The other day, Netflix, TiVo, and my own irregular viewing habits crossed paths and pointed some things out to me. Watching the first season of Absolutely Fabulous and the season finale of Arrested Development made me realize how similar the two shows are, and why they’re both so enjoyable. Both shows revolve around constellations of mean, nasty, spiteful people, but unlike a lot of comedies these days, they’re both more interested in making you love these characters in spite of their flaws than in playing on their unpleasantness to make you cringe.

There’s a difference between these shows and cringe comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm or the current bane of my existence, The Office (both the BBC and NBC versions). All of these shows are about finding the humor in the shortcomings of others, in awkward situations caused by the characters’ faults and foibles. They’re also merciless in the way they avoid justifying their characters’ flaws; there are no redemption arcs for Patsy or Gob. What makes AbFab and AD enjoyable instead of unbearable, though, is the affection they show for their casts in spite of the fact that they’re people you wouldn’t be caught dead around in real life. The Office encourages you to join in its contempt for its miserable employees. Absolutely Fabulous makes you love Edina more with every drunken tantrum she throws, and Arrested Development takes the deluded, type-A Michael and makes him an irresistible leading man. It’s a neat trick, taking characters who can only be described as “unsympathetic jerks” and making them not only objects of fun, but of affection, and it’s what sets AbFab and AD apart from the rest of the bad-behavior crowd.