When it was revealed that Samantha Jones had fallen out with Carrie and co. and taken both her life and her PR company to London, the Internet erupted with dreams of Kim Cattrall’s character crossing paths with Lily Collins’s titular Emily in Paris. But sweetie, darling: in an imagined world where all TV shows take place in a single universe, there’s already an iconic PR maven a bit closer to Samantha—in the form of Absolutely Fabulous’s Edina Monsoon.
Created by and starring Jennifer Saunders, AbFab is a comedy touchstone in Great Britain, but still retains a cult following and massive influence in America. In other words, you can’t talk about the profession of fashion and lifestyle PR on television without her; these other characters might not even exist.
Edina represented both an over-the-top yet close-to-the-bone satire of the world of public relations and fashion—and those who work (and we use that term lightly) in those industries. AbFab wasn’t a flattering portrait at all, and yet fashion insiders remain transfixed by the exacting accuracy of its jokes (PR and fashion heavyweights used to host glitzy watch parties back in the day). Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones, meanwhile, represented something of a matter-of-fact celebration of the profession (granted, the show was more often focused on the access and status the job lent Samantha and her friends and less the inner workings of her office life). Emily and her life in Paris, however, is often dinged for feeling like it was conjured from an outsider’s mood board (though, of course, Emily does face professional hardships for the sake of both realism and dramatic tension).
What if we found ourselves suddenly transported into the world of TV and were on the lookout for a PR pro to handle our business? Who would we chose? Who is television’s best PR woman?
Emily may have ended season two with new career prospects, but none of them involve running her own namesake firm like both Samantha and Eddie just yet. Therefore, until she launches EIP PR, she’s out of the running.
Samantha Jones PR, meanwhile, seems to be a rather successful business, but is portrayed as a one-woman boutique agency instead of a mega-firm. We meet two of her assistants throughout the run of the show, but she otherwise seems to have no underlings. Which, we guess, made it easier to pack up shop and move to London.
This leaves us with Edina’s Monsoon PR, the fates of which seem to ebb and flow depending on what makes for the best joke. But at its height, the company does seem to be a full-fledged firm with a robust staff milling about in the few episodes Edina actually shows up to her office. She didn’t win the Edina Monsoon PR’s PR of the Year award, but she was nominated, and that has to count for something.
Actual Work Ethic
Half of the AbFab joke is that Edina doesn’t actually do much work. Half the fantasy of Sex and the City is that Samantha and her friends have mastered the perfect work-life balance. Which, of course, leaves us with Emily—whose midwestern work ethic seems outrageous to the Parisians around her, but also seems to be her biggest professional saving grace.
Winner: Emily (although one could argue this actually makes her a bit of a loser).
In PR, who you know rather than what you know is often of greater importance. In other words, it’s a nightmare career for someone who doesn’t consider themselves a people person.
Emily mostly hangs out with the girl whose boyfriend she slept with and a rebellious heiress who’s living out her “Common People” phase. Eek. Edina is best friends with the fashion director of a major magazine, which is a bit of a coup (even if, of the two, Patsy manages to do less actual work). Plus, she does seem to find herself rubbing shoulders with the most bold-faced names (Naomi Campbell, Twiggy, Christian Lacroix), but that may be because AbFab was the series most conducive to celebrity guest spots. Problem is, none of them seem to respect Eddie much. Samantha doesn’t appear to have quite the same celeb power in her little black book, but she’s never left wanting for an introduction or a favor. Plus, almost everyone who crosses her path seems to actually respect her PR prowess.
Let’s face it, PR can be more about image than actual substance, and being able to dress the part is a job requirement.
Edina probably has the most high-fashion grails in her closet (imagine the amounts of vintage Lacroix, Gaultier, and Moschino she owns), but half the joke of the show is that she’s a hapless fashion victim. Emily’s style sense is a bit of a joke too, though maybe more so on Twitter than in the script. That leaves us with Samantha, whose always knew how to find the perfect balance of professionalism, sex appeal, trendiness, and real personal style.
A Finger on the Pulse
If you want to shape trends, you have to know what they actually are first.
Emily, charmingly, is completely helpless when it comes to anything other than the tastes of the most basic, Instagram-addicted Millennials. She’s by far the least hip of the three. Samantha seems to have an iron grip on what’s going on in Manhattan above 14th Street, but her speciality is a bit limited even, if it is more rarified. Edina, meanwhile, absolutely can not help herself from falling prey to whatever new trend emerges: a cringe-y Western take on Eastern Spirituality, dubstep, conceptual art, the most avant-garde fashion. Perhaps she doesn’t fully understand why these things are popular, but she’s damned if she doesn’t know that they’re happening.
PR can be a high-wire act. Tastes change. Guests cancel. Clients are prone to mood swings.
Samantha, often SatC’s font of wisdom, always seems to have her affairs in order. (She did manage to save her back-stabbing former assistant’s Hamptons party with a snap of a finger in that one episode; though, to this day, we do question the necessity of her sex tape strategy.) Meanwhile, any success Edina has in her career is always a bit of a happy accident. Frankly, it is Emily Cooper who manages to have some of the shrewdest moments of genius. Now, do we fully understand the appeal of ideas like putting beds outside of iconic locations? No, not at all. But her ideas often make her clients happy, which is half the PR battle.
PR can be an odd, tricky business—but occasionally, the ability to actually deliver on the idea of, you know, shaping public opinion does matter. Emily shows promise, but we have a feeling her greatest work is still ahead of her. While personally, we still want to wear Pop Specs, Edina’s schemes are rarely successful. Samantha, however, did make getting a hot waiter she had a thing for a billboard in Times Square look easy.
There we have it. We’re hiring Samantha in this scenario, even if she does manage to make the job look easier than it actually is—and that’s a bit of a PR coup in and of itself. However, if either Claudia Bing or Sylvie herself were to submit briefs, that might change things.