Country of origin
Jennifer Saunders Dawn French (original sketch)
Jennifer Saunders Joanna Lumley Julia Sawalha June Whitfield Jane Horrocks
"This Wheel's on Fire" performed by Julie Driscoll and Adrian Edmondson, later by Deborah Harry and Adrian Edmondson.
Absolutely Fabulous, also known as Ab Fab, is a BBC television sitcom created by, written by and starring Jennifer Saunders. It is based on a 1990 French & Saunders sketch created by Saunders and Dawn French.
- Special guests
- Theme song
- Other countries
- Adaptations and related shows
- Home video releases
- UK releases
- North American releases
- Australian releases
The series features Saunders as Edina Monsoon, a heavy-drinking, drug-abusing PR agent who spends her time chasing bizarre fads in a desperate attempt to stay young and "hip". Edina is joined in her quest by magazine editor Patsy Stone (played by Joanna Lumley), her best friend and enabler, whose drug abuse, alcohol consumption, and promiscuity far eclipse Edina's comparatively mild self-destructive behaviour. Despite being a middle-aged, twice-divorced career woman, Edina is reliant upon the support of her daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), a secondary school pupil (and later university student) whose constant care of her mother has left her a bitter cynic. The series also stars June Whitfield as Edina's sarcastic and thieving mother, and Jane Horrocks as Edina's brainless personal assistant.
Absolutely Fabulous returned for three special episodes which were originally broadcast on 25 December 2011, 1 January 2012 and 23 July 2012 to mark the show's 20th anniversary. The episode broadcast on 23 July 2012 featured the 2012 Summer Olympics which were being held in London that week. A film based on the series was released to theatres on 1 July 2016. On 28 November 2016, Jennifer Saunders announced that the series is finished.
The show has had an extended and sporadic run. The first three series were broadcast on the BBC from 1992 to 1995, followed by a series finale in the form of a two-part television film entitled The Last Shout in 1996. Creator Jennifer Saunders revived the show for a fourth series in 2001, after having written and submitted a pilot entitled Mirrorball, which recruited nearly all of the original cast in new roles. The pilot was intended to be turned into a series of episodes. However, Saunders felt the characters were far too rich and interesting to put aside, and were far better suited for her new story ideas. Instead of Mirrorball, a new series of Absolutely Fabulous was proposed to the BBC, which later commissioned the fourth series in 2001. From 2001 to 2004, two full series were produced, along with three one-off hour-long specials; Gay (retitled and issued as Absolutely Fabulous in New York for the United States) in 2002, Cold Turkey, a Christmas special in 2003, and White Box (another series finale), which aired in 2004. A Comic Relief sketch was broadcast in 2005.
In August 2011, Lumley confirmed the planned filming of three new episodes. In 2011, plans for a 20th anniversary revival were welcomed in The Guardian, which applauded the show as "prophetic". The first new special was broadcast on 25 December with the second episode being shown on 1 January 2012. The third, and final special coincided with the 2012 Summer Olympics, with Stella McCartney appearing in a cameo role. A film version of the series was released in summer 2016.
In the United States, the first of the three new 20th anniversary specials aired in January 2012 for broadcast by both BBC America and Logo Channel. Both channels also co-produced the 20th Anniversary episodes, although Logo removed some scenes for its airings. BBC America broadcast it in full. Both channels aired the episode in a 40-minute block to allow for commercial interruptions.
Absolutely Fabulous is ranked as the 17th greatest British TV show of all time by the British Film Institute. A scene from the show was included in the 100 Greatest TV Moments programme broadcast by Channel 4. In 1997, the pilot episode, "Fashion", was ranked number 47 on TV Guide's "100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time" list. In 2004 and 2007, the series was ranked number 24 and number 29 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever list.
Absolutely Fabulous evolved from a French & Saunders sketch called "Modern Mother and Daughter" (from series 3 episode 6), which starred Saunders as the mother (named 'Adrianna') and French as the daughter, already named Saffron. The sketch revolved around a middle-aged, single mother who acted like a teenager, and was reliant upon the emotional and financial support of her teenage daughter, who behaved like a middle-aged woman. It has no connection, other than the character's name, to the earlier film Eddie Monsoon: A Life?, a comedy play written by Saunders' husband Adrian Edmondson in 1984 for the TV series The Comic Strip Presents.... The name "Edina Monsoon" is derived from Edmondson's name and "Eddy Monsoon" is a nickname of his.
According to an article published in The Times, the character of Edina was based on Lynne Franks. Franks believed Saunders had observed her and her children in detail after joining them on a family holiday. Josh Howie, Franks' son, reported that his mother was upset because one of her best friends "had taken the piss out of her" in a TV show. Saunders revealed in 2012 that she was also inspired by pop band Bananarama with whom she and Dawn French had become friends after their Comic Relief collaboration in 1989. "The nights with Bananarama were some of the best nights of my life, and I got a lot of gags from Bananarama because they were big vodka drinkers...when I started doing AbFab, I remembered all of the falls that I saw Bananarama do. I once saw one of them coming out of a cab bottom first and hitting the road, and I thought 'that's class'. Although Ab Fab was produced by Saunders and French's production company, Dawn French appeared on the show only once, in a cameo in the first-series episode "Magazine".
Three new specials were announced to celebrate the show's 20th anniversary with the first special, "Identity" airing on 25 December 2011. Jon Plowman, executive producer and original producer of the series, said: "Viewers have been fantastically loyal in their devotion to our show, so we're really thrilled to say that it's coming back for three new shows to celebrate our 20th anniversary. All of the originals who are back together again are still truly absolutely fabulous and the new adventures of Edina, Patsy, Saffy, Bubble and Mother, plus a few surprising guests, will be a real treat for viewers." Saunders announced in November 2011 that she had begun work on a film version of the series.
Edina "Eddy" Monsoon (Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Lumley) are a pair of high-powered career women on the London fashion scene. Eddy runs her own PR firm, and Patsy holds a sinecure position at a top British fashion magazine. The two women use their considerable financial resources to indulge in alcohol, recreational drugs, and chasing the latest fads in an attempt to maintain their youth and recapture their glory days as Mods in Swinging London. In 2011, they are still chain-smokers. The partnership is largely driven by Patsy, who is both co-dependent and enabler to Eddy. Their lifestyle inevitably leads to a variety of personal crises, which are invariably resolved by Eddy's daughter, Saffron Monsoon (Julia Sawalha), whose constant involvement in their exploits have left her increasingly bitter and cynical.
Absolutely Fabulous first aired on 12 November 1992 and ran for three series, until 4 May 1995, when the sixth episode of series 3 was billed as the last ever episode. However, the following year in November 1996, two specials called "The Last Shout" were broadcast and were also billed as the last ever episodes. Both episodes featured end sequences with flashes to the future. However, after writing Mirrorball, Jennifer Saunders decided she had more ideas, leading to a fourth series, which premiered on 31 August 2001. A fifth series and three specials followed, the last of which aired on 25 December 2004. This was followed by a short special for Comic Relief in March 2005. In July 2005, Saunders announced she would not be writing or playing Edina again, stating "The 6am calls to go to make-up and all the promotional work wear you down. I would like to write and direct—that would be my joy". However, in November 2010, Lumley revealed to Playbill magazine that she had recently spoken to Saunders about the possibility of filming a new series. Lumley and Saunders reunited for the M&S Christmas advert in 2009, along with other stars such as Twiggy and Stephen Fry.
On 29 August 2011, it was announced that a further series of three programmes was being made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original production. The first of these, "Identity", was shown on Christmas Day 2011 and the second, "Job", was shown on New Year's Day 2012. The last, entitled "Olympics", aired on 23 July 2012. The episodes were jointly co-produced by Logo, and BBC America in the US.
On 3 January 2012, following the success of the 20th Anniversary Specials, it was rumoured that Saunders was set to write another Christmas special for 2012. The BBC were rumoured to also be urging her to write a sixth series for 2013. Saunders denied the reports of additional episodes via her Twitter account.
On 29 November 2016, Jennifer Saunders confirmed that "She was done" with Absolutely Fabulous and it would not be returning to television for another series, or specials, nor would a sequel to the film be made. Saunders now wishes to focus on new projects and spend more time with her family.
In 2011, prior to the release of the new episodes for 2011/2012, Deadline.com reported that Saunders planned to begin writing a script for a film of Absolutely Fabulous in 2012. The film would begin with Edina and Patsy waking up on an oligarch's deserted yacht, drifting in the ocean. Saunders later said that the film will be set on the French Riviera. In March 2012, Saunders confirmed that she was working on the script. She said of the film's plotline:
Eddy and Patsy are looking for what they imagine glamorous life should be. They're constantly searching for that perfect place to sit or that perfect pair of sunglasses. It's Shangri-La and it just might be round the next corner. In the meantime, they decide to take Saffy's (Julia Sawalha) daughter off her – she calls her Jane, I call her Lola – but then they lose her.
Saunders also stated that now that she had announced plans for a feature, there was no going back. She would do it for no other reason than to have her alter-ego and Patsy walk down the red carpet at the film's premiere. In April 2013 Saunders said on the Alan Carr Chatty Man show that she had doubts about the film as she felt the cast were "too old". She felt pressure to write it and didn't want to commit herself to it at this early stage.
On 4 January 2014 whilst appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show, Saunders officially confirmed that the movie will definitely be happening, as she felt obliged to write a script for a film adaptation after threatening it for so long. Saunders was quoted as saying: "Joanna Lumley kept announcing it and saying, 'Yes she's going to do it,' and then Dawn French on our radio show at Christmas said, 'I bet £100,000 that you don't write it,' so now I have to write it, otherwise I have to pay her £100,000'" . In April 2014, Saunders again confirmed on BBC Breakfast that she was in the process of writing the film, and gave a prospective release date of sometime during 2015.
Principal photography on the film began on 12 October 2015 in the south of France.
Many celebrities, mainly British or American, appeared in the series, most of them as themselves. They include:
The theme song for Absolutely Fabulous is "This Wheel's on Fire", written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko and performed by Julie Driscoll and Saunders' husband Adrian Edmondson. The song was also sung by Marianne Faithfull and P. P. Arnold for the "Last Shout" special in 1996. Hermine Demoriane sang a French version of the theme song over the closing credits of the episode "Paris". At the end of the episode "Birthday", Edina and Patsy sang the song together using a karaoke machine. More recently, it has been sung by Debbie Harry, who also guest-starred in the 2002 Christmas special "Gay". For series four, a line sung by David Bowie, "Ziggy played guitar", from the song "Ziggy Stardust" played at the end of each episode.
Due to copyright issues, the theme song is missing from many of the US Region 1 DVDs, being replaced by an instrumental version of the song. Also excised from the US DVD release is the musical number from Chicago performed by Horrocks, Gaffney, and Ryan, during a dream sequence in the series 5 episode "Birthin'".
In addition to the official theme song, in 1994, Pet Shop Boys recorded a song for Comic Relief using excerpts of dialogue from the series put to dance music. The single was not officially a Pet Shop Boys release: the artist was simply given as "Absolutely Fabulous". It peaked at number 6 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1994. The music video featured clips from the show and specially recorded footage of the Pet Shop Boys with Patsy and Edina.
On 10 June 2016, Kylie Minogue released her version of "This Wheel’s on Fire" for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, prior to the film's release in July 2016.
In the United States, Absolutely Fabulous has been broadcast on Comedy Central, some public television stations, but not as part of the PBS program offerings, BBC America, Oxygen Network, and as of 2011, Logo, a gay-oriented channel. In Canada, the programme has appeared on the BBC Canada, the CBC, and The Comedy Network. In Australia, all series were originally shown on the ABC, and on cable on UK.TV, and moved to The Comedy Channel in 2007. Repeats of the first three series were also shown on the Seven network. The ABC continues to show it sporadically and shows Christmas Specials and occasional repeats of series 5 episodes. ABC2 also shows repeats of the show. As of August 6th-7th 2016 the series was shown on Nine Network's sister channel 9Gem to promote the upcoming film adaption. In New Zealand all five series were broadcast on TVNZ. In India, all five series, including the specials, have been shown on BBC Entertainment.
In Portugal, Ab Fab has been shown on RTP2. In Serbia, the first series was aired in 1998, through a network of local television stations. In 2004 the series was aired in its entirety on B92, while in the Czech Republic all episodes have been shown. In the Republic of Macedonia, all episodes have been shown a couple of times on Sitel. In the Netherlands and Flanders, the series is popular, still being regularly re-broadcast by the VPRO and Canvas, respectively. In Sweden, all episodes were first broadcast by SVT, but reruns have later appeared on other channels. In Germany, it was broadcast by the Franco-German TV network Arte and gay-oriented channel TIMM. In France, before it was rerun on terrestrial TV arte, it was successively premiered on pay TV channel Canal +, cable channel Jimmy, and is now broadcast on France 4. In Finland, the series was broadcast by YLE TV1. In Estonia, the series was broadcast by ETV. In Brazil, it was aired on GNT. In Poland, two series were broadcast by Wizja Jeden, later by TVP3, TVN7 and BBC Entertainment.
Adaptations and related shows
Absolutely Fabulous inspired a French feature film, called Absolument fabuleux, in 2001. It was written and directed by Gabriel Aghion, and starred Josiane Balasko as Eddy and Nathalie Baye as Patsy. Saunders had a small cameo alongside Catherine Deneuve as a spectator at a fashion show. Amanda Lear was asked to play the part of Patsy but turned it down laughingly, saying she'd "already lived it".
A proposed American remake that would have starred Carrie Fisher and Barbara Carrera was put into motion by Roseanne Barr but never got off the ground. However, Barr did incorporate many elements of the show into the final season of her eponymous show Roseanne, in which her character wins the lottery: Saunders and Lumley reprised their characters Edina and Patsy, and Mo Gaffney also appeared in the episode, but not as her character Bo. Two later American sitcoms, Cybill and High Society, also adapted elements of Absolutely Fabulous for the American audience.
It was announced on 7 October 2008 that an American version of the series was in the works. The series was to be relocated to Los Angeles. Saturday Night Live writer Christine Zander worked on the new scripts and would have been executive producer along with Saunders and BBC Worldwide's Ian Moffitt. Sony Pictures Television, BBC Worldwide, and indie Tantamount were producing the new series for Fox, which greenlighted the pilot as a possible Fall 2009 entry with Kathryn Hahn as Eddy and Kristen Johnston as Patsy. In May 2009, Fox decided not to commission a full series.
The stage for the kitchen in Ab Fab is now used as the stage for the shop in the British comedy Miranda. Miranda Hart, creator of the show, had previously appeared on Absolutely Fabulous.
Mirrorball was a pilot set in the London theatre scene, starring the cast of Absolutely Fabulous as alternative characters. While writing and filming the show, Saunders was inspired to revive Absolutely Fabulous for a fourth series, which resulted in her abandoning Mirrorball. It was eventually aired as a television special, and is included as a special feature on the DVD of the fourth season.
Absolutely Fabulous will not be returning to television for a new series, nor any specials, and the planned sequel to the 2016 feature film has been cancelled. Although the series was intended to end in 1995 following the third series, an official finale, "The Last Shout", which was broadcast in 1996 and marked a closure for the series. However, it was revived in 2001. It was again mentioned that the series would not return following the 2004 Christmas special, "White Box", but three 20th Anniversary specials were screened some time later with speculation that a new series would be broadcast in the future. On 28 November 2016, it was announced that Absolutely Fabulous was finished, as Jennifer Saunders said that "I'm not doing anything more with Ab Fab. That's it, it's over now. I can't see the point of doing anything else with it, really."
Home video releases
Absolutely Fabulous was initially released on VHS in the UK by BBC Video ending with the 8-VHS box set Series 1–4 in November 2002. In the United States, Series 1 and Series 2 were released together on Laserdisc by CBS/FOX in a boxed set in 1995, followed by Series 3, released by CBS/FOX the following year and "The Last Shout" released by Image Entertainment in 1997. All episodes were later released on DVD, including a five-DVD box set titled The Complete DVD Collection: Series 1–4 in 2002. All releases were distributed by BBC Video and 2 Entertain (post 2004) except for The Last Shout which was released by Vision Video and Universal Studios. The entire series is also available on demand on iTunes. When the first three series were re-released on DVD, they did not include corresponding cover photography to their series: Series 1 included an image from the Series 3 episode "Jealous", Series 2 had an image from Series 3 episode "Doorhandle" and Series 3 is from the Series 2 episode "Poor". All other releases included imagery from the correct series, as do the original VHS releases.
In North America, all episodes have been released on DVD by BBC Video and Warner Home Video, including a complete collection named Absolutely Everything. The Last Shout and Gay (which were released in the UK individually) were released as a collection called Absolutely Special in 2003. Another feature-length special White Box was released exclusively to the American market. It was eventually released in the United Kingdom on 15 November 2010 with its inclusion in the Absolutely Everything box set.
Other releases include Absolutely Not, a bloopers and outtakes collection, and Absolutely Fabulous: A Life, a mockumentary including 15 minutes of new material interspersed with clips from the series. Both were only released on VHS in the UK; the latter was also released as a special feature on the box set release Absolutely Everything in America.
Save for the "The Last Shout", and the specials "Gay" (aka "Absolutely Fabulous in New York"), and "White Box", the entire series is available to stream via Hulu.
In the United Kingdom, VHS releases were distributed by BBC Video, except The Last Shout which was released by Vision Video, the final release being in 2002.
All episodes have now been released on DVD in the United Kingdom. "White Box" which was released in North America, was never available individually in the UK and was not available until its inclusion in the 2010 Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything box set. The North American release Absolutely Special has been released in the UK as two separate releases: The Last Shout and Gay. All releases in the UK were distributed by BBC Video except The Last Shout which was released by Vision Video.
North American releases
In North America, every episode of the series has been released. All releases are distributed by BBC Video and Warner Home Video.