Casual drug taking? Check.
Completely insane peripheral characters? Check.
Laughs? Well after a few dismal specials which tarnished the show’s reputation somewhat, Absolutely Fabulous seems to be back on fine, if predictable, form. Not much as changed in the world of Ab fab. Edina is still a fashion victim, Patsy still exists on a diet of drugs and booze and Gran is still a kleptomaniac. The only real change is that Saffy is now an ex-con (the episode’s big ‘twist’) with an adopted African baby. However, despite some hard prison time (she helped people get into the country illegally or something – the finer details really don’t matter) she is still the same quiet and meek girl that puts up with her mother’s antics in a futile and muted rage.
The plot revolves around Saffy’s prison buddy terrorising the family because, through an unlikely coincidence, Patsy owes her a considerable amount of drug money. Luckily, Patsy is owed years and years worth of unclaimed pension and uncashed pay cheques from her magazine job. She pays off the dealer and everything goes back to normal. Thankfully, the plot is pretty much inconsequential, as the main reason to watch this Christmas special is for the reliably superb performances by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.
While the whole episode does have an air of déjà vu, it is still very funny. Notable moments include Edina attempting to talk slang to Saffy’s ‘prison buddy’, Patsy’s beehive of drugs and a surreal dream sequence starring Sarah Lund from The Killing. Yes, that’s actually Sofie Gråbøl from the properly good Danish version, wearing the infamous hideous jumper and all. As ever, Bubbles begins to grate after only a few minutes on screen, despite Jane Horrocks putting in an energetic turn and June Whitfield’s Gran straddles the line between normal and unhinged delightfully. Saffy’s friend Sarah (Torchwood’s Naoko Mori) also makes a return appearance, and is now a fully-fledged paranoid-schizophrenic after her emotional unraveling in season five (it’s still a comedy I promise – She’s a funny schizophrenic).
While the show does lack the energy of its early years, the episode does seem like a return to form for the sitcom. Festive specials can often feel lacklustre in comparison to the originals series (The Royle Family being a prime disappointing example), however Ab Fab seems to avoid this by making the nonsensical plot the backdrop and pulling focus to the characters we know and love. It was (and I hate myself for typing this) fabulous.