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A show from overseas that satirized recreational drug and alcohol use, then gathered a cult following here in America you say? Yes I do: “Absolutely Fabulous” a/k/a AbFab.

In this satirical British sitcom, which eventually became a cult hit on American cable, concerns two vulgar self-centered fashion victims chain-smoking, champagne swilling, drugs abusing, caviar munching, terrorize their daughter, and tried in vain to mingle with the beautiful people—Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders creator and writer of the show) and her sleek, slutty, boozed-up best friend Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) (aka Pats and Eddy) are ’60s survivors and fashion-world wannabes; Pats works for magazines, while Eddy owns a PR firm which you will see in the clip is sarcastically described by her accountant as a “business” that never really seems to have any clients.

These women of means live a hard life of drinking, drugs and other hangovers from the 1960’s party years of London.  They tie their identities to the self-delusion of a glamorous London lifestyle, while trying to make back on to the “A” lists at parties.

Pats inhabits the attic of a liquor-store franchise, while Eddy lives in a well-to-do flat thanks to the double alimony from her two ex-husbands, a gay antiques dealer and a recovering alcoholic. When she’s not fighting with her responsible teenaged daughter, Saffron “Saffy” Monsoon (Julia Sawalha), and her oblivious, tongue-in-cheek mother (June Whitfield), Eddy stages fashion shows, jets off to photo shoots, pays charlatans to put her in touch with her inner child, and tries every weight-loss cure known to man — except curbing her debauched lifestyle.

The open and accepted use of recreational drugs and booze by Pats and Eddy (unheard of in U.S. TV, only adds to the humor.  It is not very often you find yourself laughing when two middle-aged women are doing blow, booze and cigarettes to get through the day.

“AbFab,” as it’s known, began its life as a sketch called “Modern Mother and Daughter” on the BBC comedy show French & Saunders. Although frequent Saunders collaborator Dawn French played the daughter part in the original sketch, she bowed out in favor of half-Jordanian, half-British actress Sawalha, a Press Gang vet who was closer to the character’s age.  Patsy — played like a coked-up Dynasty caricature by former Bond girl and New Avengers star Lumley — wasn’t a part of the original sketch but quickly became a favorite of drag queens everywhere.  In addition to cameos from celebrities such as Helena Bonham Carter and Naomi Campbell, AbFab included frequent appearances by Little Voice star Jane Horrocks (as Eddy’s airhead assistant, Bubble) and Nil by Mouth star Kathy Burke (as straight-talking magazine editor Magda).  Although one BBC development executive’s reaction to the pilot was, “I don’t think women being drunk is funny,” a secretary handed out tapes in secret to her friends, and soon the buzz about the show became deafening.  The first series premiered on BBC 1 on November 12, 1992, but didn’t make its American until July 1994, when Comedy Central began airing perpetual reruns of the show.

Three six-episode series were broadcast in the U.K. in 1992, 1994, and 1995, followed by a two-part TV movie, Absolutely Fabulous: The Last Shout, in November 1996. In 2000, as Saunders was working on a new program called Mirrorball that reunited much of the AbFab cast, she decided to switch gears and revisit her best-known characters in a fourth AbFab series, which began airing on August 31, 2001. Co-funded by Comedy Central, the new series began its U.S. run a few months later, on November 12, 2001.  Although Roseanne purchased the rights to develop an American version of the show in 1994, the first international adaptation of the program to see the light of day was the 2001 French film Absolument Fabuleux.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that this is the funniest TV sitcom ever made.—however I would call it a tier one program.  The blatant change of a show openly using recreational drugs (at the time) was revolutionary and makes for some extremely funny situations particularly when Saffron a/k/a Saffy tries to get involved to curb this reckless behavior.  I must confess that if I had a daughter, I would have named her Saffron and called her Saffy for short because of the show.  I have included my favorite episode in full because it truly embodies the shows unique perspective and sense of humor.

Based on my experience, AB Fab is a love it or not like it (versus hate) kind of a show.  I enjoy it and if you the like the episode provided here then watch some more otherwise abandon ship.  The episode is from Season 2 No. 11 entitled “Poor.”

 

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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Bravo 20–A Sleeping Rose.

Bravo 20 is a little known English film, based on a true story, about an elite group of special air services commandos, who are dropped behind enemy lines, and eventually captured by the Iraqi soldiers where they faced disgusting, profane torture and humiliation.
The very beginning of the movie consists of the team, which was composed of eigh seven men (only 5 of which returned), planning their mission which is to cut communication cables connecting the Iraqi SCUD missile system.  However, they are discovered by a young boy who gives away their position they could have easily and silently shot  and never would have been exposed and captured by the Iraqi army.  After a relatively few number of skirmishes with their Iraqi pursuers but are eventually caught and this is when the movie really begins.
There are held in the Iraqi secret police prison where they are starved, beaten and endlessly interrogated by enemy soldiers and police.  As time goes on, their jailers get to know them and little better and begin asking them for help in getting out of their country and going to (preferably) America.  While the Iraqi guards are trying to convince them to help get them out of their own country, the men of Bravo 20 are still forced to do foul things.  For example, after they dump out there their “bathroom” buckets, they are made to lick their hands clean regardless of the amount of human waste dirtying them.
I must admit, these guys were pretty tough to have survived, much less with any sanity left after spending years in that hellhole.  In the last scene, Andy McNabb (the unit’s leader) is seen walking back to his flat in Britain where says that he is a soldier and proud of his profession.  He also understood that the enemy had a job to do as well, but most of them seemed to enjoy it a little too much.  The last line in the movie Andy confesses hat “if I met any of them in street tomorrow and thought he could get away with it I would slaughter them.”  In my opinion a natural reaction after having gone through their ordeal.
If you can find this BBC production watch it.
 
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Posted by on February 26, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Yes-Minister & Yes-Prime Minister Are British Shows That Should Still Be In Production.

The Brits have the full spectrum when it comes to TV series, some clearly belong in the dung heap, some are not crap and a few are even roses.  Yes Minister and its sequel Yes Prime Minister are roses by any other name.  Each series ran for only three seasons (very typical of the BBC) and were immensely popular in England as well as Europe.  Because it is English/European you will have the added benefit of coming off as very cosmopolitan when discussing it with friends.

The show is a satire of the bureaucratic civil service that typifies the workings of government.  The series has been described as a “closely observed portrayal of what goes on in the corridors of power [and] has given me hours of pure joy.”  Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher MP.   The three main characters Sir. Humphrey (head of the civil service), Bernhard (the minister’s private secretary) and Jim Hacker (the minister of administrative affairs) are trying to out maneuver each other in formulating and implementing clearly ridiculous government policies.  The supporting cast is equally as humorous as the “big three” in their involvement with the consistent tug-of-war between the civil service and the elected officials.

Both series are worthy of watching and each deserve a rose.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2009 in Movie Reviews

 

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