Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Absolutely Fabulous: A welcome comeback, but was it ever that funny?

To the delight, perhaps, of The Gays and rowdy town centre hen party groups everywhere, the 1990s comedy series Absolutely Fabulous is to return.

It's to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and filming is underway, with three 30-minute long episodes due to be shown over Christmas 2011.

That's all fair enough - an anniversary is as good a reason as any for a revival, and the characters of Jennifer Saunders' Eddie and Joanna Lumley's Patsy are firmly lodged in the comedy, um, wardrobe of well-loved British comedy characters.

Bubble would hang there next to Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. Hyacinth Bucket would be in a protective plastic sleeve.

Ab Fab was always entertaining of course, just never actually that funny - unless of course you like people falling downstairs, people falling upstairs or people falling out of cars.

So the more cynical among us may wonder if the show's return is writer Jennifer Saunders running out of ideas that the BBC wants to make, or if the BBC is unwilling to commission anything else from her.

The gentle, character-based 'smile-humour' comedy of  Saunders' most recent work, Jam and Jerusalem, didn't come across as particularly well loved by the BBC: its six episodes of its third and final series were edited into three one hour episodes, and then it was dropped.

It wasn't especially funny either, but had solid character-led performances and a good cast doing vaguely amusing stuff, and all made on location in Devon.

It was good to watch, but probably very expensive to make - and the kind of programme only an established talent like Saunders could get made.

So the prospect of an Ab Fab revival - a straightforward shoot lasting a few weeks, with scenes performed in front of an over-excited, shrieking studio audience of those who loved the original, and with location work done on the streets nearby - is probably a much cheaper proposition.

But more probably, the amount of goodwill that exists towards the show, and its 20th anniversary, makes its return a bit of a no-brainer.

So what do we know? According to the BBC press information, episode one will focus on a life-changing experience for one of the characters; in the second show, Eddy aims to change the career of a "a very big fish indeed"; and the final episode features the London 2012 Olympics.

Jennifer Saunders said: "It's great that we are able to celebrate our 20th birthday with all the original cast.

"Last week when we started filming in dear old West London, it was as if nothing had changed.

"It was raining.

"Nevertheless, we are so happy to be working for an audience that has grown just a tiny bit older like us, but is still willing to let us fall over on TV in the name of PR."

Tv-ooh will be watching.

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