Last Hurrah! 'Absolutely Fabulous' Keeps Its Sly Humor and Wicked Wit to the End

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Last Hurrah! 'Absolutely Fabulous' Keeps Its Sly Humor and Wicked Wit to the End


Byline: Ted Cox

Pity poor Comedy Central. Its signature show, "Politically Incorrect," has moved to ABC. It canceled new episodes of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," which has landed at the Sci-Fi Channel. And its hit import sitcom, "Absolutely Fabulous," has ceased production.

But save your pity for a few days, anyway. "AbFab," as it's commonly known, goes out with a two-hour finale, "The Last Shout," at 7 p.m. Sunday. While it comes to a disappointing ending, the real disappointment is that the series is ending at all. For most of this movie-length episode, especially the first half, the jokes fly by at such a fast pace and with such a withering wit that it's like being caught in a water-balloon fight where the balloons are full of acid.

Jennifer Saunders, the show's creator and guiding force, stars as Edina, a trendy London fashion executive and struggling mother to young-adult Saffron (Julia Sawalha).

Joanna Lumley is Patsy, Edina's best friend, a chain-smoking, booze-guzzling, sex-crazed blonde who keeps an apartment in the back of a liquor store called Odd Bins.

Between the three of them, they set up something of a triangular "family" unit, which produces a back, forth and across stream of barbed one-liners that can make "Married ... With Children" seem tame.

Early on Sunday, Edina jokes about Saffy's virginity, and she responds by calling her mother old and saying, "Sleeping with you must be akin to necrophilia."

Clearly, the show should be rated PG-14 if it's not already rated. But a line like that also shows what makes "AbFab" unique. It has a corrosive, ruthless sense of humor, but also an erudite wit. It's hard to imagine any American sitcom - not "Married ... With Children" and not "Cybill," "AbFab's" most obvious imitator - constructing the same line and delivering it with the requisite style.

It's not just that "AbFab" is British that gives it that style. Saunders has also given it a sharp point in the generation gap between baby boomers and present-day young adults. Edina and Patsy are emblems of '60s excess - the drinking, the drugs, the sex and, above all, the relentless self-involvement - while Saffy is the sensible, clear-sighted next generation that has to find a way to put up with them.

The genius of "AbFab," when it works best, is that it lampoons those excesses while also celebrating them.

"I do wrong, but it's right. That's my motto," Edina says.

From its theme song - an updated version of the Bob Dylan and the Band classic "Wheel's on Fire" - "AbFab" revels in the '60s. When confronted by problems in "The Last Shout," Edina resolves to "think happy thoughts," at which point she closes her eyes and sees hippies dancing as if they had just stepped out of a 1969 TV ad for soda pop. …

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