While not a fan of all Britcoms, I stumbled across my favorite a few years ago while browsing through cable channels one afternoon. "Absolutely Fabulous", one of the most popular of recent Britcoms, originally had a broadcast run that ended about five years ago, although reruns frequently aired on the BBC. The show starred Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as Edina and Patsy, two women who consume excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs while attempting to stay hip and high-fashion even while they're getting older. Edina's daughter Saffron (Julia Salwaha) consistently threaten to ruin their fun with those things called "morals", but the battle between the two sides always seems equal; while the two women are mean, the daughter's intelligence eventually wins in the end and only makes the two seem more absurd and hilarious.
The show went off the air about five years ago, but recently, when writer/star Saunders was producing/writing a new show called "Mirrorball" with the same cast, she decided that things weren't working out and to go back to "Ab Fab" once again. The result is moderately funny, but not to the same level of laughs that the original three seasons of the show brought when they were at their best. Out of the six episodes, I felt two to be better than the rest; "Small Opening", where Saffron puts on one of her plays that tells all about her life with Patsy and her mother and "Paris", where Patsy tries to revive her modeling career. There are some highlights throughout the other episodes, but these two were the best of the bunch.
It's great that all of the old characters returned, but the balance seems off. Salwaha's character has a bit less of a role this time around, while there's also a bit too much Saunders and not enough Lumley. They're both quite funny, but they're even funnier playing off one another, which they don't do enough of here. Still, while this doesn't seem quite as lively, sharp or consistently hilarious as the previous seasons, the return of "Ab Fab" is welcome, as it's still funnier than much of what's currently on television today.
VIDEO: To my suprise, this Season 4 box set of "Absolutely Fabulous" presents all six episodes in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. While I've been told that they were shown in widescreen overseas, they were presented full-frame by Comedy Central during their broadcast run late last year in the US. The anamorphic widescreen presentations provide, in my opinion, noticably better image quality than when I saw the shows on cable. Sharpness and detail were both excellent, as the picture appeared crisper and more well-defined than I remember when seeing the shows previously. A couple of slight traces of pixelation are seen, but this was hardly noticable. No other problems were spotted and colors looked nicely rendered.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack to shows is quite good, as the music and dialogue come through clearly. Clearly enough that I heard a few lines here that I missed when I first watched these episodes.
MENUS: Basic main and sub-menus with little animation or other "touches".
EXTRAS: The main supplement included is commentary from actress/writer/ Jennifer Saunders and producer Jon Plowman. It's a suprisingly subdued track at times; while the two chat throughout all of the episodes, they're rather low-key. Still, Plowman does act as interviewer at times and we learn more about the process of writing and creating these characters and situations. The two also point out some interesting details and discuss some funny stories from the set. These commentaries are worth a listen, but I don't know how much repeat-listening value they hold.
The remainder of the extras are included on disc two. The most notable supplement is the "Mirrorball" special, which was the project that Saunders and much of the rest of the "Ab Fab" cast were working on. This episode aired, but it was the only one. It's sorta funny, but it's clear that Saunders and the rest of the cast have created classic characters in "Ab Fab" that should be continued. 12 minutes of outtakes from "Ab Fab: Season 4" are next; they're not as funny as some of the outtakes that were included on the discs for the first three seasons, but there are definitely some gems.
Rounding out the supplements are detailed cast/crew bios, clips of "French and Saunders" and an old clip of Lumley talking about modeling, a photo gallery and trailers for other BBC releases.
Final Thoughts: "Absolutely Fabulous: Season Four" has two great episodes and several highlights during the other episodes, but overall, it seems as if many of the topics were covered better in the earlier episodes, while some of the main characters don't seem quite as involved. Warner's new DVD edition is quite well-done, with very good audio/video and more supplements than I'd expected. Recommended.