After thirty years away from British television, Tracey Ullman returns to the UK with a brand new sketch show, Tracey Ullman’s Show.
How do the BBC show their gratitude? By burying her show at 10:45pm on a Monday night on BBC One. So who exactly is Tracey Ullman? She’s the first woman to ever be given her own chat show in the UK and in America but chances are, here in the UK, you probably wouldn’t recognise her if you crossed her in the street.
And that’s because the last time she was seen on British television was in Girl On Top, alongside Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Ruby Wax in 1985.
For the past thirty years, she has been enjoying great success in America with The Tracey Ullman Show (1987-1990), responsible for first bringing The Simpsons to our screens in a series of shorts, Tracey Takes On... (1996-1999), a HBO sketch show which won many awards including SIX Emmy Awards and most recently, State of the Union (2008-2010), which was Tracey’s satirical look at America today.
Alongside these series she has also appeared in a number of US shows, including Ally McBeal, Will & Grace and How I Met Your Mother.
So if there’s ever a woman who knows a thing or two about comedy, it’s Tracey Ullman, and now thanks to her new BBC One sketch show, Tracey Ullman’s Show, she is about to become a household name all over again and win over a new legion of fans.
The opening episode sees Tracey impersonate some great well-known faces; including Dame Judi Dench, who we first meet shoplifting in the Co-op, but as she’s a national treasure, she finds that she’s able to get away with misbehaving, so much so that on set with Rupert Grint we see her destroy his tablet by scratching it do death with a knife before pouring a can of coke all over it!
From one Dame to another, Ullman also impersonates Dame Maggie Smith who films an audition tape in a bid to start starring in science fiction blockbusters. My favourite impersonation (so far) has to be Angela Merkel.
She describes British irony as “actually not funny” and can’t quite come to terms with Nicola Sturgeon’s obsession with referendums!
Her impression of Angela Merkel is so funny, and so accurate, that after just one episode, I haven’t been able to watch Merkel in the news without thinking of Ullman’s portrayal. High praise indeed!
However, it’s not all about impersonating famous people, Tracey does everyday very well and a great example of this from the new series Karen, a drugs mule who after 28 years inside a Thai prison is now free and with 28 years of Corrie to catch up, finds the modern world a struggle. She can't to go back to her old job in Woolworths or Our Price, as they no longer exist and she doesn’t know what a croissant or a Flat White is. But one thing hasn’t changed though, and that’s her bedroom. Her mum has left it exactly how it was when she left, adorned with Michael Jackson and Adam and the Ants posters.
Other everyday characters include a dangerously accident prone massage therapist, Sally Preston a Feminist MP whose election pledge is to remain topless throughout her term and at the end of the episode there’s a great foot tapping love song to Britain’s local libraries!
Will I watch the rest of the series? Absolutely! Tracey’s comedy is smart, it’s confident and her impersonations are to die for. As I hinted at right at the start of this piece, I think the time slot is all wrong, 10:45pm on a Monday is nothing short of an insult.
My only hope is that the series returns for a second run and is bumped up to the primetime slot it deserves.