Saunders, Jennifer


Saunders, Jennifer
▪ 1996

      In the summer of 1995, the season premiere of "Absolutely Fabulous," a seemingly unlikely television series, brought the U.S. cable channel Comedy Central its largest audience ever; its first episodes had doubled that station's prime-time ratings the previous summer. The Emmy award-winning series—known as "AbFab" to its fans—was a wacky, over-the-top BBC production that, since its debut in Britain in 1992, had attracted a worldwide cult following by maintaining its sophistication while reveling in outrageous comments and behaviour that were decidedly not politically correct. Written by and starring Jennifer Saunders, "AbFab" featured the antics and misadventures of two role models in reverse—Edina (Saunders) and her best friend, Patsy (Joanna Lumley)—as they attempted to experience all things trendy, strenuous exercise excepted. Meanwhile, Edina's disapproving superstraight daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha), was forced by necessity to take on the role of mothering her mother, as Edina concerned herself more with wearing designer-label clothing (though she wore them in ensembles the designers never intended) than with providing for the needs of her daughter.

      Saunders was born July 6, 1958. She attended London's Central School of Speech and Drama with the intention of becoming a teacher. After graduation, she saw an audition notice for the Comic Strip, a London comedy club. She and Dawn French had performed as a team in college, so they auditioned together. They were accepted, and the club proved an excellent training ground. French and Saunders went on to TV appearances in Comic Strip productions, the "Girls on Top" series, and several seasons of their own series, "French and Saunders," as well as starring roles in the 1993 West End stage production Me & Mamie O'Rourke. In 1993 the BBC signed a five-year, £ 2 million contract with them so they would not defect to independent television. When French took a year off from performing, Saunders created "AbFab," basing it on the "French and Saunders" sketch "Modern Mother and Daughter."

      By 1995 U.S. television had already begun trying to copy aspects of "AbFab." Roseanne, who had purchased the U.S. rights to the format, was preparing the American version, and Saunders had a motion-picture version in the works. In addition, even though there were no new episodes of "AbFab," reruns would likely continue to be broadcast indefinitely, and the show's favourite term of endearment, "Sweetie darling," would go on being heard throughout the land.

      (BARBARA WHITNEY)

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Universalium. 2010.

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