Just a few hours before the American premiere party honoring the new season of Absolutely Fabulous on Comedy Central ( David Bowie, Tim Curry and Isaac Mizrahi are expected to attend ) , the show's creator and co-star, Jennifer Saunders, is lounging comfortably in a New York City hotel, sipping a decidedly non-Ab Fab beverage: Diet Coke. "I'm saving myself for this evening," she deadpans with a mischievous laugh.
One thing Saunders isn't saving or holding back any longer ( after a five-year hiatus ) , is her incomparable witas evidenced by the six all-new Ab Fab episodes featuring those outrageous trend-chasing, booze-swilling, chain-smoking, pill-popping fashion femme fatales, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone ( Joanna Lumley ) .
Fans of the show around the globe breathed a collective sigh of relief upon hearing the beloved BBC show was returning, but Saunders readily admits that breathing life into these characters five years later was more challenging than she expected.
"It was difficult getting back into the groove this time around, because we [ the actors ] have changed in many ways. Five years later, I found that I didn't have the desire to smoke as much, for example Last time, I was always desperate for a smoke and now I just can't be bothered to smoke. But these characters aren't tired or anything like that. I think that their worst vice now, more than ever, is selfishness. They don't think about anyone but themselves, and I love that!"
In the new season of Ab Fab, premiering on Comedy Central Nov. 12, look for Eddy and Pats to stumble and cavort their way in the 21st Century as Eddy expands her PR empire into the world of television production while Pats has been promoted to managing editor of her glossy magazineespite her continuing over-indulgence in banned substances. Saffy is still trying to sever the umbilical cord and move away from homethis time by attaching herself to various New Labour committees and embarking on a new careers as a playwright, while Mother has taken up salsa dancing and e-mail shopping. And finally, look for Jane Horrocks to play two roles: the scatter-brained assistant Bubbles and a new character, Katy Grin, a saccharine-sweet TV host with a ruthless edge.
Other new season tidbits include: the revelation that "Edina" is a pretentious contraction of Ms. Monsoon's real name "Edwina"; a brand new, state-of-the-art kitchen featuring natural surfaces, an etched glass table and stainless steel accents; Eddy's discovery of her backyard garden ( she never knew she had one ) ; and Patsy's new-found obsession with "Parralox"a drug designed to freeze wrinkles.
"I made the decision to resurrect the show while we were doing Mirrorball," says Saunders, referring to another BBC production. "The cast [ all from the Ab Fab show ] really enjoyed Mirrorballbut I didn't. I wasn't happy with it because it was trying so hard NOT to be Ab Fab. I felt like we cancelled out a lot of the funniest elements in that show because of that."
Saunders, who is married to Ade Edmondson and has three children Beattie, 15, Ella, 14, and Freya, 11, channels inspiration for the show from a variety of sources, but no, none of these characters are patterned after "real" people. "First of all, we film before a live audience, which is how we do every show and you play up much more, you show-off more, if you have a live audience. The actresses also improvise a lot doing rehearsals. Joanna will do anything. She often shocks me, and yes, she is as fearless as she looks! But I try to write down things we come up with during rehearsals, improvisations we end up not using or things the actresses say they want to do and I use that," says the 42-year-old actress, who reveals she often comes up with an episode's jokes before designing its plot line.
Saunders visibly bristles at the mention of the latest "Americanized" version of Ab Fab, this one to reportedly star Kirstie Allie as Eddy and ex-Mick Jagger flame, Jerry Hall, as Pats. "No one has the rights to do it," she says flatly. "I think that must have been an idea that came from somebody's agent," though she admits Roseanne did have her blessing for an Americanized version of the show. "Roseanne tried the American idea ... but because she wanted to be true to it, with all of the drinking and smoking and pill-popping, I don't think it would have worked as a network show. Besides you've already got great shows like Cybill, Sex &and the City and Will & Grace. Though I have to say I don't really like that Dharma & Greg show," she says, clearly amused with herself.
Saunders says there is virtually nothing and no one Ab Fab will avoid in terms of subject matter, though she admits to getting her fair share of negative letters. "There's always someone, somewhere with a pen," she says with a sigh. "Actually, Joanna will usually be the one to ask me on the set, 'Is this something you would really want to hear on television, if that were you?' Sometimes she's right, I think! Really, the only gag we could never pull off is filming a show at that ice hotel. We planned it and everything and then someone told me that it melted and that really pissed me off, I would have loved to have done that one!"
When the first new episode premiered in England earlier this fall, the hotly anticipated show drew impressive figures7.5 million viewers. "I think gay people were important to the show's initial success, especially in America. It was a gay cult hit well before the mainstream got on to it. I love that gay men love the show, and of course they love it, because we have great taste! ( Pauses for a few seconds ) Gay men are always coming up to me and saying that [ the character ] Serge is gay, which I think is funny! He's a bit like Maris on Frasier, don't you think? It's like, will we ever really see him?"
With cryptic episode titles like, "Parralox," "Fish Farm," "Paris," "Donkey," "Small Opening" and "Menopause," fans can only begin to imagine what's in store for this Lucy-and-Ethel-on-crack duo.
But even before the first episode beams into the homes American viewers, die-hard fans are already asking for more. Will Saunders continue to take Eddy and Pats into the new millennium? She says she wants to, as long as she can continue to make them Absolutely Fabulous
AB FAB in review
Absolutely Fabulous ( BBC One ) : Gone, but not forgotten, Edina ( Jennifer Saunders ) and Patsy ( Joanna Lumley ) are back and as absolutely fabulous as ever. The British bombshells have returned to wreak havoc on their families, friends and followers. In the first episode, Edina is doing yoga on the kitchen floor while long-suffering daughter Saffy ( Julia Sawalha ) is preparing for a job interview that would mean she'd be able to move out of her mother's house.
Meanwhile, Eddy's mother, also known as Gran ( June Whitfield ) plants herself in front of Eddy's computer to check her "E"s, now that she's become a "silver surfer" on the web. Eddy's best friend and soul-mate would be singing the praises of the Botox-like injections she's received in her face, if she could only control her facial muscles.
We are reintroduced to Eddy's bubbly and babbling assistant Bubble ( Jane Horrocks ) and her new business partner Katy ( also played by Horrocks ) , and Twiggy ( whom Eddy tells that she is a "gay icon" to get her to appear on a talk show ) and Stephen Gately are among the celebrity guest stars.
You haven't lived until you've seen Eddy in painted-on Burberry's fashions. On a scale of 1 to 10: 7 ( on Comedy Central, beginning Nov. 12 )