A fashion tip for Ab Fab: don't change a thing

TV Review
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The Independent Culture
Last weekend one of the Sunday style supplements carried a full- page feature on the fashionability of roller-blading. Last night, in Absolutely Fabulous (BBC1), Edina made her entrance on wheels, staggering down the kitchen stairs on a pair of gleaming in-line skates. If you'd seen the article, the coincidence gave you a little buzz of pleasure. Of course, Edina would have been in the shops by lunchtime, flashing the plastic for the most expensive pair available, and we had arrived just in time to see the fad fizzle out.

It was fun, this little spark of static, jumping between a satire and its object, but Absolutely Fabulous doesn't really depend on topicality. It's the state of mind that matters, the twitchy faith in having the right things as a means to inner peace. Edina, wild-eyed and slightly panic- stricken, is riding the bronco of fashion and all she can think of is staying on, through every curvet and buck.

The series started well, last week, overcoming a strong sense of dja vu (didn't the last series include one of those swirly opening dream sequences?) with a series of excellent jokes. I encountered a colleague the following day who expressed her disappointment. But what about the gag where Edina dowses through her wardrobe for suitable garments, I asked? Oh, yeah, that was funny. And what about the bit where she threatens to undergo Repressed False Memory Therapy? Well, yes, she'd laughed at that too. And at the Personal Organiser with Biorhythm function which "tells you when you're ready for a meeting, not the other way round". And at the one-line dismissal of Conran style-spreads - "Piece of muslin and a terracotta tile and suddenly it's Tuscany". I wish I could be disappointed every week, I thought.

Last night's episode was a touch less quotable, a little more contrived in its progress towards punchlines. But it also showed how the characters have solidified enough to make the most casual remark funny. Offered some seedless grapes, for example, Bubble replied with her own sweet brand of dislocated logic. "I like them," she said, "I'd never go back to pips now." Kate O' Mara played Patsy's glittering sister Jackie, popping off to the loo every minute to be sick and munching compulsively on the potpourri. She also blitzed Edina's plans to see in the New Year in London's hottest night-club, forcing her to stay at home with her family. Here Jennifer Saunders proved that she can get laughs with her acting alone. "I am now being taken into the sitting room ... to watch the New Year in... on television" she announced in tones of unbridled horror; the weight of curdled loathing she gave to the site of this humiliation was worthy of Edith Evans.

A Little Local Difficulty: No Other Purpose (BBC2), a clinically bleak film about one gun and three murders, was filmed before the paramilitary ceasefire. The information that this was so, in the final credits, rather coloured your view of what you had seen, in particular the sense of continuing despair expressed by three women widowed by the same Browning pistol. But if the future looks a little different now, the past will remain much the same, and this was mostly reminiscence - of the odd details of life in a place where a shopping centre can become a killing ground, where hanging out your husband's uniform shirts might prove to be a death sentence. Carlo Gbler's film made something of a fetish of the weapon in question, turning its barrel slowly towards the viewer with a murderous stare, as if it was the problem itself. But he included a contradiction of this morbid glamourisation - "How can you have feelings about an inert piece of metal?", asked one of the widows. "It doesn't have powers of thought or choice... it's the bones and flesh behind that gun that has those choices."

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