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‘Absolutely Fabulous’ - The Comedy of Political Incorrectness

July 22, 1994

LONDON (AP) _ Sweetie, get ready. Two boozing, snorting, irresponsible slaves to every passing fashion are coming your way, and it’s ″Absolutely Fabulous.″

Britain is still reeling from the success of the program, among the most popular situation comedies in BBC history. ″Absolutely Fabulous″ is the sharpest collection of outrageous and cruel humor since ″Fawlty Towers.″

Here’s just a partial list of victims left in the series’ mirthful, merciless wake:

-Relations between mothers and daughters, at least that of twice-divorced hipster Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and her prim teenage daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha). In this role-reversed pair, Edina is often reduced to wheedling her daughter - ″Help mummy, sweeeeeeetie 3/8″ - for support and comfort.

-Fashion editors, skewered by Joanna Lumley’s riotous portrait of down-at- the-heels glamourpuss Patsy, Edina’s closest friend. (″One snap of my fingers and I can raise hemlines so high that the world is your gynecologist,″ Patsy boasts.)

-Political correctness, for which ″Ab Fab″ has only contempt. When not burning down the kitchen or filling the parlor with modish, ugly art, Edina and Patsy fling money about, indulging every appetite to excess.

″I just try never to write a positive figure if I can help it,″ giggled Saunders, who wrote the series pilot. ″I don’t see any space in the series for anyone normal or positive.″

The first series drew an average 8 million viewers over six episodes on BBC2. The second series last year shifted to more mainstream BBC1 and pulled 10.5 million viewers - a fifth of Britain’s population - every episode.

All 12 episodes get their American premiere in a marathon showing Sunday on cable’s Comedy Central, starting at 3 p.m. EDT.

The half-hour series then receives back-to-back airings next Monday through Friday at 8:30 and 9 p.m., before moving into a thrice-weekly schedule, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (check local listings).

Edina was born on BBC’s ″French and Saunders″ show, in which Saunders’ longtime partner, Dawn French, played Patsy.

Later, encouraged to work on her own away from French, Saunders wrote a pilot for ″Ab Fab.″

″My agent rang up and said, ‘You’ve got to do something, love.’ We needed to keep the wolf from the door,″ the 36-year-old Saunders recalled in a telephone interview.

″Edina was the character I had most written myself; I felt I could take her further.″

Saunders recognizes no boundaries for her characters, including drug- induced hallucinations crammed with celebrity cameos, including Lulu, Miranda Richardson, Helena Bonham Carter and Germaine Greer.

Consider Edina’s impulse to emulate Mia Farrow and adopt babies: ″I could get one in every color - one in every room,″ she says, asking her daughter how to go about it.

″I should imagine you have to go to Romania,″ Saffie says.

″Don’t be silly. I’m sure they could send a selection over that I could choose from,″ says the addled Edina.

Americans are treated brutally - the two examples on ″Ab Fab″ are happy- talking dim bulbs. ″Every life is more or less a trash can among whose garbage we have to look out what the person ought to have been,″ one prattles.

Lumley’s unbuttoned performance - in every sense - has made the former star of ″The New Avengers″ a national sensation. The press follow her every move, from holiday plans to honorary degrees. To the gay community, she was an instant icon.

With two series behind her, Saunders is almost finished filming the third, in which Edina follows Patsy to a new job in New York.

The Manhattan sequences feature walk-ons by such doyens of New York journalism as Elizabeth Tilberis, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar - ″Liz played herself,″ said Saunders. ″It’s, ‘Hello, Liz, hello’ ″ - and Grace Coddington, fashion director of Vogue.

Among those not included are rival New York-based British editors Tina Brown and Anna Wintour: ″We were too frightened; I don’t want frightening people.″

Saunders denied reports that the HBO cable channel was planning to co- produce six episodes based in Los Angeles.

And anyway, she said, try to imagine Edina and Patsy let loose in L.A.: ″They’re not made for a city where you can die in an earthquake or of smog, but you can’t smoke or drink.″


Elsewhere in television ...

SCI-FI CHANNEL SHOWCASES KOONTZ: Cable’s Sci-Fi Channel has scheduled a special writer’s forum featuring Dean Koontz, bestselling techno-horror- thriller writer, at 10 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Aug. 20. ″Masters of Fantasy: The Mind of Dean Koontz″ features a question-and-answer segment with Koontz in Los Angeles and his readers in several cities, according to a news release. Koontz’s books are published in 33 languages, with worldwide sales totaling more than 125 million copies. His bestsellers include ″Lightning,″ ″Dragon Tears″ and ″Mr. Murder.″

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