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Abfab. The complete guide: are you fashionably late in discovering absolutely fabulous, sweetie? as the show returns with new episodes, here's a guide to everything gay viewers need to know.

Whether you look at them as role models or as cautionary tales, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone set the standard for adorably excessive behavior in the BBC television series Absolutely Fabulous, which Comedy Central is bringing back to the United States for a new season, starting this month. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley embody these two tragically irredeemable consumers as they make their way through clothes, trends, and oceans of alcohol.

Before rolling into the new shows, here's a quick review of the first three seasons: Although they ostensibly had jobs--Edina ("Eddy") as a "PR guru" and Patsy ("Pats") as a fashion editor--their primary function was to be viewed with scorn by Edina's college-bound daughter, the prematurely fusty Saffron (Julia Sawalha). While Saffron regularly cleans up after Mom, Edina's soil, Serge, is never seen, as he is always at some remote geographical location at which he can only be contacted by fax. He is, naturally, the favorite.

Edina's life is further complicated, though not constrained, by her ex-husbands Marshall (Christopher Ryan), Serge's dad, and Justin (Christopher Malcolm), Saffron's father. Marshall has left for Hollywood, while Justin entered into an antique business with his lover, Oliver (Gary Beadle), the only man who can top Edina at curt retorts. And then there's Edina's mother (veteran BBC comedy actress June Whitfield), June Monsoon, who usually goes by "Mother" or "Gran." She's a woman who manages to always look pulled together while maintaining contact with reality only at its fringes. Also recurring is Edina's assistant, Bubble, a woman operating with something less than a brain stem, played by Jane Horrocks (Little Voice).

Got it? Fabulous, sweetie. Now on to the real dirt ...

A virtual AbFab chat with Edina & Patsy

As Jennifer Saunders was otherwise occupied, The Advocate recently sat down with Edina Monsoon at the Four Seasons Hotel, where the superstar publicist, dressed in a Lacroix dashiki, discussed her life since Absolutely Fabulous and her special connection with gay men.

So what is it precisely that has inspired you to return to TV with your new series?

Edina: Two bastard ex-husbands, one with a poisonous, odious boyfriend.

Oh, that's right, when they realized you'd been double-dipping in the alimony, they cut you off, didn't they?. Edina: Right, darling. And looking good costs money--

[Patsy Stone, clad in Chanel and swigging something called "Bolly-Stolly, "enters abruptly.]

Patsy: [Whispering] Do you have some knickers I can borrow, darling? I didn't get home last night.

Edina: [whispering] Sorry, Pats. I've got practically no clean knickers left at all.

You know, American gay men consider you both as role models. In fact, some say that you and Patsy are really gay men in disease.

Edina: Please, sweetie, I'd come to terms with that fact of life long before they had. All my friends are gay.

But surely you're aware that some claim you exemplify the worst of gay culture: the consumerisnm, the superficiality, the substance abuse ...

Edina: You're not quite with it, are you, darling? All I want is a few little things, a few little pleasures, a few little crutches to help me get through life!

Patsy: I'm saying nothing until I see my lawyer.

We heard there were plans for an American version of AbFab. Whatever happened to that?

Patsy: Nightmare, sweetie.

Edina: It was a monumental bloody buggery cock-up of monumental proportions!

Why? Is there such a big difference between the U.S. and the U.K.?

Edina: In Zen terms everything in the universe is just molecules. Yin and yang. Ping and pong. In real terms there's no difference between me and the coffee, me and the table, me and the tree, me and Madonna, for God's sake.

Well, you're probably right up there with Madonna as one of gay men's favorite divas.

Edina: She was once cool, darling, but Mr. Gravity has been very unkind.

All righty. She certainly has done well for herself, marrying your countryman Guy Ritchie.

Edina: I mean, at last he's finally found someone shallow enough to match him.

Patsy: Steady, Eddy.

You ladies are such good company. I'd love to show you around town and make an evening of it.

Edina: A bitch with a drug habit, and you're anybody's, aren't you?

Of course. But tell me, what can I do, right here and now, to show you how much you're loved and admired?

Edina: Just furnish us with the appropriate drugs, and then leave the room, please. I want total sensory deprivation and backup drugs.

Patsy: Oh, yeah, fantastic.

As you wish. Any final words for your American fans?

Edina: I do love you despite what anyone might ever say, especially Patsy.

Patsy: Right, cheers, thanks a lot.

(All Edina and Patsy quotes are taken--shamelessly out of context--from actual dialogue in the first three seasons of Absolutely Fabulous.)

THE ABFAB MOVIE THE LAST SHOUT

SYNOPSIS This two-part bit of closure finds Pats and Eddy joining the jet set at the Alpine ski resort of Val d'Isere, only to find that the famous have fled elsewhere. Eddy has a near-death experience and talks shopping with God, who looks a lot like Marianne Faithfull. The protofeminist Saffron plights her troth to a scrumptious, albeit controlling, heir to an Italian fortune; wedding plans fail to allow for divine intervention.

SEASON 1

EPISODE 1

"Fashion"

SYNOPSIS Edina has to produce a fashion show, a situation made all the more difficult by the fact she has promised Saffron she is going to give up drinking. Patsy makes rather a low-key first appearance and accompanies Edina to the office, the fashion show, or anywhere else free wine is available. There is a flashback in this episode recalling the first time Edina came home drank, the first of many instances in which we see her fall out of a car.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Saffron on simplifying: "It's only a fashion show, and you've had six months to prepare it! I mean, why is everything so hysterical? All you've got to do is play a bit of music, turn on the lights, get some people who've thrown up everything they've ever eaten, and send them down a catwalk!"

EPISODE 2

"Fat"

SYNOPSIS The threatened visit of former model Penny Casper (Alexandra Bastedo), known in her '60s heyday as "The Stick," drives Edina to consider the options of both liposuction and (shudder) exercise.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Edina, acknowledging human frailty: "Inside me is a thin person just screaming to get out!"

Mrs. Monsoon, on maternal interest: "Just the one, dear?"

EPISODE 3

"France"

SYNOPSIS Edina and Patsy find themselves lodging at a sad little piece of real estate in France while on holiday, and the lack of facilities requires their rescue by Saffron and Bubble. The ladies go on a wine-tasting spree, affording them another opportunity to drunkenly try to board an automobile. Boredom drives them to table tennis and controlled substances.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Patsy, on travel: "You can't go to France and not drink."

EPISODE 4

"Iso Tank"

SYNOPSIS Never one to let a trend pass untried, Edina installs an isolation tank in her home. An exercise in maternal interest goes awry when Edina finds herself comparison-shopping Romanian orphans. It all proves to have been illusion, which is very Buddhist.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Saffron, on raising a dramatic mother and judging dosages: "Let me know how many so I don't call the ambulance too soon."

EPISODE 5

"Birthday"

SYNOPSIS Edina turns f-f-forty. There is a party and both ex-husbands arrive, Marshall with Bo (American comic Mo Gaffney), a controlling feel-good type, and Justin with Oliver. Patsy and Edina end up smoking dope in the bathroom to ease the pain of mortality while the husbands discover that they have both been paying hefty alimony. The function eventually declines to the point where karaoke is involved.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Oliver, on assuring an empty social calendar: "I see no point in celebrating the fact she's lived so bloody long."

EPISODE 6

"Magazine"

SYNOPSIS Edina has it off after a long dry spell, causing her to wonder when Saffron is finally going to lose her virginity. Saffy's announcement that she's gay turns out to be a disappointing ruse to get her mother off her back. Patsy makes a visit to her office, where she barely functions as executive fashion director, and finds she's to do a television makeover. When the original models drop out, Patsy is forced to utter the word "please" in order to convince Saffron and her grandmother to participate.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Patsy, on the power of the press: "One snap of my fingers, and I can raise hemlines so high, the world is your gynecologist."

GLOSSARY: SEASON 1

AUNTIE CLAIRE RAYNER: A prolific author, Claire Rayner is also one of England's favorite "agony aunts" who dispenses no-nonsense advice to the distressed. (Episode 6)

HARVEY NICHOLS: A horrendously expensive department store located in the Knightsbridge area of London. (1)

HELLO! European celebrity gossip magazine that makes People look like Atlantic Monthly. (4)

LACROIX: In spite of the overly precious name, Christian Lacroix is a real designer, noted for the flamboyance of his patterns. A favorite couturier of Edina's. (1)

PRISONER: CELL BLOCK H: Australian television drama set in a women's prison. (3)

STONE: A British unit of weight measuring 14 pounds. It seems arbitrary, but these are the people who gave us the 12-pence shilling and the 20-shilling pound. (2)

"THE SHRIMP": Jean Shrimpton, a British model primarily noted for the arch of her brows and her affair with Terence Stamp. (2)

"THE TWIG": British model Twiggy (a.k.a. Leslie Hornby), primarily noted for her doelike eyes--frequently accentuated with exaggeratedly painted lashes--and the fact that she was built like a boy. (2)

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD BASQUE: The often fuchsia-haired Westwood made her name in punk and bondage fashion. A basque being a small corset, no further description is necessary. (1)

SEASON 2

EPISODE 1

"Hospital"

SYNOPSIS Patsy is embroiled in a sex scandal with a married politician, and the press is merciless. She is horrified, however, not at being referred to as a "fash mag slag" but at having her age published as 47 while she's claiming 39. When Edina goes into the hospital for foot surgery, Patsy joins her for moral support and, while she's there, a face peel and a bit of eyelid rejuvenation in order to be at her best for her upcoming Hello! magazine interview. There is a cameofest as Edina slips beneath the anesthesia and hallucinates that an improved version of her friends and family--played by Thunderbirds marionette Lady Penelope, Mandy Rice--Davies, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard E. Grant, and Suzi Quatro--have come to bid her farewell.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Magda (Kathy Burke), Patsy's editor, on the youth trend in modeling: "If the models get any younger, they'll be chucking fetuses down the catwalk."

EPISODE 2

"Death"

SYNOPSIS The death of Edina's father forces her to come to grips with mortality, while her mother is already looking forward to the additional room at home. Marshall stops by with his new girlfriend, an American therapist who turns out to be incapable of working through grief even though she wrote the book on it. Edina wisely goes art shopping since she'll be hosting the wake. Saffron, who of course makes all the funeral arrangements, makes her mother promise not to go to the church or the grave site, but of course she and Patsy do, resulting in one of the more infamous falling-out-of-the-car instances. Open graves and pratfalls make for an unforgettable funeral sequence.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Edina, on life's ultimate moment: "I don't want the last words I hear to be `Switch her off.'"

EPISODE 3

"Morocco"

SYNOPSIS In an effort to upgrade the image of Pop-Specs--large sung]ass frames with fun, removable lenses--Edina joins Patsy on a fashion shoot in Marrakech. Patsy stresses that this is work, not a holiday, although there will be, of course, the "easygoing sex with gorgeous, underage youths." Saffron wants to go for educational reasons. While there, Patsy somehow manages to sell Saffy into bondage, getting rather a good price for the girl she refers to as a "sour-faced little ditch rat." A flashback reveals Patsy's brief existence in Morocco as a man. The epilogue hints that Saffron may have come to Morocco as a girl, but she's leaving as a woman.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Patsy, on discipline, when asked by Edina if she has eaten something: "No, not since 1973."

EPISODE 4

"New Best Friend"

SYNOPSIS Patsy's feelings are hurt when Edina cancels their standing lunch date because her married friends, the minimalists Bettina (guest star Miranda Richardson) and Max, are coming to town to stay with her. When they arrive with their infant child in tow, however, it's obvious that child rearing and understated good taste are incompatible. Patsy, meanwhile, inflicts herself on designer Zandra Rhodes and actress Britt Ekland on a lunch date, causing Edina to hijack the pop singer Lulu a few tables over.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Bettina, on childbirth and fashion: "I lost the weight almost immediately, which, of course, doesn't happen when you have them younger. I mean, you've never lost it, have you? You seem to get away with it somehow in spite of your criminal dress sense."

EPISODE 5

"Poor"

SYNOPSIS With Marshall and Justin aware they've both been unwittingly supporting Edina through the years, economies are in order as the resources dry up. Saffron keeps her mother thinking she's poorer than she is to force her to cut unnecessary expenditures, one of which is the driver. Patsy and Edina are thus forced to transport themselves in Eddy's sports car, leading to a boot on the tire and an encounter with a traffic cop, which provides yet another opportunity to fall out of an automobile. A day in court leads Edina to oratorical heights and, soon thereafter, an opportunity to do a bit of community service.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Edina, on British provincialism: "Why can't we be more like the Continent, where a man can just park his car on the pavement and then run down the street in front of charging bulls whilst letting fireworks off in his bloody nostrils?"

EPISODE 6

"Birth"

SYNOPSIS Patsy nods off with a cigarette in her mouth and ends up burning down the kitchen. Edina goes into cerebral lockdown trying to decide which part of her personality she wants to express in the newly redecorated kitchen. Gran accidentally locks Edina and Patsy in the sitting room with Saffron, where discussions of birth, childhood, and the hopeless inadequacy of '70s revival music ensue.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Edina, on choosing one's mate wisely: "I've had two husbands: One was too short, one was gay. So, sweetie, if you want to know how to peck a dwarf on the cheek as he's walking out of the house wearing your dress, then I'm your girl."

GLOSSARY: SESON 2

SHANDY: A benign combination of lager and ginger ale popular with beginning drinkers. (Episode 1)

LULU: She plays herself as Edina's only big-name client. Lulu first came to American notice in the 1967 Sidney Poitier film To Sir, With Love, in which she both acted and sang the title song. She has continued to have a career in the U.K. as a singer ever since. (4)

SEASON 3

EPISODE 1

"Door Handle"

SYNOPSIS Edina proves incapable of doing anything more than looking over samples and swatches when it comes to redecorating the kitchen. Saffron commands her to stop dithering and accomplish one thing. She and Patsy then set out to find the perfect door handle, which they retrieve from the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel. In New York.

WORDS TO LIVE BY A discussion of the failure of Los Angeles as a viable cultural entity. Edina: "Let's hope the next earthquake wipes them out altogether, darling."

Patsy, "Serve 'em right. Who in their right mind would go jogging on a fault line?"

EPISODE 2

"Happy New Year"

SYNOPSIS Patsy and Edina delay their New Year's Eve adventures awaiting the arrival of Patsy's sister Jackie, whom Pats idolizes as being "fabulous on an international scale." When Jackie (Dynasty actress Kate O'Mara) finally arrives, it turns out she is too tired to go out clubbing with the girls since she's actually older than Patsy ever thought possible. This forces Patsy to consider what her own age might truly be.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Jackie, upon meeting Saffy and considering retroactive family planning: "Never mind--too late to flush her now."

EPISODE 3

"Sex"

SYNOPSIS Saffy and her friends plan a video presentation on genetics. Edina decides she needs a walk-in closet and is forced to expand into Serge's unused room. While going through his things, she discovers a copy of the skin magazine Razzle, but not the issue Patsy posed for. While Saffron is giving her presentation at school, the ladies rent two men in order to hold an orgy so Eddy can get back in touch with her sexuality.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Patsy, on whether a porn model is being degraded: "What do you mean? She's got the whip."

EPISODE 4

"Jealous"

SYNOPSIS Edina is up against Claudia Bing (Celia Imrie) for a PR Person of the Year award, one she is certain to win since she has chosen the judges and sponsored the award. She doesn't. Naomi Campbell is featured in this episode, being perfectly pleasant (which does nothing to stop people from turning away from her to announce to others that she's being "terribly difficult"). Later, when giving a rambling speech to her professional peers, Edina inadvertently comes up with a short, quotable, and positive message, which she then sells to Prozac. Saffron flirts with her psychology lecturer, who turns out to be married, prompting Edina to commit her one act of true maternal concern in the entire series.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Patsy, on achieving professional success as a model: "I just have to tell these tragic little wanna-bes--just stick your fingers down your throat, hack off your tits, keep taking the tablets, and don't come back until you're looking like something?

EPISODE 5

"Fear"

SYNOPSIS Saffron has moved to the dorms but thoughtfully labeled everything in the house so her mother won't be totally lost. It does no good. Pop singer Lulu stops by to cancel her representation contract with Edina but allows another month when Eddy tells her of her new partnership with a large New York publicity firm. Patsy's magazine folds and she is offered a job at HQ magazine in New York. She takes it, even though change frightens her. Edina decides it's time to put aside the scotch and Tofutti and go find herself.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Patsy, suggesting Edina's epitaph: "Still no thinner."

EPISODE 6

"The End"

SYNOPSIS As the credits roll we see four separate lives being lived behind them; Gran alone in the kitchen, Saffron at school, Edina at her spiritual retreat, and Patsy in New York. Gran is spending her days drinking champagne and keeping the shopping channel alive, Edina is bored to tears, and Patsy is underappreciated by everyone except the drag queens on the streets of Manhattan. She tries to make a play for the wealthy publisher of HQ but has been beaten to it by Marshall's old girlfriend, Bo, who now works as a nurse for the terribly infirm. Alcoholic codependency wins out, and by the end of the episode everyone is back home. The post-credit scene, a projection of life 25 years down the road, makes having watched the previous 17 episodes seem like a wise investment.

WORDS TO LIVE BY Patsy: "If you want to talk bollocks and discover the meaning of life, you're better off downing a bottle of whiskey. At least that way you're unconscious by the time you start to take yourself seriously."

GLOSSARY: SEASON 3

NANETTE NEWMAN: A leading lady of British film who first emerged in the '50s, Newman went on to a career hosting television shows such as Newman Meets and Celebrations, which focused on food and entertaining. (Episode 1)

DELLA SMITH: A popular personality known for her cookbooks and domestic arts empire. Sort of like Martha Stewart, but with a better approximation of human warmth. (2)

Coming attractions

A sneak peek at the new season

Throw on some Lacroix, break out the bubbly and some nibbly things, and let's get celebritied up--the brand-new season of Absolutely Fabulous kicks off November 12 on Comedy Central, and the fash-mag slags are back for six new episodes of well-heeled madness. From guests like Twiggy and out boy-bander Stephen Gately to misadventures on stage, screen, and the Eiffel Tower, Season 4 promises to deliver more of what fans have been patiently awaiting. Here's a quick look at the new episodes:

Episode 1--"Parralox": Patsy decides the path to beauty is a chemically immobilized face. Threatened with a television appearance, Edina too considers it. (November 12)

Episode 2--"Fish Farm": Edina makes a pass at the tasty young gardener. Horticulture discussed. (November 19)

Episode 3--"Paris": Patsy, filmed through linoleum, relives her modeling days. Edina and Saffy join her in Paris and have a bonding experience over public exposure. (November 26)

Episode 4--"Donkey": Edina wishes to relate to her clothing as something other than bondage wear. Dieting inspires medievally theological visions. (December 3)

Episode 5--"Small Opening": Saffron mounts her first play, the autobiographical Self-Raising Flower. Edina tries to get involved, but it opens anyway. (December 10)

Episode 6--"Menopause": Pats and Eddy face the change of life with the same levelheaded maturity with which they have tackled many, many other problems. (December 17)

Bonjour, sweetie darling

Out French director Garbiel Aghion talks about taking the hit Britcom across the Channel with the movie Absolument Fabulex BY MICHAEL GOODRIDGE

French film director Gabriel Aghion describes the moment when he got the thumbs-up from Jennifer Saunders for Absolument Fabuleux, his film version of Absolutely Fabulous, as "the best moment in my professional life." It was certainly an ambitious plan--to transpose the TV series from its London setting to a feature film in Paris, written and shot in French--but Saunders approved to the point that she took a cameo in the film, which is already shaping up to be a huge hit in France.

Aghion, a gay filmmaker of popular comedies such as Pedale Douce and Belle Maman, loved the TV series. "It's gay humor," he says. "Eddy and Patsy look at normal people with a distance. Gays understand the series because Eddy and Patsy are like two gay men. Alone they are miserable, but together they are so strong."

When she sold Aghion the remake rights, Saunders included a clause in the contract that if she didn't like the script, she could veto the entire project. "She liked it," he notes with a laugh. Transposing the project to Paris, Aghion enlisted cameos from local icons like Jean Paul Gaultier and Catherine Deneuve, and Gaultier created all the outrageous costumes for our heroines.

French comic Josiane Balasko, known to U.S. audiences as the butch lesbian in French Twist was Aghion's first choice as Eddy, but casting Patsy was less easy. "It was very difficult to find Patsy," he recalls. "Joanna Lumley is so unbelievably good and is so identified with that role that any actress would find it tough. Eventually Nathalie Baye said yes to it, even though she was afraid in the beginning."

And what did Lumley think of French acting giant Baye (Venus Beauty Institute) playing the part she has defined? Aghion says that "she was actually very moved. She said, `It's like I've seen 15 years of my life in 90 minutes.'"

Goodridge is U.S. editor for Screen International.

Jones also writes for Back Stage West.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Liberation Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:television programme
Author:Jones, Wenzel
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 20, 2001
Words:3977
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