Twenty-one years after their over-the-hill, past-their-prime debuts, British sitcom icons Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley go international with the debut of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie this weekend. As Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone, Saunders and Lumley play a pair of London’s finest alcoholics and pill-poppers, whose only monitor is Eddy’s disapproving daughter, Saffron. Thankfully for those of us who weren’t alive when Eddy and Patsy first captured the shriveled up hearts of the British public, the old series is on Hulu, and though the most recent seasons are lackluster, the first four boast some of the best sitcom episodes in TV history. MTV is here to provide a guide to your next binge-watch.
The second episode of the series follows the first of Eddy’s many attempts to lose weight, as a former model — and Eddy’s former bully — is in town for a visit. Naturally, Eddy chooses the least natural weight-loss option by opting in on diet pills, and when those don’t work, Patsy suggests liposuction. Eddy doesn’t go through with it, but only because she experiences a nightmare that plays like a scene from a Roger Corman and Dario Argento horror team-up, with her legs getting sucked into a vat and her lips blowing up to the size of her fist. In the end, disaster is averted because the former model is better than dead — but I won't spoil it for you.
The episode where Patsy and Eddy go to Morocco is great too, but Ab Fab’s Season 1 excursion to France includes one of the best scenes of the series. Patsy and Eddy go to a vineyard wine tasting and get too drunk on samples. When they stumble back to their car, Eddy is too wasted to remember that the driver’s seat is on the other side of the vehicle in France, and she throws a tantrum, convinced someone has stolen the steering wheel. Peak relatability, fam — who among us?
The Season 2 premiere starts with Patsy soaking up the press after her affair with a married member of Parliament turns her into a tabloid sensation — only for her faux-shame to become actual shame when the papers print her real age. Patsy and Eddy spend the rest of the episode on a joint trip to the hospital courtesy of Eddy’s top-tier insurance plan, popping unnecessary painkillers and having face peels.
Both of Eddy’s ex-husbands cut off their alimony payments, making Eddy’s lifestyle funding Patsy's drug habits and buying useless clothes unsustainable. The whole episode is worth it to watch Patsy and Eddy interact with the world of non-fantasy that the rest of us inhabit: Eddy parks her convertible on the sidewalk, Patsy can’t use a grocery cart, they steal a crate of champagne. When they’re inevitably arrested, Patsy defends the choice to steal the champagne as a humanitarian effort on behalf of alcoholics.
Patsy falls asleep with a cigarette in her mouth and burns Eddy’s house down. Eddy, Patsy, and Saffy take refuge on the second floor, but when Eddy’s mother locks them in together, the tension between Saffy and Patsy hits an all-time high. Patsy tells Saffy, “You little bitch troll from hell!” about her attempts to get Eddy to abort, but Eddy reassures Saffy that she was wanted with stories from her birth on a carpet of roses. Patsy, by contrast, was born in a cult, where her mother discarded her on her way to find a new lover.
This is the episode with Naomi Campbell, and that should be enough for you. The cameo is amazing because Naomi does not look especially excited to be a guest star on Jennifer Saunders’s series, while in the episode, the fictional Naomi Campbell is also not especially excited to work with a bunch of hacks like Eddy and her ilk. Naomi Campbell, method actress!
A trip into the long-sealed room of Eddy's estranged son, Serge, reveals his porn collection. After Patsy establishes that it wasn’t one of the rags she appeared in, she and Eddy take a look, and Eddy opens up over her long-standing aversion to sex. Patsy decides the best way to help Eddy back into the saddle is to hire them a couple of gay gigolos — one of whom is played by Idris Elba.
If you’re only going to watch one sequence from Ab Fab, make it the opening scene from “Small Opening” — Patsy and Eddy are bingeing on a roomful of drugs when an abrupt buzzing sound causes Eddy to call the cops. As Patsy runs around in a huff flushing all of the cocaine, pills, and hash in Eddy’s house down the toilet, Eddy discovers that the buzz — Patsy asks, “Is it a bee?” — is just the sound of her own cell phone.
Patsy breaks her arm giving Eddy a back massage, and it’s discovered she has the lowest bone density of any human on record. Or, as Saffy puts it, “She is just gristle clinging onto bone powder!”