Ab Sad: Yet another amazing Brit comedy is being remade stateside

So here we go again with yet another UK comedy import. This time, Fox is adapting Absolutely Fabulous for American audiences starring Kathryn Hahn as Edina Monsoon (Revolutionary Road, Crossing Jordan) and Kristen Johnson as Patsy Stone (Third Rock from the Sun, Bride Wars). While Johnston is fairly funny, I know nothing about Hahn and get the feeling she was chosen because she mildly resembles Jennifer Saunders. Bottom line—I don't see much comedy on her IMDB page—not promising.

So WHEN are they gonna learn? This stuff doesn't translate—at least, the American networks won't allow it to translate. Somehow, I just don't think they're gonna have the Yankee Patsy brushing coke dust off her nose, do you? And that's not to say that stuff like that is even what made the UK version amazing—but it was certainly part of it. Creator/writer/star Jennifer Saunders was able to write a show that was totally outrageous, and yet full of subtle humor that only comes to you on the second, third or even fourth viewing. You can't just put a bandana on an American actress and expect she can get anywhere near the comic brilliance of Saunders.

I gotta admit that I'm taking this one particularly hard since finding AbFab was kind of a comic awakening for me. I realized women can be funny without having to be cute/pretty or even LIKABLE while doing so (picture Rachel and Monica of Friends posing for a photo like the one above showing the results of a night out on the town). Jennifer Saunders just never ceases to amaze me with where she'll take her comedy and just how intelligent it is despite (or in addition to!) the rolls down the stairs and drunken humor. So what do you think? Am I just being unfair here or is enough, enough with these remakes?

 

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Comments

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Jennifer Saunders is

Jennifer Saunders is creatively involved (I think she's an executive producer), so perhaps it will not suck. Though I will say, I am kind of perplexed as to why we need remakes of everything... as if we couldn't possibly step outside of our cultural comfort zones and collectively enjoy a movie or TV show not made in Hollywood.

I did see that Saunders is

I did see that Saunders is involved. That's a good sign I suppose? But it looks like she's just Executive Producing.

Ricky Gervais has been very supportive of the American Office. It doesn't look like he had his creative hands on it in the beginning, but I've just seen that he has written for the US series. The Kath and Kim adaptation as a fiasco, though, and I'm pretty sure the creators, Jane Turner and Gina Riley, were not involved in the actual translation of the show.

In other UK/US show news, I heard Idris Elba (of The Wire fame) talking on Fresh Air about his current stint on The Office (US). He said he asked to do the part British, which the producers originally agreed to, then 2 days before shooting changed their minds about. Apparently they were worried Americans wouldn't really get it. Doh! That could have been such great comedy—Michael Scott with a new British boss? Such a loss.

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

US/UK Office

Actually, I think the point about Ricky Gervais is the opposite: he was instrumental in beginning the US Office and then stepped out of the creative process. The first episode of the American office has the exact same script as the UK Office, and several of the first episodes are the same or extremely similar. After they got the ball rolling, the US producers and writers took over and Gervais and Stephen Merchant went on to other projects (EXTRAS, anyone?).

The US Office took on a life of its own. It's got a similar underlying theme (it sucks to work in an office?) but the characters and humor are more "American." I know a lot of people like to say the UK version is better. It is undoubtedly edgier. But personally, I like them both. They are just different. In my opinion, you can't really compare them.

Give 'em a chance, but don't expect much

I'm generally sceptical about retreads, remakes, sequels, spin-offs, etc. Frasier, for example, ain't no Cheers. But once in a while, they work. Rhoda was a spin-off of Mary, and Phyllis was a spin-off of Mary AND Rhoda, and I thought all three of them had their moments. But then I like Julie Kavner, and I'd watch Cloris Leachman read a phone book. All I'm saying is there may be hope.

If you see the new AbFab as automatically being a betrayal or an exploitation of the original, you're bound to cop an attitude about it no matter what they actually do with it. I say give 'em a chance....

If they use the original concept and characters as a jumping off point and recreate something with similar elements, but with yankee context, it could just work. The stuff they'll be bringing forward to the American version was NOT what made AbFab so abfab. It was what was done with that stuff. The EXECUTION of the original was VERY british, but weren't the underlying concepts pretty universal? With good, original writing and good performers, it could be great.

But but having said that, I also recommend managing your expectations. It's bound to be absolutely something, but it may not be fabulous. If they're dumb enough or clueless enough to try to recreate the original, or worse yet a watered down yankitized version of the original, they're sure to get just what they'll deserve: abject failure (or would that be "AbjFail"?)

A final thought: The name "Absolutely Fabulous" itself has a kind of british air, and it probably wouldn't really work. So what might American equivalents be?

"Hekka Awesome"?
"The Shit"?
"Way Dope"?
"Hella Sick"?

I know: "Absolutely Phat"!

You're very diplomatic,

You're very diplomatic, sumbitch. i agree, that it would have to be made within the American context and really just use the characters/situations as a basic jumping off point. But why can't they just create NEW comedy over here? I mean, we ARE capable. Arrested Development is every bit as well-written and hilarious—oh wait. They cancelled Arrested Development. Dammit!

By the way. I like your proposed Americanized titles. Perhaps 'Hella Sweet'?

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

absolutely over it already

I grew up watching AbFab and for the first time saw over the top, amazing women being funny, which was a big time inspirational. Granted, I only truly discovered its brilliance years later when the full humor translated (because I was old enough to get it) but seriously, I don't have much faith in this. I don't think the actresses can match the original Patsy and Edina, not to mention they're way younger in the American version (seemingly...) so will the whole premise of the show be different? I will check out AbFab America style only to see if I'm right or entirely wrong.

Jennifer Saunders is

The shame is that despite Americans loving British shows, when remaking them for an American audience, they tend to gut that "British Quirk" and miss the original quality of the show.