Developed from a sketch in the TV series French and Saunders in which Saunders played a baseball capped parent berated by her prim and proper daughter (French), the pilot episode was greeted by one TV executive with the comment, "I don't think women being drunk is funny." In this observation it appears he was very much in the minority, as the series came out of its first season clutching two BAFTA Awards, critical acclaim, and audience appreciation. In the process it also established another television icon.
Saunders, in her first solo role, played late 30-something flower child Edina Monsoon, single mother of two and head of a PR agency. Her best friend, Patsy Stone, was the editor of a fashion magazine and together they would strive to be seen in all the best places, wining, dining and flaunting it with all the 'darlings' and 'sweeties' of the 'Hello' set, in one last effort to recapture their lost youth. By contrast, Edina's daughter, Saffron, (now played by Julia Sawalha) was a plain Jane character who looked on aghast as her mother indulged in a life of sex and drugs and rock n' roll. Also sharing their Holland Park home was Patsy's mother, veteran actress June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks appeared as Bubble, Edina's secretary and there were occasional appearances from Adrian Edmondson, Saunders' real life husband. But it was Joanna Lumley's over the top performance as the alcoholic, chain-smoking Patsy that won the most plaudits, blowing away her previous public image of quiet sophistication. Two more seasons and relocation to BBC1 followed and a rapturous response in the USA led Roseanne Barr to buy up the rights for a stateside version. However, when ABC insisted the characters' drunkenness and swearing be toned down, they were missing the whole point of the show.
The series theme song was Bob Dylan's This Wheel's On Fire and was sung by Jennifer Saunders and Julie Driscoll, who, with Brian Auger and the Trinity had taken the song to number five in the UK charts in April 1968. Vulgar, tasteless, resolutely non-PC and hilarious just by dint of the simple fact that its two central characters were almost pathetically grotesque Gerald Scarfe caricatures given flesh. AbFab, as it became affectionately known, was that rarest of beasts, a modern British sitcom that was actually funny as well as being wildly successful, and for that feat alone, both Sanders and her creation deserved all the accolades and acclaim that they received.
Published on November 26th, 2018. SRH.