Absolutely Fabulous is a veritable institution. It's ranked 17th on the list of 50 of Britain's Greatest Sitcoms and got Jennifer Saunders not only accolades but genuine invites to society parties.
It stemmed from an idea by Dawn French and Saunders in their sketch comedy series, a one-off gag that's been done ever since Mad Magazine dropped a gag in the 1960s predicting that since children often rebel from their parents, the generation bred out of the hippie Baby Boomer types will probably end up Young Republicans who are very, VERY interested in the total in their stock portfolios. For the record that was also the driving idea behind Family Ties, which launched the career of Michael J. Fox. His Alex P. Keaton was a Reaganite "MBA = BMW" hiigh mover who eschewed his left liberal Democrat then thirtysomething parents.
The gag had French as "Saffron", the together, boring, and ultimately staid and quiet mature daughter being argued at by a hyperkinetic, hip, permanently arrested development Saunders - inverting the normal parent/child relationship but also making exactly the same gag as before. There was a germ of an idea here, but it incubated really well. Especially when Saunders, who by now had children, went on "play dates" with other people and their kids who had as much money as her and husband Adrian Edmonson had come up with with various hit series and film apperances. And they indeed did see trophy wife hopped up on drugs trying to look and act as young as possible in the company of a very sober, very somber child. That was the key ingredient to inject the right DNA into the show, and it was a smash hit.
It follows the life of Edina Monsoon, the name itself a nod to her husband's sometime nom de plume "Eddie Monsoon", a corruption of "Edmonson". She is a hippy Baby Boomer with far too much money than she should be allowed to have, living in a permanent world of inane fad after fashion craze, blitzed out on drugs and alcohol. She supposedly works in PR, which simply involves her using her somehow-obtained well-connected status and general "knows everyone at all the parties, darling" to make her clients be seen at the latest in-place. She's made enough doing it (as well as collecting money off two ex-husbands) to afford a large residence in London as well as any impulse purchase she feels like (in one episode, she and Patsy go to New York City looking for exactly the right handle for a door.
Her prime focus in life is her partner in crime and best friend Patsy Stone, who similarly lives on a steady diet of drugs and champagne. She has one of those nebulous jobs tthat don't really exist but that are sold to young women fantasy - where you are just fabulous, have no real deadlines, no actual work to do but it involves something to do with magazine publishing. Sort of an American "Sex In The City" where magazine publishing doesn't involve photo shoots, deadlines, word counts and a frenetic pace but simply looking at a photograph with a loupe and saying "yes to this one, no to that one, God that was tiring, thanks for the $100,000 check, I'm going to margaritas with my besties". Net amount of work done in day, 15 minutes.
The fly in the ointment, not only to the relationship between the two women but a necessary brake on Edina's whirlwind life of excess is her very sober (in every way) daughter, Saffron. Saffron works hard at school (and eventually in University), dresses in unflattering and unfashionable cardigans, has no obvious interest in sex (but does get pregnant later in the series after an affair during a mission trip to Africa). Her mother's advice is something to the effect of "get some guy's penis in there before it heals over". For the record just to give you an idea of the sort of woman Edina is upon finding she's having a mixed-race baby as a grandchild, her initial existential horror at being old enough to be a grandmother is completely replaced with the ecstacy of knowing she has the perfect accessory for next year's parties.
Patsy hates Saffron, because Saffron represents not only the "angel" counterpart to her "devil" on Edina's other shoulder, but because Saffron represents a part of life that even if Patsy never wanted, will never have. As for Edina, her natural disposition is to see responsibility as a drag, and the company of someone who isn't a vapid club kid annoying - but deep down recognizes that Saffron is a reminder that she's a truly horrible person.
Edina actually has two children - an older firstborn son named Serge who fled as soon as he was able to leave. Like Saffron.When Edina finds out he's gay and living in New York City, she imagines some kind of good looking, well-connected artistic up and coming poster boy for Out Magazine, and to her dismay finds he's a very pedestrian and boring book salesman at the Strand. Which to her dismay is not a UK-themed nightclub full of poppers , Ecstasy and go-go boys, but a used bookstore.
The initial sketch that prompted the show was quite fascinating in one other respect - when French and Saunders (who were roommates at university) were in college Dawn was the one to go to classes, get a part time job and try and "work on a backup plan" in case The Comedy Strip thing ever failed, whereas Saunders had cashed her student grant and was lounging around smoking cigarettes and going to classes when the mood struck her.
And even though Saunders could never be accused of being anything remotely like her alter-ego Edina, she was in show business which involved a lot of vapid schmoozing and working in "creative" fields type stuff. Even though she turned out horribly, horribly bourgeois (her daughter was harassed by activists when she and Saunders showed up in full regalia for a fox hunt) one wonders how much of this is a personal exorcism or at least an exploration of what she might have scared she would become.
Naturally, the kinds of people this show parodies just LOVE it, sweetie darling, and when they wanted to attend THE Mercedes-Benz fashion week in New York City naturally they were completely allowed to film backstage and have Edina show up in character and sit ringside for the fashion show as a location. And welcomed with open arms and greeted IN CHARACTER with enthusiasm.
But like all good things, they must come to an end. One of the major downsides of the show is that it was born from the "shouty" comedy stylings of the early 1980s, in the mold of The Young Ones and its spiritual successor Bottom in which EVERYONE! SHOUTS! AT! EVERYONE! ELSE! ALL! THE! BLOODY! TIME! After a while you lose sympathy for Saffron - who if you think about it was literally abandoned as a child and forced to become her own mother's parent and dealing with the severe psychological trauma resulting from this - because she's always so unpleasantly shouting and scolding. And there's something in Saunders' feelings about that kind of person that make an incredibly cruel joke at that character's expense that when Saffron writes an English equivalent of an off-off-Broadway play about growing up abandoned, the audience thinks it incredibly funny, the actors run with the ball and read the lines as a comedy, and the actors end up going to lunch with their real world counterparts, smooch, kissy kissy, sweetie, darling.
Saunders had an idea for another series that was originally supposed to be called Mirrorball but decided it was really AbFab II and would be lensed as such. But finally Saunders had had enough and after several seasons and a movie drew the curtain on the characters, the property and the show - finding them simply a parody of themselves by this point with nothing more to say.