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TV review: Absolutely Fabulous: Olympics
Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous. Image: BBC
The third and final 20th anniversary special of Absolutely Fabulous follows the two that aired on Christmas and New Year's Day. This one timed to celebrate London 2012.
There was no standout moment, but the sequence where Patsy's pulse stopped because she wore Eddy's body-hugging underwear, leading to her mistaking Mo (Bo Turtle) and Marshall (Christopher Ryan) for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, was quite amusing.
The last few minutes featured blurred dream sequences of Eddy (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) competing in the Olympic Stadium, which gave the episode a cheesy tie-in feel it had successfully avoided until then.
Cards on the table, I'm not a fan of Absolutely Fabulous. Jennifer Saunders's 1990s sitcom never appealed to me as a teenager as I wasn't the target audience when it premiered in 1992; this remained true throughout its intermittent lifespan.
This series plays better to women and gay men, although it's obviously not designed to exclude heterosexual guys. Whenever the show focuses on its dysfunctional family, it feels more accessible and hilarious to me.
"Cards on the table, I'm not a fan of Absolutely Fabulous"
I love the concept of two drug-addicted middle-aged friends and their desperate attempts to remain fashionable and relevant in high society - unaware they're actually just embarrassing and pretentious grotesques.
Subverting the traditional family set-up with Eddy's daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha) as the grown-up also works brilliantly, although she comes saddled with her own problem of being a boring cynic.
Plus there's amusing support from June Whitfield as the eccentric Mother, whose soft touch was probably responsible for creating Edina's bad behaviour. Not forgetting the sheer lunacy of Eddy's assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks) - who, in a running joke - kept appearing in various Olympic guises, from cyclist on a tiny bicycle to a gymnast walking along the back of a sofa.
"Olympics" wisely kept the Games on the backburner, making only a few peevish remarks about it occasionally. For the most part, this episode was more concerned with Eddy feeling her age and having tantrums over her lack of a social life and inability to get into Stella McCartney's chic shop.
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Seeing Eddy and Patsy concerned about their age was a welcome direction, although I suspect Ab Fab's used that as the basis for an episode already. However, it worked nicely as a counterpoint to the Olympian celebration of youth, agility and fitness.
Needless to say, Eddy was more concerned about renting the house out to Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones for the Games, rather than actually attending anything Olympics-themed... until it dawned that a party with Champagne and celebrities is involved.
Quite a few sitcoms have attempted revivals years after their prime, usually to awful results (I still get a chill thinking about the Blackadder: Back & Forth special from 1999).
"The two main characters are clearly from another era."
The quality of writing and performances hasn't diminished too much from what I recall of the original 1990s shows.
The only problem is that the two main characters are clearly from another era - and despite this being a benefit in some ways (because they're even more outmoded than usual in 2012) - you can't shake the feeling we've moved on as an audience.
I'm sure "Olympics" was more fun if you're an Ab Fab addict, getting to see your beloved characters bitching to each other again, but the whole set-up felt a little weird to me.
Saffron must be in her late 30s now, and yet she's still living with her mother and gran? Forget chain-smoking Eddy and Patsy and drunken antics, Saffie's the show's real tragic figure nowadays...
For an Olympic special, this probably stands on the podium accepting a bronze medal (despite a nice cameo from Dame Kelly Holmes), but after 20 years the performances and writing remain surprisingly sharp with several excellent lines to savour.
- Verdict: Not quite gold standard, but solid silver.
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