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Patsy, Eddy are back? Break out the champers!

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Oh, darling, it's been far too long.

That, no doubt, was the reaction of many fans of imported Britcoms when they learned last year that new episodes of the cult classic Absolutely Fabulous were being produced. Well, they've finally arrived in Canada (the first of two new instalments airs tonight at 7:30 on Vision TV), and fans of the U.K.'s most wretchedly excessive dithering duo, Edina and Patsy, will not be disappointed by what they see.

It's been 20 years since Patsy and Eddy (Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders) arrived as a British TV series, spun out of a sketch on the iconic French & Saunders show, and the better part of a decade since the last time the girls bade their fans farewell in the most recent of their "final" AbFab wrap-ups. But with 20 being the big-deal anniversary that it is, series creator Saunders couldn't resist the temptation to bring Patsy and Eddy back for one more brittle-boned kick at the can.

To her credit, Saunders doesn't merely drop us back into the AbFab world as if no time has passed and nothing has changed -- it's the present day (-ish), and as much as they'd like to think they're still the party girls they've always been, it's clear that the codependent BFFs have lost more than a step since the last time we saw them.

They're still stuck in a time warp, of course -- when tonight's episode, titled Identity, begins, Eddy, clad in a "Frankie Says Relax" T-shirt, is being roused from a semi-comatose state by a chorus of alarm clocks -- but they're also concerned with somehow remaining relevant and hip -- when she descends to her work area, Eddy instructs assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks) to update her website, post to her blog, add to her vlog and do whatever it is people do on Twitter.

Then she's off on a mysterious (chauffeur-driven, of course) car trip that takes her to a very dodgy neighbourhood, and the gates of H.M. Longview Prison, where she awaits the release of an inmate -- who, shockingly, turns out to be someone other than Patsy.

In fact, it's Eddy's straight-arrow daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha), who has just finished a two-year stint for inadvertently trafficking in fraudulent passports while trying to help refugee applicants. And it seems she's learned a thing or two during her time behind bars.

And when one of her jailhouse friends -- a recently released drug dealer -- drops by the house for a visit, worlds collide (think drug deals, think Patsy; it's not hard to figure out) and Eddy and Patsy are forced to become -- gasp -- resourceful in order to extricate themselves and Saffy from a very sticky situation.

It is, in the classic AbFab manner, wild, loud, silly and unapologetically stupid fun. Patsy and Eddy are forced by circumstances to confront the reality of who/how old they really are (there's even a well-delivered old-age-pension joke that affects the outcome of the storyline), without, of course, acquiring anything in the way of knowledge that they will carry with them beyond the end of this 22-minute episodic gem.

The second of the new episodes, Job, airs next week, with Eddy feeling bad after Saffy says she doesn't want her daughter, Jane (though Eddy insists on calling her Lola), spending time with such a useless grandmother. Eddy decides it's time to get a real job, and then actually gets one, mostly accidentally, acting as manager to a famous French actress looking to launch a singing career.

Former Spice Girl (and frequent AbFab drop-in) Emma Bunton and Brit-pop icon Lulu make guest appearances.

A third new episode, with a 2012 London Olympics storyline, is slated to air in the U.K. this summer.

When it arrives, I'm sure it, too, will be all that the series' title suggests.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

TV REVIEW

Absolutely Fabulous

Starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley

Tonight at 7:30

Vision TV

4 stars out of 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2012 D4

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