'Ab Fab' duo back together again

Saturday, February 8, 2003

The cast of "Absolutely Fabulous" (7 p.m. today, Comedy Central) reunite for a new one-hour special. Our hedonistic heroines Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) travel to New York City for Fashion Week. The champagne-guzzling Patsy has left her job as a fashion editor to work as a consultant for a posh boutique. Mo Gaffney returns as the flighty New Ager Bo, the wife of Edina's ex-husband, Marshall (Christopher Ryan). Bo and Marshall have now transformed themselves into Christian televangelists, a perfect sendup for a "Fabulous" lampoon.

The main story revolves around Edina's discovery that her long-lost son, Serge (Josh Hamilton), is in hiding in New York, and that he is gay. Whoopi Goldberg turns in a brief but memorable cameo as a counselor to parents and their gay children who operates a gay wedding racket on the side. "Absolutely Fabulous" makes the most of its New York locations, most notably The Strand, one of the few great used-book stores left in Manhattan. In it, Edina learns that while her estranged son may be gay, he's not exactly fabulous.

Filled with many moving moments, "Normal" deserves praise for depicting Donna's small steps toward liberation, such as her first bus ride alone, her first day on a job at McDonald's, and the terror and indignity of being stared at and stigmatized while shopping for groceries. "Normal" is not a perfect movie, but it is an important film, reflecting Kirstie Alley's great passion and affection for Thornton and her story.

Richard Ruccolo ("Two Guys and a Girl") stars as Michael, a lovesick chef and caterer. He falls madly in love with Gail (Meredith Monroe), who happens to be engaged to vain but generally affable hockey player Gordie (Gabriel Hogan). In fact, Gordie's such a nice guy that he invites Michael to cater their wedding.

Proximity to Gail becomes pure torture for Michael, particularly when he learns how Gordie takes her for granted and doesn't appreciate the eccentricities that make her special. Ultimately, the playful film suffers from Michael's rather bland character and generic sets and uninspired location shots. If you overlook its boring production values, "The One" is a pleasant enough Valentine's Day distraction.

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