Review: ‘Absolutely Fabulous’

Videotaped in England by BBC-TV, in association with Saunders & French Prods. Producer, Jon Plowman; director, Bob Spiers; writer, Jennifer Saunders, based on an original idea by Saunders and Dawn French; Second series of the Beeb's award-laden sitcom "Absolutely Fabulous" roars into a primetime slot laden with guest stars and a plot nut presciently ripped straight from the tabloids. The Intl. Emmy-winning first series was always going to be a tough act to follow, but the latest 6x30 outing looks like it's got enough gas to go the course in spite of the opener's occasional signs of strain.

Videotaped in England by BBC-TV, in association with Saunders & French Prods. Producer, Jon Plowman; director, Bob Spiers; writer, Jennifer Saunders, based on an original idea by Saunders and Dawn French; Second series of the Beeb’s award-laden sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous” roars into a primetime slot laden with guest stars and a plot nut presciently ripped straight from the tabloids. The Intl. Emmy-winning first series was always going to be a tough act to follow, but the latest 6×30 outing looks like it’s got enough gas to go the course in spite of the opener’s occasional signs of strain.

Success of “AbFab” in Blighty is the fastest for an offbeater since “Fawlty Towers.” Originally shown on minority channel BBC2 last year, the first series was repeated on mainstream BBC1 and is already a brisk seller on vid. Current series is going straight out on BBC1. Both six-packs have already been sold to Canada’s CBC, with a U.S. sale in the offing.

Idea of two middle-aged, non-PC media harridans, hooked on Bollinger, nicotine and their own egos, grew out of a sketch by popular comic duo Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French.

Opener kicks off in high gear with blowzy fashion writer Patsy (Joanna Lumley) smeared across the tabloids in a sex-pol scandal (“MP in Drug Crazed Sex Romp With Fash Mag Slag”). When best friend Edina (Saunders) stubs her toe and insists on going to a private clinic for an expensive op, Patsy tags along for the publicity — and a face lift.

As the uptight, alcoholic fashion hack, Lumley (a dead ringer for Ivana Trump) makes a perfect media monster. Saunders, as her ex-hippie best pal, is a fine, quieter foil, equally adept at stiletto ripostes. Julia Sawalha, playing Edina’s frumpy daughter Saffron, shows more confidence in a fuller role. Sitcom vet June Whitfield subtly underplays as Edina’s unfazed mom.

Weakest part of the first episode (but typical of the over-the-top style) is a hospital dream sequence peopled by Helena Bonham Carter, Germaine Greer, Richard E. Grant and Suzi Quatro. Celeb spots detract from rather than add to the character-based comedy.

Production is fine, with special praise for Sarah Burns’ outrageously tacky costumes and Jan Sewell’s Sindy-doll makeup. Producer Jon Plowman, BBC’s incoming head of comedy, encoresin style.

Absolutely Fabulous

Production

BBC1, England, Thurs. Jan. 27, 9:30 p.m.

Crew

Camera supervisor, John Vincent; location camera, John Daly; lighting, Mike Manning; editor, Chris Wadsworth; designer, Bryan Ellis; visual effects designer, Steve Lucas; costume designer, Sarah Burns; makeup, Jan Sewell; music, Simon Brint; sound (stereo), John Taylor , Laurie Taylor; script editor, Ruby Wax; casting adviser, Liz England. 30 MIN.

With

Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield, Kathy Burke, Helen Lederer, Harriet Thorpe, Helena Bonham Carter, Mandy Rice-Davies, Richard E. Grant, Germaine Greer, Suzi Quatro.
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