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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/fashion business and behaved very badly (drugs, vats of Bollinger champagne, copious cigarettes and meaningless sex) with her bouffanted best pal, Patsy (editor of a fashion magazine) at 34 Claremont Avenue, Holland Park (London).
Work for the dynamic duo was one long lunch break at a trendy restaurant, a spell of shopping at Harvey Nicks or an evening clubbing.
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.
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 son was away at university.
Ab Fab was an immediate hit, securing two BAFTAs for its first season and BBC2’s highest ratings for 1992.
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’ sometimes PR, Lynne Franks.
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).