Look at that photo. Disgusting, huh? I’m not exactly sure what particular demographic statistics make up an Absolutely Fabulous fanatic, but I know I’m part of it. The episode in which Saffy is sold into white slavery in Morocco by Patsy taught me oh, so much about how the world really works. P&E also taught me that it was okay to be an awful human being, so long as you keep the liquor cabinet fully stocked. Hell, your editor’s favorite drink is a variation of the Dom and Bom that the series protagonists finally settle on as their tipple of choice—after going through Bolli Stoli and Veuve and Bourb phases, of course.
With shooting starting on the American pilot of Absolutely Fabulous, you’d think I’d be up in arms like most of the blogosphere. Well, take a Quaalude, dahling; if there’s ever been a show suited to a cheap, tawdry remake, AbFab is it.
There’s something faintly ridiculous about the reverence AbFab acolytes have for a show that thrives on trashy humor. Take the blog “Why God Hates Me,” which owes Perez Hilton thirty cents for their appropriation of his trademark moron-scribbles-on-photos style. It writes:
“They’re applauding another successful butchering of a beloved television program!
We mean, just look at them!
Here they are filming some sort of countryside hooker scene for the American travesty version of Absolutely Fabulous.
And the usually sane and culturally astute Stephan Horbelt writes on Gay Wired:
“Even with Jennifer Saunders (executive producer, star and creator of the original Ab Fab) at the helm of this remake, the whole thing still sounds like a huge mistake, sweetie darling.”
Here’s my problem with the premeditated hating on the American version of Absolutely Fabulous: It’s like shooting tranquilized fish in a barrel of gin. I mean, how easy is it to say, “OMG!! It’s gonna suck !!!ONEONEONE!!”? Answer: Pretty fucking easy. If you can find it in your heart to tamp down this reflexive disgust, there is indeed reason to think that the new AbFab will be pretty damn good.
For starters, as Horbelt points out, the show is being created by Saunders. So in the strictest technical terms, this isn’t a remake so much as a sequel. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want new stories about Patsy and Edina by Saunders? Secondly, the stars of the show are promising. Patsy is to be played by Kristen Johnston, of Third Rock from the Sun fame, and Edina is played by Revolutionary Road‘s Kathryn Hahn. These are some pretty funny ladies who often get shafted by the dearth of television roles for female comedians these days? It’s also important to remember that, in the DVD age, it is nonsensical that purists would deride a new take on a beloved series. The British version of AbFab will always be there to watch again and again. To think if, after Shakespeare’s death, humanity decided they could never again put on a production of Hamlet for fear of desecrating the Bard.
“But they’ll ruin everything that’s great about AbFab!” you say. Bollocks! To prove my point, I’ll use as an example an excellent British show that was butchered by it’s American remake: Queer as Folk. The British version was heartwarming, authentic and inspirational. The American version? Um, not so much. In fact, the American version of QaF is a totally different animal—more obsessed with working in sex puns than actual controversy, and embarrassingly committed to making every straight character on the show a closet homophobe. It’s the only show ever created in which the gay characters form a “pink posse” to gun down homophobes. Until I moved to West Hollywood, I thought the candy-colored, hypersexualized gay world the show presented was pure fantasy. After moving to WeHo, it all makes sense.
The point is, despite one being worse, the two shows are completely different. It’s the same with The Office – another show that exists in two cross-pond versions that each exist on their own merits – and I think it’s going to be the same with AbFab. In fact, the only way in which the new version of AbFab could be a failure is if it slavishly recreates the original series.
More than anything else, Absolutely Fabulous held onto the principle that nothing’s sacred. Its fans should keep that in mind before judging its American cousin.