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Why the New AbFab Isn’t Heresy, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Remake

article-0-03cfbd20000005dc-935_468x777Look 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.

Fuckery!”

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.

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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.

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.

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.

By:           Japhy Grant
On:           Mar 11, 2009
Tagged: , , , ,

  • 37 Comments
    • floodlite
      floodlite

      Well, it’s good that this one might actually get off the ground. Roseanne bought the rights originally to do the american version, pre-HBO type series, and couldn’t make it because you couldn’t drink excessively and do illicit drugs and have fun doing it.
      My biggest fear will be that the dialogue will be lost to out and out physical comedy. That was one of the things i love about the original AbFab, the scenes last longer than 5 seconds.
      And since it’s being made over 10 years after the original, hopefully Edina will be obessessed with the 70’s and 80’s rather than the 60’s as neither actress looks old enough to have been anything but born near the end of the 60’s.
      I will agree, I hope this series is it’s own creation and not a simple parody.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 7:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      Is it bad that I really want a champagne and bourbon for breakfast now? lol

      Mar 11, 2009 at 7:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • rick
      rick

      this show has already been done with jean smart in the patsy role and the president on battle star galactica in the edwina role. it ran on cbs for a few weeks and got cancelled.

      it was on monday nights. around the same time they tried to do a martha stewart take on it.

      rosanne hired carrie fisher to turn this into an american property from the original scripts and she failed.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 8:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mr.razzbery
      mr.razzbery

      i love kristen johnston, and she was fantastic and funny in 3rd rock, i just hope this one has good script and took off…i hope this is better then the u.s kath & kim…

      Mar 11, 2009 at 8:54 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • floodlite
      floodlite

      *shudders* at High Society

      Mar 11, 2009 at 9:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • unclemike
      unclemike

      Considering that the US edition of “The Office” found its own way and turned out to be a unique, funny show, this new AbFab…might not…be…horrible.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 9:43 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • moo
      moo

      But why make it now? We’re living in a post AbFab world. New AbFab would be anachronistic.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 10:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones
      Mr. Enemabag Jones

      Have you seen the remanke of “Kath And Kim”? This show will tank simply becuase the situations brought up in the UK version will not translate well in the US version and will be replaced with what passes for comedy on US television. Maybe if Tina Fey or even Sarah Silverman had a hand in this I’d watch. As it is? No thanks.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 10:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scotty
      Scotty

      Yeah, this show will TOTALLY tank!! The gays just won’t have it. Why? Because the gays will make or break a show like this and the gays know that there is ABSOLUTELY no replacement for the FABULOUS Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley!!

      Mar 11, 2009 at 10:32 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RyanInSacto
      RyanInSacto

      @Mr. Enemabag Jones: “Kath and Kim” is actually Australian, not British.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 10:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Samuel
      Samuel

      Nah, it’s gonna suck.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 11:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • rsquared
      rsquared

      I was persuaded at “[T]o think if, after Shakespeare’s death, humanity decided they could never again put on a production of Hamlet for fear of desecrating the Bard.” I’ll keep an open mind…and I sort of am looking forward to it. Good writing Mr. Grant.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 11:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ted
      Ted

      @Mr. Enemabag Jones:

      Tina Fey? Really? Then she would be responsible for two unfunny sitcoms.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 11:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MARK m
      MARK m

      I hope to be surprised. American produced things tend to be so watered down. No booze, no child abuse, no drugs– this obsessive denial system where everyone is “Good”… blech. Most of our produced TV is like eating oatmeal with nothing in it.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 11:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones
      Mr. Enemabag Jones

      “‘Kath and Kim’ is actually Australian, not British.”

      Yes I know, RyanInSacto. Based in Melbourne to be precise, with some filming done in Victoria as well.

      “Tina Fey? Really? Then she would be responsible for two unfunny sitcoms.”

      Did you ever watch her on Weekend Update?

      Mar 11, 2009 at 11:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MT
      MT

      Didn’t Kristen Johnston say something about P&E chewing Nicorette in this version? NICORETTE?!?!? Abomination doesn’t even begin to cover it.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 11:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael vdB
      Michael vdB

      OMG! If they can pull it off then it would be a great honour to the pair that gave me enough witty quotes to keep me going through the 90s. But then again, how can you top perfection?

      Mar 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eminent Victorian
      Eminent Victorian

      I say give it a chance. Sure, it could be terrible, but maybe not.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 1:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bitch Republic
      Bitch Republic

      The reason I think it will be awful is because Kristen Johnson is in it. :P

      Mar 11, 2009 at 1:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stephen
      Stephen

      The reason I think it will be fabulous is because Kristen Johnson is in it.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 3:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • geoff
      geoff

      Maybe we could actually watch an episode or two before we decide if it’s horrible or not.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Miley Crisis
      Miley Crisis

      Viva the New Ab Fab!!!
      The further adventures of P & E!!
      Wwwweeeeeeeeeeeeee!
      Bring on the Bolli babe.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 8:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Darrien
      Darrien

      Japhy has a point. Lots of British comedies have made their way across the Atlantic to become successful but different comedies. Please Sir became Welcome Back Cotter, Steptoe and Son became Stanford and Son, Till Death Do Us Part became All in the Family, Man About the House became Three’s Company.
      It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that AbFab UK can become a different but still successful AbFab US. As the ineffably contrary Mr Grant points out, there’s no established rule that re-interpreting a piece of work will lead to an inferior product. When Broadway is on form, you can get as good or better Hamlet there as you can in the West End.
      Strangely, the weakest point in this might be the involvement of Jennifer Saunders herself. Her most recent comedy series in the UK – Jam and Jerusalem – was entirely different to the kind of comedy in AbFab. It was almost uniformly excellent, but very different in how and where it was going for laughs. I’m not sure that she’d want to creatively revisit a project that is effectively over and done with for her – and has been for several years.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 8:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Casper O
      Casper O

      It is Stolli Bolli…

      Stolichnaya Vodka and Bollinger champagne, in that order, just like it is Rum and Coke, Vodka Martini etc… almost always the heavier stuff first.

      I might be an alcoholic ex-bartender, but it is important to the AbFab heritage too! :D

      Mar 11, 2009 at 8:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • froggyola
      froggyola

      This seems like a really bad idea. Why couldn’t the originals do it???

      Mar 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • froggyola
      froggyola

      @Ted: You have no taste.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 9:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ask ena
      ask ena

      Japhy lives in Weho??

      Mar 11, 2009 at 10:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charlie Olsky
      Charlie Olsky

      Japhy is hot.

      Mar 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • froggyola
      froggyola

      @Charlie Olsky: Like a big steaming pile.

      Mar 12, 2009 at 3:17 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Phil Ingram
      Phil Ingram

      @mr.razzbery: Oh be nice – while the Australian Kath & Kim is infinitely better, you can’t say the American one isn’t funny. It just isn’t true.

      Mar 12, 2009 at 11:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dawster
      Dawster

      it’s important to note that the REAL reason why the Office (America) is doing so well is because Ricky Gervais of the Office (UK) is the executive producer. if you think his style of humor, and outlook are funny in the British version, then no one can translate it to America better than the writer/creator… and guess what – it works.

      I like Jennifer Saunders. i like her style of wit, humor, outlook and presentation. i like everything she does with French/Saunders. i think the only person who can possibly make it work is her. i know it’s going to be different (and i don’t like that), but i’m willing to give it a go.

      Mar 12, 2009 at 4:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MD
      MD

      Actually AbFab was a Saunders & French production (as opposed to their TV show French & Saunders). Given that they are no longer collaborating following their final farewell tour, I wonder if the U.S. version will indeed work. The UK version is a classic, particularly with Ruby Wax’s editing touch!

      Mar 13, 2009 at 8:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sam
      sam

      oh come on i loved the US Queer as Folk :P whoc ares if they weren’t controversial, it was better. Funnier, more likeable and far less haebophilic. Ugh.
      I am very hesitant to support a remake of something that doesnt need it :P
      i like horror movie remakes like Friday the 13th etc cos they are horribly dated by now. Not scary at all. They NEED redoing.
      AbFab does NOT. its funny as is.
      And I think The Office worked because it translates well. The weird boss at work etc. But the premise of AF just, imo, won’t work, just like Kath and Kim. *shudders*

      Mar 13, 2009 at 9:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anticipate me
      Anticipate me

      They’re going to butcher it…why are those girls young? the point of AbFab was that they were middle aged trying to be young…Jesus..

      Mar 13, 2009 at 1:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LukeWarmCB
      LukeWarmCB

      DOes anyone remeber that there has already been an Americanized version of AbFab? Back in the mid to late 90’s… it was called “High Society”, starring Jean Smart from Designing Women and MAry McDonnell. Check it out on YouTube. It was only on for a couple seasons, but it was an amazingly campy and catty show. I wish it had lasted longer. I’m looking forward to the new remake. Y’all enjoy!!!

      Mar 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • james ii
      james ii

      There already was an American version of AbFab. It was called “Cybill.”

      Really, I don’t think any other incarnation of AbFab could come close to being as funny and as close to the spirit of that show as Cybill and no actress could possibly be a better drinky, witty, second banana than Christine Baranski.

      Mar 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • strumpetwindsock
      strumpetwindsock

      @MT:
      Now if she were grinding it up and mainlining it that would be good for a chuckle.

      Mar 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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