Opinion: Absolute Power is a step up from Ab Fab

According to The Sunday Telegraph's diary column, Chime chairman Lord Bell isn't particularly happy to hear that Pottinger and Bell (any similarity of fictitious characters and organisations being a coincidence, of course) has landed an account representing Osama bin Laden's more user-friendly cousin. This is despite the fact that the consultancy apparently helped to tie up a deal giving its client control of Richard Branson's airline - a PR coup by anyone's standards.

You can't blame Bell for not being amused and I am sure that away from the firing line, there are others less than happy about BBC2 comedy Absolute Power's interpretation of PR.

But before the industry throws its toys out of the pram in a fit of righteous indignation at once again being the butt of the joke, it is worth pointing out that at least the joke has become more sophisticated.

PR has long been an easy target for comedy writers - from the exile of PR consultants, hair dressers and estate agents to a far distant planet in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to Jennifer Saunders' Bolly-riddled fashion and celebrity PRO Edina Monsoon.

Why? Well, bear in mind how many people in the industry find it hard to get their parents to understand what they do for a living, and you will probably have the answer. Lack of understanding leaves enormous scope for comedic interpretation.

But shouldn't we be counting our blessings? In celebration of PRWeek's forthcoming 21st anniversary, we have been creating a list of the 100 most influential PR professionals of the past two decades, in consultation with the industry. So pervasive is the influence of Saunders' ridiculous creation that she was nominated for inclusion - while the results are clothed in secrecy until our

7 October issue, I can assure you she didn't make it. But the fact remains that Absolutely Fabulous has led to the majority of the population believing that all PR people do is go to parties and drink consumer journalists under the table.

At least Stephen Fry's Charles Prentiss is clever. His sidekick, John Bird's Martin McCabe, is equally Machiavellian and urbane, with their acolytes ingenious and ruthless to varying degrees. Okay, their tactic to help Reza Bin Laden purchase British Airways backfired spectacularly (although given last week's chaos at Heathrow, their client may have been rather relieved). But if you have got to have fun poked at you, Absolute Power has got to be an improvement on Absolutely Fabulous.

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