THE RUBY WAX CONNECTION > Page 1, 2, 3
At the same time this was going on, Ruby Wax had a celebrity chat show on the BBC where frequently she would send up the perceived public personas of her guests. Until this point, Joanna Lumley had established herself in Britain as a glamorous star of The New Avengers, Sapphire and Steel, and a James Bond movie. But she was more than willing to play along with the joke when Ruby "revealed" to audiences that Lumley was in fact a terrible boozehound, with bottles secreted all over her house. Coming as it did during the genesis of what would become Absolutely Fabulous, Wax had inadvertently contributed the necessary ingredient needed for the new series. She would continued to be credited as script editor during the run of AbFab. And Joanna Lumley's image would never be the same again.
The first season of Absolutely Fabulous went out on BBC-2 in 1992, where it was treated as just another "alternative comedy" by the BBC executives. I have to confess, the first time I saw the series I found it too unbelievable. However I was later informed that it was allegedly based on the life of London-based PR guru Lynn Franks, who was tempted to sue afterwards but was persuaded not to because, "Do you really want to go into court and claim that person is you?" This made me appreciate the series a lot more.
At the BBC there is a clear separation of territory between "artsy" BBC-2, and the more mainstream BBC-1 where series are expected to get at least 10 million viewers. In theory, one channel is not supposed to "poach" shows from the other, but in 1993 this is exactly what happened when the second season of Absolutely Fabulous premiered on BBC-1 and was instantly exposed to a much wider audience than the first season and really became a big hit in Britain. In 1994, the series was exported to America's Comedy Central cable channel and became an instant cult hit. The gay community for some reason has taken a particular shine to the series, and Patsy and Edina impersonators are commonly seen in drag acts.
Rosanne loved what she saw in Absolutely Fabulous, and at the time flying high with the ABC network, she bought the rights with a mind to adapt it for American television. Among the rumors then were that Carrie Fisher was going to star in the proposed remake. Fans couldn't imagine how something so raunchy and un-politically incorrect could ever be shown on US TV, and eventually Rosanne no doubt came to the same conclusion and the series was never made. Instead she was able to get Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders to appear as Patsy and Edina on an episode of Rosanne which Saunders co-wrote.
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