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You Should Be Watching: ‘Absolutely Fabulous’

With a feature-length movie now out, “Absolutely Fabulous” should be at the top of your binge-watching list. Pop open some champagne and vodka (preferably Stolichnaya), put on your most outrageously chic outfit, and enjoy every second of this seminal sitcom created and written by Jennifer Saunders.

Title: “Absolutely Fabulous”

Year it began: 1992

Where it can be seen: BBC; Amazon; Hulu; Netflix

Who’s in it: Jennifer Saunders; Joanna Lumley; Julia Sawalha; Jane Horrocks; June Whitfield

Typical episode length: 30 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 39

Brief plot description: Edina Monsoon, the head of a London public relations firm that specializes in fashion and celebrities, lives with her straitlaced daughter, Saffron. Along with her best friend, fashion editor Patsy Stone, the always-anxious and highly hedonistic Edina creates maximal chaos as she pursues fun and fashion.

Why it’s worth watching: Based on a comedy routine created by Saunders and Dawn French, “Absolutely Fabulous” is an edgy series whose first three seasons offer some of the most uproarious situation comedy ever produced. At the show’s center is Edina Monsoon, whose appropriately chaotic surname conveys the wild energy generated as this hard-drinking, chain-smoking, ever-intense woman makes her way through the ever-changing, absurdly superficial world of high fashion. Edina’s friendship with the often loathsome Patsy grounds the series, as these paired pleasure seekers negotiate such figures as the always reasonable and judgmental Saffron (played as a wonderful foil by Sawalha), Edina’s forgetful and kleptomaniac mother (Whitfield), and Edina’s two ex-husbands. While the show’s slapstick acting is consistently excellent, Horrocks’ role as the frantically enthusiastic but often confused Bubble, Edina’s assistant, is a special treat. One of the most powerful aspects of “Absolutely Fabulous” is that it produces wonderfully anarchic and engaging comedy without falling into the trap of either uncritically embracing or categorically rejecting the fashion world. Even as we laugh at Edina’s and Patsy’s antics and shake our heads at their self-destructive life choices, we are compelled by Saunders’ superb writing to share in the excitement of the characters’ intense pursuit of continuing relevance, beauty and style.

– Randy P. Schiff

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