BBC Video // 1992 // 1154 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // May 21st, 2008
(Edwina Monsoon offering marriage advice to her daughter)
Eddie: Had two husbands, one was too short, one was gay. Still, sweetie, if you want to know how to peck a dwarf on the cheek as he's walking out of the house to the disco in your dress, then I'm your girl. I did tell you the facts of life, didn't I, sweetie?
Saffie: If you mean that time you sat on my bed and shook me awake at two in the morning, stoned out of your brain, and slurred into my ear, "By the way, sweetie, people have it off," then yes, you told me the facts of life.
It was a revolutionary series that featured a couple of prosperous and preposterous female lead characters unrepentantly addicted to everything you could imagine, and the poor family members and friends trapped in their path. Absolutely Fabulous -- Absolutely Everything is a box set of nine DVDs that assembles all of the Ab Fab episodes and specials in one convenient package. If you've bought the season and special releases as they've come out, there are no remasters or additional material included. Rather, this set is about design and convenience for those who want everything in one gorgeous little package. So put on some La Croix and open a bottle of Boli, because Absolutely Fabulous is back on the shelves.
Absolutely Fabulous premiered in 1992, a sitcom from Jennifer Saunders, who had made a name doing sketch comedy with her partner, Dawn French, with their show French & Saunders. The idea was simple and came from a sketch Dawn and Jennifer performed. It revolved around a modern mother who was far more irresponsible than her daughter, sort of an aging hippie struggling with her conservative offspring. The show follows the misadventures of perennial fashion victim Edwina "Eddie" Monsoon (Saunders, Shrek 2) as she meanders through life completely blitzed out of her brain with her washed-up, ex-model best friend, Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley, On Her Majesty's Secret Service). The only voice of sanity is Eddie's dowdy and smart daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha, In the Bleak Midwinter). Dropping in all too frequently is Edwina's increasingly addled but sweet Mum (June Whitfield, The Benny Hill Show), and Eddie's confused, not-too-bright assistant, Bubbles (Jane Horrocks, Little Voice).
Absolutely Fabulous proved everything the average American thought about British comedy was wrong. This "Britcom" was politically incorrect, raucous, uninhibited, extremely physical, and quickly paced. It wasn't dry or stodgy. The show was an instant hit on the BBC, a huge early breakout program for Comedy Central in the United States, and a smash with the gay community worldwide. The characters were what made it all work so well, because they were outrageous yet grounded in real emotions. The dynamic between Edina and Patsy as best friends, and then the conflicts between Eddie and her dowdy daughter made Absolutely Fabulous live up to its own name. The brilliance of the show is that the comedy might be off-the-charts outrageous, but these were people with real relationships to whom most viewers could relate on some basic human level. It was also funny as hell!
Originally the series ran from 1992 until 1996, and it seemed the entire thing had wrapped after only three seasons. Saunders claimed she was tapped out creatively and couldn't think of anywhere else to go with the show. The entire run was only 18 episodes with a two-part special to wrap things up called "The Last Shout." Seemed everyone was moving on, and Saunders took the entire cast to a new story line with different characters to make a pilot called Mirrorball (included as an extra in the set). That show didn't go anywhere because it was surprisingly not picked up by the BBC, and there was a lot of pressure on Saunders to create more Absolutely Fabulous. Five years later, in 2001, the show returned for two seasons along with three more specials. The second run wasn't as successful in ratings, and by 2003 Jennifer Saunders and company decided to retire once more, with "White Room" being the last televised special.
The breakdown of the content goes something like this (cue Pet Shop Boys
* Disc One: Six First Season Episodes with Outtakes and Photo Gallery
* Disc Two: Six Second Season Episodes with Outtakes and Photo Gallery
* Disc Three: Six Season Three Episodes with Outtakes and Photo Gallery
* Disc Four: Four Season Four Episodes with Commentary by Jennifer Saunders and Producer Jon Plowman
* Disc Five: Two Season Four Episodes with Commentary by Saunders and Plowman, two sketches from French & Saunders, the pilot for Mirrorball, Joanna Lumley on modeling, Outtakes, and Photo Gallery
* Disc Six: "Absolutely Fabulous in New York" (alternatively titled "Gay" for its UK run) and "The Last Shout," which are two feature-length specials and Outtakes
* Disc Seven: Four Season Five Episodes with Outtakes
* Disc Eight: Four Season Five Episodes with a Photo Gallery
* Disc Nine: "White Box" Feature-Length Special, "How To Be Absolutely Fabulous" Behind the Scenes Special, "Absolutely Fabulous: A Life": Feature-Length clip show, and "Modern Mother and Daughter," the original sketch from French & Saunders
Absolutely Fabulous -- Absolutely Everything is not the first time the series has been released on DVD, but it is the only time everything comes in one place. Honestly, the best thing about this set is the packaging. All nine discs come in a cloth-bound book, and each page holds a DVD. There are summaries of each episode, and the extras are listed, as well. The funniest bits are the outtakes, which feature at least 15 minutes of botched takes by the cast for each season. Luckily for U.S. fans, these are the unedited versions of the episodes, which many viewers didn't see in syndication. There are a few music changes due to copyright issues, but these are inconsequential for the most part.
The first three seasons contain the best material, with the show at its creative high, but the transfers look dated and distinctly like a '90s BBC television show with no remastering. The quality is almost VHS in nature, with soft images, a full-screen aspect ratio, muted colors, and a general lack of clarity. I'm surprised for this box set it looks like they just reproduced the discs that have been available on DVD since 2001. The later seasons are in widescreen and look much better. They have more extras with cast and crew interviews and more supplemental material. Jennifer Saunders and producer Jon Plowman give running commentary over the season four episodes, talking about the challenges of bringing the show back. Anyone looking for new footage won't find it here, and actually there are a couple of extras missing from the initial three-season box set release in 2001.
Absolutely Fabulous -- Absolutely Everything is a great package for anyone who hasn't been collecting the series all along, or wants to replace the previous releases with a more compact and well-designed keep case. It is a complete collection, and Absolutely Fabulous is still as funny today as when it first aired. We've never seen a show so willing to make the lead characters unlikeable or capable of doing despicable things. Imagine the furor in America if a sitcom featured a mother selling her daughter into white slavery or getting her addicted to nicotine by secretly slapping patches on her when she's not looking. It remains a brave testimony to what all comedy should be if it's doing the job right, because it is fearless. Perhaps they drove it a little into the ground with all the resurrections of the series, but it was always nice to see Patsy and Edina together. The pill popping pair would approve of this set and marvel at how gorgeous it looks. Cheers girls! This one's definitely worth picking up if you haven't obsessively gotten everything before.
Guilty of being absolutely fabulous! Sin is still in, sweetie
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic (Seasons 4-5, Whitebox)
* Full Frame (Seasons 1-3, Specials)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1154 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "How To Be Absolutely Fabulous" Behind the Scenes
* "Absolutely Fabulous: A Life" Edina Looks Back
* Original Sketch, "Modern Mother and Daughter"
* Two French and Saunders Sketches
* "Mirrorball" Pilot Episode
* Joanna Lumley on Modeling
* Outtakes and Bloopers
* Photo Galleries
* Audio Commentaries by Jennifer Saunders and Jon Plowman
* Official Site