Edina is based on legendary PR guru and London party scene fixture Lynne Franks. In 2012, however, Saunders explained in a TV appearance that her hard-partying character was at least partly inspired by Bananarama, a famous ’80s British pop group known for their wild partying and vodka-fueled, offstage antics. The French and Saunders sketch proved to be a hit, and it provided the framework for AbFab as we know it now.
Absolutely Fabulous and the Series’ Early Episodes
AbFab spun off from French and Saunders into its own series, which first aired on BBC2 in 1992, although without Dawn French (the role of Saffron was taken over by Julia Sawalha after it moved to BBC2). Considered revolutionary at the time, AbFab featured high-powered career women — Edina Monsoon and her best friend, Patsy Stone — who were independent and successful London fashion and PR executives, unapologetically living life fabulously on their own terms. AbFab also famously avoided one of the typical sitcom clichés of the early ’90s: lovesick women spending their time chasing men or seeking romance. In fact, men as romantic partners rarely, if ever, feature prominently in AbFab plot lines, and although Edina and Patsy get in to their fair share of Bolly-fueled trouble, they do not rely on others to solve their problems and are always portrayed as strong and powerful characters.
AbFab and the Move to BBC1 — Season 2 to the Present
AbFab quickly rose to the top of UK TV ratings in its first season, and the BBC recognized the almost immediate cultural influence of the series by moving it from the smaller BBC2 to its more prominent home on BBC1. Like many British series, AbFab had a sporadic run, with episodes and seasons appearing over the years from 1992 – 2012 (unlike in the US, UK television series often take production breaks). Due to the series’ immense popularity in the UK, a number of British (and international) celebrities were drawn to the series, playing cameos as themselves, including: Jean Paul Gaultier, Kate Moss, Lulu, Minnie Driver, Twiggy, Graham Norton, Debbie Harry, Emma Bunton, Whoopi Goldberg, Stella McCartney, La Roux, Naomi Campbell, Christian Lacroix, and more.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
The popularity of AbFab has not waned since its last season in 2012, resulting in the film version of AbFab, written by Jennifer Saunders and directed by Mandie Fletcher. The film has earned positive reviews in the UK, and equally positive reviews here in the US, where it premieres July 22. The plot? So AbFab. After accidentally killing iconic model Kate Moss at a party, Edina and Pasty run away to the south of France, where all of the expected AbFab hijinks ensue.