Tax the stupid people!! – A fond look back at Absolutely Fabulous, episode 2×05 “Poor”

Theme: Standout TV episodes

Absolutely Fabulous (1992 – 2012) episode 2×05 “Poor”

Me and Absolutely Fabulous, or AbFab, go way back. The comedic genius of writer and creator Jennifer Saunders has been an integral part of my childhood, as a staple of quality TV comedy. First, as one half of comedy-duo French & Saunders, and thereafter as the drunken, ranting, celebrity-culture parasite Edina Monsoon – star of AbFab.

At 15 I sewed multicoloured patches onto bright green pants, kept in place by a gold belt with the word ‘Sexy’ on it. I found a shirt suffering from a bad case of colour-diarrhea in a wonderfully horrendous shiny velour material, and finished off the outfit with a gigantic sunhat. My Edina Monsoon transformation was complete for the last day of elementary school, where it is tradition in Denmark for the graduating classes to dress up and throw caramels to the lower classes. For a day I was Edina, brandishing sweets rather than vodka, but still channeling the wannabe eccentric spirit of my favourite fictional PR business lady.

As a child I would often plague family and friends by reciting full episodes of AbFab to the delight of probably no one but myself. Guests would be inundated with lines from the show:

Eddie: This is… This is a, sort of… corpse… in an open, oaken, oblong coffin… Silky lining. It’s a dead body, Pats.

Patsy: Yeah, but is it art, Eddie?

From the episode “Death”

Eddie: [drunkenly getting into the right side of a French car] Shit! Someone’s taken the steering-wheel!

From the episode “France”

Patsy: Yes I do. I hate you! Just when my life hit a good patch, along you came, you miserable piece of flesh. You should’ve ended up in the dust bin! The incinerator was too good for you! You know, when I heard that Eddie was pregnant, I told her to abort! ABORT, ABORT, ABORT! I said “Chuck it down the pan!”. I said “Bring me…”

Saffy: A knitting needle?

Patsy: A knitting needle!

From the episode “Birth”

etc…. AbFab is quite simply endlessly inappropriate quotable fun.

This summer, AbFab has risen and returned to us, as it is want to do, with a cinematic release. I apparently reside in a country without good comedic sense, so I won’t be seeing my two fave gals on the big screen. I thought I’d still take the opportunity to look back on the show and one of the episodes that has ensured AbFab a permanent spot on my top ten list of favourite TV shows of all time.

In the season two episode “Poor”, Patsy and Edina are confronted with the ‘real world’ that they so often ignore, in a wonderfully down to earth and delightful way. The Monsoon household has run out of milk – the usual Harrods delivery hasn’t arrived – and so Eddie and Patsy must embark on a shopping adventure to the supermarket. A mundane world, as foreign to them as the cocaine-sniffing, Stolli-drinking day to day life of the two best friends would be to most others.

Saffy, ever the responsible daughter, tries to reign in her mother’s wild spending and extravagant lifestyle by tricking Edina into thinking she has spent all of her funds and become ‘poor’. Hence the need for Patsy and Edina to slum it with the regular folk, drive themselves to the supermarket, and buy some milk. Of course it all goes horribly wrong.

‘Poor’ combines all that I love best about Absolutely Fabulous. It has the wildly inappropriate statements, hilarious physical gags, a fabulously rousing Edina rant, and the presence of all five main characters with spot-on glorious interactions.

We start with the ultimate Monsoon lady trio. Sensible Saffy berating her mother, uncontrollable Edina spouting zeitgeisty life lessons, and kleptomaniac Mama Monsoon knowing from years of experience exactly where to hit her daughter where it hurts, poking at the very worst of Eddie’s insecurities.

It’s all downhill from here for Eddie and Patsy. At the office Eddie meets with the accountant, while her assistant Bubble totters around in the background, as ever delightfully useless and strange.

It’s all setup for the episode highlight – the second half of the show. AbFab episodes whose premise rotate around the release of the terrible duo Patsy and Eddie into the wild of civilized society are usually glorious fun. The contrast of their extreme, careless, and selfish behaviour with the structured order of public spaces provides a fountain for comedy gold. Watching Patsy and Eddie’s reckless drive to the supermarket in an obnoxious red convertible, shouting at pedestrians, running red lights, and parking on pavements is strangely freeing. As the audience you are left to shake your head disbelievingly at their outrageous behaviour, while finding a degree of delight and satisfaction in their anarchist disregard for the structures of politeness and order that surround them and encase us in our daily lives.

Patsy and Eddie are ridiculous. They live empty lives chasing a glamorous lifestyle that they will never truly be invited to be a part of. They are horrible human beings most of the time. Reckless, selfish, and egotistical – and yet I love them so. I love them even more because of their continued failure at life and their brash attitude towards anyone outside of their exclusive two-woman club. Eddie and Patsy are tragically out of touch with the real world, while they focus all their energy on desperate attempts to access the in-crowd of celebrity glitz and glamour. “Poor” illustrates this perfectly with great physical comedy and a vigorous Edina-rant as a final chorus to the whole piece.

Eddie: Right – I, the proposed accused, think that, well, I mean, you know, well the day in question was not a good day for me, all right? But I put it to you that I don’t see how any day could have been good the way this bloody country’s run. Well, you know, I was just trying to do my best, trying to get from A to B, do a little shopping. I was trying to take control of my life, you know, only to find that it’s actually controlled for me by petty bureaucracy and bits of bloody paper – ignorant bloody petty rules and laws that just obstruct every tiny little action until you’ve committed a crime without even knowing it! I mean, you know, why can’t life just be made a little easier for everybody, eh? Why can’t it be more like the Continent, and then run down the street in front of charging bulls whilst letting fireworks off out of his bloody nostrils without anyone blinking an eye? Uh? Because it’s probably a local holiday and nobody’s at work because they all want to have just a little bit of fun and they’re not intimidated by some outdated work ethic. I mean, there has to be more to life than just being safe…

Judge: Is there a point to all of this?

Eddie: Yes, Yes!… Why, oh why, do we pay taxes, hmmm? I mean, just to have bloody parking restrictions- and BUGGERY-UGLY traffic wardens, and BOLLOCKY-pedestrian-BLOODY-crossings?… and those BASTARD railings outside shops windows, making it so difficult, so you can’t even get in them! I mean, I know they’re there to stop stupid people running into the street and killing themselves! But we’re not all stupid! We don’t all need nurse-maiding. I mean, why not just have a Stupidity Tax? Just tax the stupid people!

Patsy: [stands up] And let them DIE!

Eddie: Yes!

Other notable AbFab episodes you should check out instantly:

  • France (1×03)
  • Morocco (2×03)
  • Birth (2×06)
  • Huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ (5×04)

 

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