1 9 9 2 – 2 0 1 2 (UK)
39 x 45 minute episodes
Developed from a sketch on French and Saunders, this tale of rich bitches Edina ‘Eddy’ Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) – 1960s firebrands who never grew up – took the public by storm from the moment it first aired on 12 November 1992.
Single mother Eddy had her own PR business and behaved very badly (drugs, vats of Bollinger champagne, copious cigarettes and meaningless sex) with her bouffanted best pal, Patsy (a magazine fashion director) at 34 Claremont Avenue, Holland Park in London.
Work for the dynamic duo was one long lunch break at a trendy restaurant, a spell of shopping at Harvey Nicks and an evening clubbing – all arranged by Eddy’s totally incompetent PA, Bubble (Jane Horrocks).
Striving to be seen in all the right places, rubbing shoulders with every celebrity they could find, they ladled out the “darlings” and “sweeties” as they struggled to reclaim their lost youth whilst enabling each other in a textbook codependent and dysfunctional relationship.
An inverted generation gap theme between Eddy and her staid and sensible daughter ‘Saffy’ (Julia Sawalha) triggered much of the comedy. Veteran comic actress June Whitfield played Eddy’s mother. Eddy’s unseen son, Serge, was perpetually away at university.
Eddy’s ex-husbands Justin (Christopher Malcolm) and Marshall (Christopher Ryan) appeared occasionally and a superb semi-regular support cast included Helen Lederer as Catriona, Harriet Thorpe as Fleur, Kathy Burke as Magda, Naoko Mori as Sarah and Mo Gaffney as Bo Turtle.
Ab Fab was an immediate hit, securing two BAFTAs for its first season and BBC2’s highest ratings for 1992. The second series screened on BBC1 and featured appearances from Suzi Quatro, Lulu and Germaine Greer.
By the third series, the show was screening in South Africa, Iceland, Australia, Poland and the USA.
A rapturous response Stateside resulted in Rosanne Barr buying the rights for a US version, which floundered when the ABC network wanted to remove the drunkenness and swearing!
Ab Fab ended after five series, but its continued popularity gave rise to several specials and, in 2016, a film.
Edina Monsoon is rumoured to be based on Jennifer Saunders’ real-life friend and sometimes PR, Lynne Franks. Saunders has denied basing the character on Franks, but Franks commented in 1995 that: “Jennifer has said it’s not me, and I accept it’s a composite character. But I assume she took certain aspects. After all, how many Buddhist PRs are there with two children and a secretary and office like that?”
The show’s theme song, Bob Dylan‘s This Wheel’s On Fire, was sung by Jennifer Saunders’ husband, Adrian Edmondson, with Julie Driscoll (vocalist on the original 1968 hit version by Brian Auger and the Trinity).
Edina (Eddy) Margaret Rose Monsoon
Saffron (Saffy) Monsoon