January 6, 2012
Batten down the DVR. On Sunday evening, two treasures of hallowed vintage return to TV: Absolutely Fabulous and Downton Abbey, both relics of earlier eras (the Edwardian nineteen-teens! the backwardian nineties!) far more compelling than whatever the Kardashians are up to at the moment.
Fashion fans have been eagerly anticipating Eddy and Pats’ return to the airwaves since the Ab Fab reunion episodes were announced this summer. The first, hourlong episode hits Logo and BBC America at 10 p.m. EST. A teaser promises the visit of a midwife and the founding of a Patsy/Edina book club. Fine, fine. Hilarity to ensure, surely. But I’d watch Patsy and Edina read the phone book (something that, in their booziest, most sodden hours, I’m sure they would attempt, with wavering success). Fashion has clutched the popular consciousness all the more strongly in the years since the show went off the air, and fashion shows are legion, but few have ever come as close to fashion’s alternate reality as this. Edina’s beloved Lacroix is, alas, no more. But substitute “Celine” or “Givenchy” for her frantic, insistent, “It’s Lacroix, darling!” and you could be overhearing a conversation front-row. And though Ab Fab is technically parody, I’m not sure the tone would change.
On the dramatic side of the divide, there’s Downton, Julian Fellowes’ sweeping epic of the masters and servants of a sweeping manse in Edwardian England. The series won raves on both sides of the Atlantic (and a Golden Globe nomination for Maggie Smith as the dowager matriarch) as it took its madding crowd into the twentieth century. (Fashion types were also justifiably excited by the costumes, which included gowns, jewels, more hats than a royal wedding, and even a few political implications. When the crusading youngest daughter, Lady Sybil, isn’t campaigning for women to get the vote, she’s instructing her dressmaker to create—gasp—a harem-pant look.) The Great War broke as the last season ended, and season two resumes in 1916, with the war in full swing. Fewer frocks and fancy-dress occasions this season, one imagines. No fewer reasons to tune in.
Absolutely Fabulous airs Sunday at 10 p.m. EST on Logo and BBC America, www.bbcamerica.com; Downton Abbey airs at 9 p.m. on PBS, www.pbs.org.
Photo: Jack Barnes / BBC America & Logo