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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
New season starts here
William Gallagher
William Gallagher looks at the TV in the news
By the BBC's William Gallagher

We have made it through the summer desert and while it is a little depressing to reach autumn already, there is a flood of good programmes about to start.

The big guns are still to come but even for this first week of the new season, so many are being shot at us that a few have missed.

Queen Victoria
A new BBC drama aims to make you forget the traditional image of Queen Victoria
BBC One's hit the spot with its obligatory Bank Holiday two-part costume drama, Victoria and Albert (from Sunday 26 August, 1900 BST) which tells the love story behind the royals' marriage, and also showing how Bert hated kicking his heels while Vicky ran the country.

Typical man

But this is a Bank Holiday weekend and as sure as DIY stores doing good business, there is a live Time Team Special on Channel 4 - except that it is on Tuesday.

Somebody's finger slipped when they were writing in their diary then, but even a Time Team that has lost its weekend crown is going to be worth watching and there does seem to be one particularly fine reason for moving it.

For Channel 4 is devoting hours upon hours of Monday night to The 100 Greatest Kids' TV Shows (2030 BST) and it looks excellent, if a little long at over three and a half hours.

Fabulous

But then that is nothing compared to the five years we've waited for the return of Absolutely Fabulous (BBC One, Friday 31 August, 2100 BST) even if the waiting was helped by how we did not know it was coming.

Joanna Lumley
Joanna Lumley is happy about returning in Absolutely Fabulous
The story is that writer and co-star Jennifer Saunders had decided not to do any more and instead began a new theatre-set sitcom Mirrorball which was built to star the entire AbFab cast, just in rather different roles.

Reportedly, Saunders changed her mind during the writing of that and saw a way that she could continue Absolutely Fabulous.

It rather took the wind out of BBC One's sails when it proudly announced Mirrorball and then with a cough admitted that it was no longer a series but just a one-off curio.


For the BBC, the return of AbFab is like Elvis asking if he could come back for another tour

William Gallagher
But for the BBC, the return of AbFab is like Elvis asking if he could come back for another tour, it is guaranteed to make the biggest splash of the season.

It has certainly done that for its first week, not only commanding more attention than any other show of the new season but also cunningly being used to slip in something else.

For while all the attention is on AbFab at 2100 BST on Friday, a second series of the Robert Lindsay sitcom My Family is tucked in right before it at 2030 BST.

My Family is almost as much a surprise as the return of Absolutely Fabulous, but not for the best of reasons.

Limp

It does have its moments yet My Family was a reasonably limp sitcom in its first series and if its success were borderline enough to warrant a second run, it surely was not enough to warrant doubling that run to around 13 episodes.

Blame Only Fools and Horses. Ever since that sitcom began poorly but was allowed time to grow into a national institution, every last comedy that struggles is described as the new Only Fools.

We'll see whether it improves but scheduling is always a clue and if this were expected to do well, you'd see it headlining some other night instead of being the filler, the Trout Fishing in Quebec part of Friday night.

See also:

06 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Absolutely Fabulous returns
26 May 00 | Entertainment
Tony Robinson's cunning plan
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