Tuesday, June 9, 2009

THE LIGHTER SIDE OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE



When word got out that FOX was working on a American version of Absolutely Fabulous, the internet saw possibly one of the biggest, gayest uproars ever. I include myself in this, because to say I was 'skeptical' is putting it mildly. I started watching the original in Series 4, and fell in love. By now I've seen every episode, and I think it's pretty easy to see why Eddy and Patsy are two of the greatest TV characters ever created. But could they survive in a considerably more conservative land across the pond? It just so happens that I've seen the pilot (simply called AbFab), and your education begins now.



Let me get this out of the way right now - I loved it. They've done a fantastic job in translating it for American audiences, and I think a lot of that has to do with the involvement of Jennifer Saunders herself (she executive produced). The action is transplanted from London to Los Angeles, with Edina (Kathryn Hahn) and her long-suffering daughter Saffron (Zosia Mamet) now living in a high-rise penthouse. Saffy's now a high school student again, as all three core characters have been de-aged quite a bit. But how could anyone forget Patsy? Played perfectly by Kristen Johnston, the lightning-fast wit between her and Eddy practically channel their English counterparts.




The episode's main plot revolves around Eddy & Patsy attempting to throw a benefit for Darfur, after being admonished by Saffron for being hopeless and behind the times. I was impressed at just how many alcohol and drug references made it to the US - one of my favorites in particular is Edina's response after Saffy suggests that she calm down with some herbal tea instead of a cigarette: "
I already tried that honey, it doesn't stay lit."


The producers clearly took great care in recreating the methods and ideas that made the original so great. Priority one? These women are boozy, drug-addicted and out of control. There's also a flashback to the 80s, when E&P were technically still 'on top'. Flashbacks were always hilarious mini-back stories for these women in the original, and it works here too. And perhaps the best part is that our leading ladies will still do practically anything to get and stay famous. Including mace a cop in the face so they can get to their benefit on time.



In the pilot, Eddy and Patsy have only one real connection to reality, and that's Saffron. Crusading for causes and volunteering at preschools, she's never too busy to remind her mother - and sworn enemy Patsy - that "
No one wants to be noticed just for being fabulous anymore. It's vulgar." There are a couple of characters missing, but it's hard to tell if they were omitted on purpose or just hadn't been introduced yet. These would be Gran and Bubble. Eddy does hire a black assistant halfway through the episode as part of a 'diversity program' ("Pretty sexy move, huh?") but she only has one or two lines before disappearing.

In the end, E&P are arrested for the aforementioned cop macing, and the next day their bust is all over the internet. They deem the benefit a success for all the wrong reasons, and Saffron lets them have it before storming out of the penthouse. But you know Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone will always have the last laugh - they can't be criticized for drinking before noon if Eddy just adjusts the clock hands herself. A classic moment, that - like many in this 21 minute episode - could just have easily been filmed with the cast of the original. Turns out boozing is funny no matter where you live!



With so many zingers, one-liners and hilarious exchanges, it's hard to pick the rest of my favorites. But I did:

SAFFRON
Obviously you don't take this seriously. Why do you even pretend to be interested?
EDINA
Excuse me! I am pretending to be interested because I'm trying to reach out!



[Eddy passes out. Patsy attempts to revive her]
PATSY
It's smelling salt, you huge regret!
SAFFRON
It says Amyl Nitrate.
PATSY
Yes, that is the name of the gentleman who invented it.


EDINA
Africa should have a benefit for Calabasas!


PATSY
Would you get a hold of yourself? My God, you're eating!




Overall, I think that
AbFab could have definitely found an audience here in the States. It's outrageous and completely over the top - but that's what made the original Absolutely Fabulous so iconic. These two women are out of touch fashion victims who think they're the hottest thing out there...only they're living in our 'real' world that looks at them as crazy people. Sadly, FOX did not opt to bring AbFab to series for their Fall schedule - but I'm still holding out hope that it could be picked up as a midseason replacement. Where else on network TV could you see constant drinking, coupled with blatant references to weed, coke, and poppers? It's a sad commentary on the state of the American sitcom...as this one would have taken the decadent cake.

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