Christmas may be camp, kitsch and colourful, but the British TV show Absolutely Fabulous is all of those things on speed. So when the BBC put them together for this festive season, Christmas in the UK got that little bit gayer.
Over the festive season, it was possible to get hot and steamy at gay saunas dotted around London (many were actually open on Christmas Day, leading to an increase in jokes about chickens and stuffing and sprouts and mince pies); it was doable to get naked and party at clubs that have a strictly no-clothes dress code; and it was workable to visit bars where pink is practically the only color on the walls and a loop of trashy Christmas music was only interspersed with a selection of Kylie classics. What more could the gays ask Santa Baby to offer them from his bulging sack?
In two words: Ab Fab.
After a break of six whole years (many more in gay years, of course) the show that has inspired thousands of gay men to don blonde beehive wigs and brandish bottles of Bollinger each Halloween was back for three special Christmas episodes.
In the same way that there are no straight men on the roads or in bars when a sporting final hits our screens, the gay scenes of Britain’s major cities were eerily quieter than they should be as Edina Monsoon (played by the show’s writer, Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (performed by the national institution that is Joanna Lumley) burst back into our lives with a mix of drug-taking, heavy drinking and celebrity.
“As soon as my hair was up, I thought, ‘Yes! Patsy’s back,'” Lumley snorted to the Mirror newspaper in Britain. “It seems like yesterday that we were making the pilot for Absolutely Fabulous and wondering if it would ever be a hit, so to be back filming with the girls two decades later really was fabulous.”
Yes, it’s also 20 years since Ab Fab first appeared, initially running for three series on the BBC between 1992 and 1995 (just in case you didn’t feel old enough already as the new year arrives).
This time around (two of the three episodes have aired at the time of this writing) there are even more gay references packed into each show. As the season is broadcast on BBC America in January, I won’t spoil it for you, but rest assured Jennifer Saunders knows her audience. “The New York gays are very forgiving!” Edina shrieks in episode two, as she takes on a new project that doesn’t work out but is salvaged in, of course, the most fabulous way.
How many complaints the BBC receives about Ab Fab—a show that was marketed as its ‘centerpiece’ of Christmas broadcasting—is unclear, given that it focuses on Edina Monsoon, a heavy-drinking, drug-abusing PR agent who spends her time chasing bizarre fads in a desperate attempt to stay young and ‘hip.’ And then there’s Patsy Stone, her best friend and enabler, whose drug abuse, alcohol consumption and promiscuity eclipses Edina’s comparatively mild self-destructive behavior.
Maybe the BBC finally realizes that gay men are an integral and loyal part of its audience? Or maybe the show is just a ratings winner and stars two of the UK’s most-beloved women?
Either way, it has just been confirmed that an Absolutely Fabulous film is being made. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported it with excitement. “Jennifer Saunders has revealed the forthcoming Absolutely Fabulous movie will be set on the French Riviera. Saunders confirmed plans for a big-screen outing for Ab Fab’s aging miscreants were well underway following the return of the show to UK TV over the festive season. ‘Yes, I’m definitely going to do it,’ she said. ‘I’m aiming to shoot this in a beautiful part of the Riviera. I fancy the south of France in the spring.'”
Don’t we all, sweetie? Fabulous!
For BBC America’s scheduling of Ab Fab this month, visit bbcamerica.com.