Tracey Ullman's State Of The Union: Season 1

Tracey Ullman's State Of The Union: Season 1 (2008)
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Cast: Tracey Ullman
Extras: Promos, Bloopers, Outtakes, Screne Tests, Deleted Scenes

You might remember sketch comedy from the golden age of television courtesy of character geniuses such as Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton. You also might remember the gonzo blitzing satire fests of the seventies and eighties such as "The Groove Tube," "Amazon Women On the Moon" and "Kentucky Fried Movie." Gleason and Skelton's era was at the threshold of America's last point of innocence, or at least fundamental White America's last point of innocence. Gleason had The Poor Soul and of course Ralph Kramden amidst his arsenal of characters, while Skelton's Klem Kadiddlehopper remains his best-remembered alter ego. "Kentucky Fried Movie," however, ushered in a guerilla execution of film comedy in which sketch segments ran amuck in rowdy and undisciplined succession, usually with risqué and taboo elements being smeared into oblivion. Nudity, drugs, gender-bashing, religion and race issues were all trumped for comedic property, taking Dean Martin's sometimes bawdy (and offensive to some ears today) celebrity roasts to an unprecedented outland.

Drifting back before "Kentucky Fried Movie's" time, "Amos 'n Andy" rings perhaps shocking to the politically-correct society of today, back when it was a radio show done mostly by white impersonators and then later with an all-black cast on television. Many today cry foul at "Amos 'n Andy," but to be fair, the iffy stereotyping most people flag against the show was usually undone within minutes by the snap-tight story writing and the hilarious predicaments the cast would find themselves in, usually instigated by the self-empowering Kingfish.

Along the course of comedy history you had "Laugh-In" and subsequently "The Carol Burnett Show" in the evolution of sketch comedy, while Eddie Murphy broke the face of the genre altogether by ushering a new precedent of raunch (for which he's been personally trying to make penance for, given his long succession of family-friendly films of late). In a wartime era of modern America where sensitivity for the both left and the right wing's point-of-view is at an all-time high, we've had gatecrashers like Carlos Mencia, Margaret Cho, the Wayans clan, Lewis Black and of course, Tracey Ullman.

Many people have forgotten that Ullman effectively broke "The Simpsons" by running their primitive short clips on her Fox comedy show of the late eighties. They also sometimes forget the British comedienne is a master of farcical portrayal (not to mention her impressive conquering of American accents), having assimilated herself as a professor of characterization and distant understudy to the comedy greats previously mentioned. Tracey can pull off both sexes with skilled makeup and even more accomplished delivery at becoming whoever she wishes to be. Had she been part of the original "Planet of the Apes" cast, Tracey Ullman would probably be able to singlehandedly pull off half of the advanced ape natives.

"State of the Union" is Ullman's latest venture that ran on Showtime and minus a handful of external actors (such as Scott Bakula in a sequence of skits involving after-hours office affairs), this endeavor is pure Ullman. She's sultry news reporter Linda Alvarez (with emphatic enunciation of the "r" in the last name) and she's Republican blog queen Arianna Huffington, who sounds like a higher-pitched Zsa Zsa Gabor and she's army mom Sgt. Lisa Penning, away on a three-hour furlough in desperate search of her son before she's shipped back to Iraq. Ullman is also soccer star David Beckham as she is The Sopranos star Tony Sirico, complete with English hoity-toity airiness to the former and fuck-you goombah to the latter.

Tracey Ullman effectively fingerpoints many aspects of a fault-filled and fragile contemporary America with these characters, while she attacks A-listers and pop idols with wicked aplomb, be it her impersonations of Cameron Diaz, Suzanne Somers, Judi Dench and Renee Zellweger or even political figureheads such as Tracey's Botox-addicted swipe at Nancy Pelsosi. Whomever Ullman wants to be, she seizes it with chuckle-filled replication. As a running gag through "State of the Union," Ullman portrays Lindsay Lohan's mother Dina in a series of over-the-top segments where the venomous message is suggested that celebrity brats are spawned and nurtured by irresponsible parenting.

In essence, this is Ullman's adjunct purpose to "State of the Union," even when crossing the racial lines as a Mary J. Blige-esque airport security clerk or she's taking on the eastern Indian persona Padma Perkesh, who runs a prescription counter and breaks into gut-busting vaudeville songs about Viagra and would-be drug jackers. Ullman presses the button down on the state of Catholicism today with her Mother Superior Rose Pannatella and she bitch-slaps superstar America with her primadonna celeb writer Laurie David, who is on the rails of a failed marriage from another writer and still feels entitlement of prestige from her disaffected peers.

This is the difference between Carol Burnett's backstage janitor and crowd-pleasing Tarzan yells versus Tracey Ullman's uncanny ability to play alpha and omega with less shtick and a convincing assumption of either sex. There's a subtle sensuality to Tracey Ullman the individual as opposed to her various characterizations to the point she teasingly throws out a few bra-busting glimpses, depending on the lowbrow nature of each persona she's exuding. Ullman is sometimes sexy but never sleazy unless the role calls for her to be and even then she pulls her punches on the skin factor trade (you can catch a quick gander of her in "Household Saints") while jacking up her punchlines in compensatory fashion. Of course, this being Tracey's "State of the Union," there's no doubt a character lingering inside her barricaded host of multiple personalities with a decidedly masculine twitch screaming "Take it off!!!"