It’s a bit of a cliche, but the return of Eddy and Pats to our screens with the American debut of the Absolutely Fabulous 20th Anniversary Special was like seeing old friends again. Any scene with Pats, Eddy, Saffy and Mum sitting around in that gorgeous kitchen (we don’t know many gay men who weren’t envious of that space) and chatting would be enough to thrill us; the fact that the writing was crisp and funny was an almost unexpected bonus. Uncomplicated and straightforward, the special got us jumping right back into the highly dysfunctional lives of these characters, only to reveal, in a roundabout way, that the rest of the culture has finally caught up with the hedonistic duo. You can point to hundreds of red carpet outfits in the last year alone that are equally as eye-searing and unflattering as any getup Eddy ever wore. You can look at the irresponsible, pleasure-seeking lifestyle of Patsy play itself out over and over again in your Lindsays and Amys.
When the show debuted, 21 years ago (They’re a year late for the anniversary, but why quibble?), Eddy and Pats were gloriously vulgar, pleasure-seeking and shallow at a time when that seemed notable somehow. Ostensibly two Baby Boomers (the jury’s out on Patsy’s actual age), the lifelong best friends seemed to be on an endless journey to hold on to their youth at a time when the rest of the world just wanted to move on from the cultural changes of the ’60s. For Eddy and Pats, recapturing the past meant lots of drugs, lots of attempts at sex (some successful; others hilariously less so), ridiculous fashion and an insatiable need to follow the party as it kept moving away from them. These two have always been about living in the now by living like it’s the past; dinosaurs from a forgotten age, constantly befuddled as to why the world doesn’t always recognize their fabulosity and constantly frustrated that the world has passed them by.
But it’s not the early ’90s anymore. It’s the Kardashian Age, like it or not. One of the special’s most hilarious and insightful scenes has Eddy and Pats getting the newly-released-from-prison Saffy up to speed on the current state of pop culture. “Darling, ask me who all these people are,” prods Eddy to her daughter. “Okay, who are all these people?” the dutiful daughter asks patiently. “I DON’T KNOW!!!!” wails Eddy to the rafters and it’s a funny moment, but also a really telling one. Even though Eddy and Pats are frustrated by all the no-name, no-talent celebrities foisted on the public, the fact of the matter is, the Kims and Kourtneys of the world are their true daughters, more so than the hapless Saffy ever was.
In the 20 years since Absolutely Fabulous debuted, the world has been overrun by an army of much younger Eddys and Patsys, just as pleasure-seeking, self-absorbed, and shallow as they ever were, but now with an army of agents and publicists at their beck and call and a reality TV show on their resume. Rather than being relics of a bygone age, like they once were, Eddy and Pats stand as the innovators of a new age of celebrity and the poor dears don’t even know it. It’s a rather brilliant — and extremely subtle — bit of modern social commentary on the part of Jennifer Saunders. The world didn’t pass these two characters by; not really. It just took four decades to catch up to them. We live in a world now populated by little budding Patsys and Edinas, just as tacky and self-absorbed as the originals. And yet not one of them could come close to the sheer hilarity, and yes, absolute fabulousness of our Eddy and Pats.
We missed you, Ab Fab. Welcome back to the world you created.
[Photo Credit: BBC]