When I was four-five years old, my sisters and I had this fun habit of watching Comedy Central ad nauseum in the morning before leaving for a half day of school. The line-up was amazing: Kids In The Hall, SNL (the Phil Hartman/Dana Carvey years), Black Adder, and most importantly: Absolutely Fabulous. Watch this series and then re-watch Amy Schumer, Broad City, Bridesmaids… basically any major comedy about women behaving badly and watch your jaw drop when you see how even now AbFab still tops them all. Its impact on the comedy world has never been more apparent than right now, making it the perfect way to finish off “broad” comedy week.
Absolutely Fabulous is a British sitcom created by and starring Jennifer Saunders and based on a sketch she created with her writing partner, Dawn French. The show has aired six seasons of various episode lengths, off-and-on over the past twenty years. This is just an amazing side effect of British television. A great show can go on forever because they don’t force out episodes when there aren’t stories to tell. Now they are currently in production on a film of the series and fans around the world are ecstatic. This show is the perfect way to sum up our week of “broad” comedy.
Edina, “Eddie,” a PR executive and mother to Saffy
Patsy, a magazine editor and Eddie’s best friend
Saffron, “Saffy,” Eddie’s very conservative and smart daughter
Mother, Eddie’s mother
Bubble, Eddie’s assistant
Katy Grin, Eddie’s business partner
Bo, Marshall’s wife and Eddie’s unwanted houseguest
Marshall, Eddie’s ex-husband and houseguest
Claudia Bing, Edina’s business rival
A-Story: Eddie’s business is going under thanks to Claudia Bing.
B-Story: Patsy has menopause and Saffy is her momentary caretaker.
C-Story: Bo and Marshall announce they are leaving Saffy’s home.
Season Four, Episode Six Menopause
B: Eddie’s neighbor, model Twiggy and her husband, bring home Eddie’s mother who wandered in their home and has been staying for some time. Eddie is not surprised, nor does she care even though Twiggy (also her client) is furious.
B: After they leave, Eddie’s mother is ecstatic. She thinks she’s found Madonna and Guy Ritchie as Eddie requested her to do. Eddie is irate and sends her mother back out again, telling her not to come home until she finds Madonna.
B: Eddie complains to Saff that all of her clients are leaving her for her enemy Claudia Bing. Saffy tries to help but Eddie is inconsolable as she rants.
C: Bo announces that she and Marshall are finally leaving. Eddie is thrilled.
B: Saffy scolds Eddie for not going into the office. Eddie says she’s telecommuting and attempts to log in via video call but the player isn’t working as her team have a useless meeting without her.
A: Patsy comes over and gives Eddie a massage to relax but it causes her to break her arm. She has Eddie get her some meds out of her purse and shoots herself up with pain killers, than snaps her forearm completely.
A/B: Saffy says she’ll deal with it and shoos her mom to work.
B: Katy Grin shows up for a meeting at work. With no Eddie there she runs over the staff and simultaneously screams at the lack of control in her life.
B: Claudia bing arrives to brag to Eddie that she is taking Twiggy away from her as a client. Eddie is beside herself and takes her anger out on Bubble.
A: Saff tells Eddie that Patsy has osteoporosis and menopause. They’re cool/impressed by osteoporosis but distraught at the word menopause though Saffy warns they both need to take care of themselves.
A: Saffy has invited over the local MA (Menopausals Anonymous). The BFFs are furious but Saff insists.
C: Bo “smells” a group. Immediately rushes in to join.
A: Eddie and Patsy try to sneak out of the meeting but Saffron blocks them.
A: The MA go around the room giving their testimonies about how menopause effects their daily lives. The listeners applaud but Eddie and Patsy are horrified.
A: Every time one of the women makes a suggestion about how to deal with menopause, one of the women jumps up and shuts it down with the horrors of her own situation.
A: Patsy and Eddie ask Saffy if Patsy can move in and take over Bo and Marshall’s room. Saffy refuses to allow it.
B: Eddie finds the office empty. She’s melancholy but gets to work with the one remaining employee.
B: Claudia Bing arrives and is jealous of what she overhears Eddie working on. Eddie quickly talks it up more to make Claudia more envious.
B: Claudia sees Katy Grin and is thrilled. She offers to buy Katy out and Katy agrees.
B: Claudia offers to buy the business from Eddie so they won’t have to be partners. Eddie fakes as if it’s a chore and quickly negotiates a deal before agreeing.
A: Patsy is in happy homemaker mode back at the house from the pills her gynecologist has given her. Saff is more annoyed than ever though Eddie is cool with it.
A: Patsy announces she’s having a baby using Mick Jagger’s sperm and she wants the spare room. Saffy screams.
A: Saffy wakes in the kitchen with Patsy, normal as ever, staring at her with Eddie. Everything is just as terrible as it always was (thank god), it was just a dream.
Absolutely Fabulous began airing in 1992. This very much shows in the structure of the show. It’s clearly two acts. The first is all set ups and then at the end of Act One Saffy announces that Menopausals Anonymous is in the house for a meeting, essentially forcing Patsy and Eddie to come face-to-face with their greatest fear: aging. The second half just watches all of these set ups explode as they play out and neatly come to a conclusion.
So seemingly simple, and yet so difficult to write. When I was in school, if you were writing a sitcom you had to make sure you have five jokes PER PAGE. That alone is a lot when you consider formatting and when you watch this show you instantly lose track of the number of jokes per page because every single line makes you laugh and it’s moving at lightning speed. It’s the kind of comedic pacing that you rarely see anymore, but its effect on television is long-standing. This is especially apparent when you watch a show like Broad City, which like AbFab, follows two best friends living life unapologetically with zero interest in growing up while hijinx ensue in their wake.