Tracey Ullman's Show

For the American 1980s show, see The Tracey Ullman Show.
Tracey Ullman's Show
Genre Sketch comedy
Starring Tracey Ullman
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 6 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Tracey Ullman
  • Myfanwy Moore
  • Ben Farrell
Producer(s) Caroline Norris
Cinematography Martin Hawkins
Editor(s) Nigel Williams
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s)
  • BBC
  • Allan McKeown Presents
Distributor DRG (Worldwide)
Original network BBC One
Picture format 16:9 (1080i HDTV)
Original release 11 January 2016 (2016-01-11) – present (present)
External links

Tracey Ullman's Show is a British sketch comedy television show starring Tracey Ullman. Tracey Ullman's Show premiered on BBC One on 11 January 2016.[1] The programme marks her first project for the broadcaster in over thirty years, and her first original project for British television in twenty-two.[2][3]

The BBC announced that the programme had been recommissioned for a second series on 5 March 2016.[4]

Premise and format

Each episode offers a glimpse of life in Britain taking place within a 24-hour period for many of its inhabitants (the everyday and the very famous). Locals, tourists, even those smuggling themselves into the country are included. A typical episode is made up of short sketches, with one ongoing storyline that's referred back to throughout. Each episode features an original song penned by Ullman and composer Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer: The Opera).[5]

I want it to be a funny show, an eclectic show representing a day in England, dawn to dusk, showing all the people from this global hub.
Tracey Ullman, Daily Express[6]


In late 2014, whilst promoting the film Into the Woods, Tracey Ullman revealed plans to write something new for television in the following year. "Every five years it comes to me to sort of do what I do again and I throw a load of stuff at the wall, and some of it works and some of it obviously doesn't, but that's the nature of television. I love TV."[7] Her American Showtime series, Tracey Ullman's State of the Union ran for three seasons, concluding in 2010. It was a departure and a return of sorts. Instead of playing just original characters (a staple of Ullman's comedy) the show saw her imitating real people (celebrities, politicians, etc.) something she hadn’t done since her early days at the BBC with Three of a Kind, the show that made her a household name in Great Britain.

In 2014, Ullman was invited BBC One controller Charlotte Moore and head of comedy production Myfanwy Moore to discuss the possibility of working on a new project together for the broadcaster.[8] The trio hit it off and came up with a concept: a multi-camera show in which Ullman plays "a multitude of diverse and distinct characters living in, or visiting, the busy global hub that is the UK."[9]

Whilst visiting, Ullman noted the vast number of women now heading the corporation, a stark contrast to her early days at the BBC. "When I was there years and years ago, it was five men in bowties who talked about the war and The was so male dominated."[8] However, some things remained the same: "The important things haven’t changed, though. The BBC still provides an environment that allows you the freedom to create the best shows possible."[2]

"I mean, yeah, I've done that eclectic multi-character thing. I'm getting older now, and you begin to think, God, what's funny? What can you say? It's tough. It's bleeding rough out there. [Adopts a deep news anchor voice], "Terrorism, cyber-terrorism threat, breaking news, blackened stool problems, are you allergic to this? Have you got a lawsuit? Did you take this drug in the last six months? You could die! Five things in your refrigerator that could you kill you!" It's like, good God, what can we laugh at? Don't say this, don't say that. But there's always something to laugh at."

— Tracey Ullman in December 2014, on the subject of possibly doing a new show.[7]

Ullman revealed her long-held desire to return to British television in 2015. "I have lived in America for a really long time, but I was never away from England. I was always there, I just didn't work there. I wasn't offered anything there really. So when the BBC called me last year, I was really thrilled. I mean, I wanted to do something England. The last thing I'd done was with Michael Palin. We did [Tracey Ullman: A Class Act] in 1992, I think. We did a show about the class system in Britain and it was just wonderful fun. And from that HBO picked that up and I did [Tracey Takes On]. So it started from a British show."[10]

After hitting it big in the United States, her star began to wane in Britain. Ullman, who likes to study people for creating characters, says that she's enjoyed the anonymity when living in London. "I can observe people on the tube without them recognising me."[11]

On 4 March 2015, a formal announcement was made, confirming the project, with Ullman saying that it was a 'privilege to be doing this,' and "I still feel as inspired to inhabit people as I did when I was six, standing on the windowsill in my mother's bedroom, putting on a show." Shane Allen, controller of comedy commissioning added: "It's about time the Americans gave her back. Tracey has been the missing gem in the British comedy crown for too long. Talent doesn't come much bigger and the BBC audience is in for a huge treat."[2]

A fan of Armando Iannucci, Ullman assembled a writing team which includes Veep scribes, Georgia Pritchett, Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley, with The League of Gentlemen's Jeremy Dyson acting as both series writer and script supervisor.[8]

The show marks the first time in a long time that Ullman has made a series without her producing partner and husband of thirty years, Allan McKeown, who died in 2013. "Emotionally it was great to get out after having worked with my husband for 30 years." The show is, however, produced by the BBC along with McKeown's production company, Allan McKeown Presents (now run by Ullman[12]) "So he is still presenting me..."[8]

The show features a laugh track, something Ullman was hesitant about using. "That's a very BBC thing to do. I hate things like that on a show. But when we played it, it kind of worked. It makes it sound like you're connecting with people. Comedy has gotten a bit cold lately, and neurotic and depressed. This is a nice BBC One family show. It's not too arch or bleak." All laughter is genuine and was captured via live screenings before a studio audience at BBC Radio Theatre.[13]


After her breakthrough award-winning performance at the Royal Court Theatre in the improvised play Four in a Million, the BBC offered Ullman her own show.[14] She was quickly cast in A Kick Up the Eighties and Three of a Kind. becoming the first British woman to be offered her own sketch comedy show.[15] Her performance earned her a BAFTA award in 1984.[16] She became a household name with the British media affectionately dubbing her 'Our Trace.'[17] In 1983, she started a successful (and brief) music career, which extended itself across the pond in the United States. In 1985, she teamed with comedians Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in the sitcom Girls on Top. Ullman's husband, Allan McKeown, a successful television producer, convinced her to take a gamble on a career in America.[18] After turning down due to creative differences, she teamed with famed television and film producer James L. Brooks who had a deal with the yet-to-be launched Fox network.[19] They created and launched a sketch comedy vehicle The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. Ullman received critical acclaim and was rewarded with a slew of accolades. The show would go on to win the Fox network's first Emmy award.[20][21] The Tracey Ullman Show, while American-based, included Ullman's British sensibility with a variety of British characters created for her to play alongside American. Cartoon bumpers, The Simpsons were featured in the show.[22]

Though the British media continued to follow and exploit her success in the United States throughout the latter part of the 1980s, Ullman’s visibility on the small screen in the UK waned until almost 1990 when the BBC finally picked up The Tracey Ullman Show which was winding down its four-year run on Fox. The broadcaster made significant edits to the show, eliminating The Simpsons shorts entirely. Ullman had even attempted to persuade the broadcaster to buy The Simpsons when the characters were spun-off into their own primetime sitcom.[23]

In 1992, Ullman returned to British television with the ITV television comedy special, Tracey Ullman: A Class Act.[24] She was joined by Monty Python alum, Michael Palin. A Class Act took a satirical jab at the British class system. The special proved to be a critical success, garnering the attention of American cable television network, HBO. The network approached Ullman with the idea of doing a special for them, with the caveat that she take on a more American subject. Tracey Ullman Takes On New York was another critical and award-winning success, sparking HBO to offer Ullman her own series. Tracey Takes On... ran for four seasons (1996–1999), raking up numerous accolades and critical praise.[25] It eventually aired on Channel 5 in the UK in 1998.

In the 2000s, Ullman's focus shifted to film, whilst continuing to produce specials for HBO. She launched a fashion internet company and chat show Tracey Ullman's Visible Panty Lines for Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen network in 2001, and in 2008, returned with a new sketch comedy series for Showtime, Tracey Ullman's State of the Union. State of the Union focused primarily on American subjects, however, it also featured Ullman impersonating English celebrities such as Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, JK Rowling, and David Beckham. Despite its potential crossover appeal, Ullman was unable to secure the rights to a television broadcaster in the United Kingdom.[26]

In 2009, Ullman was awarded her second BAFTA, this time the Lifetime Achievement Award.[27]

Opening title sequence

The opening title sequence which features both a young Tracey (played by Ruby MacDonald[28]) performing on a bedroom windowsill along with an adult Tracey is meant as a tribute to Ullman's mother who died in a fire at her retirement flat in early 2015 while the series was in its writing phase. When Ullman was six, her father died of a heart attack and her mother was left to raise her and her sister alone with very little money. In the aftermath of their father’s death, Ullman would put on shows in her mother's bedroom on her windowsill in an effort to cheer the family up. "That little scene in the bedroom dancing around that was where everything started for me."[29]

Recurring characters and origins

Celebrity impersonations and reaction

I wanted to do a series of national treasures, which I think we have in England.
 Tracey Ullman[33]

The show features Ullman playing an array of real-life people aside from a hearty helping of original characters. Impersonations include Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and members of the British Royal Family, Camilla Parker-Bowles and Carole Middleton. Ullman received considerable international attention for her portrayal of a German Chancellor Angela Merkel.[34] "I'm fascinated by Angela Merkel, so I wanted to be Angela Merkel. I think they're like Trojan horses, these impersonations. I can dress up like them and make them whatever I want them to be, like putting a personality within them. I didn’t want to just do a straight impersonation. I wanted to try and show their lives. I always imagine that Angela Merkel is someone that has to be with men all the time, in these rooms having meetings... And I thought, 'I wonder what she’s like when she’s with her best friend and they just talk about hair and make-up?'" BBC Director-General Tony Hall payed a visit to the set show and caught Ullman playing Merkel singing jazz and scatting about the state of European affairs. "Tony Hall came down to the set the day I was singing as Merkel. He said: 'Would you please do this on Newsnight with me?'"[35]

Ullman contends that her impersonations are played with great admiration and affection. "I hope they take it in the right spirit!" One person impersonated who's reacted positively to her portrayal as a kleptomaniac Dame who wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting public is actress Judi Dench. Dench's daughter, Fenty Williams posted a clip of Ullman playing her mother on Facebook with the caption, "brilliant, just brilliant."[36] Critics also praised the impersonation, with one writer saying: "Her impersonation of Dench is so spot on that, for a second or two, you can’t be sure she is not the real deal. Her performance easily transcends the make-up thanks to her mastery of posture, gesture and facial control as well as pitch- perfect vocals."[37] While filming on location, on-lookers asked if they were filming a James Bond film after catching Ullman in character. At the 36th London Critics' Circle Film Awards, Judi Dench introduced herself as "Tracey Ullman."[38]

One person Ullman doesn't expect to have the same reaction as Dench is the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles. "For Camilla, I don’t think I’m going to get any Facebook approval!"[36] In the series one, she plays both grandmothers to the youngest heir to the British royal throne, Camilla Parker-Bowles and Carole Middleton. "It occurred to me that Prince George must get taken to different grandmothers, you know? We just imagined [an earthy] Camilla: Do you want to drown a kitten in a barrel or put your hand up a horse's uterus?"[31]

Maggie Smith is portrayed as an actress who prefers to work from home (or not work at all). Smith's portrayal was inspired by an incident that reportedly took place on the set of Downton Abbey. Ullman: "[...] I heard a rumour that one day she was miserable on the show and they said, 'Maggie, what can we do? What can we do to make you more comfortable?' And she went, [in Smith's voice] 'Write me a death scene.'"[39]


(left to right) Ullman as Judi Dench, herself, Angela Merkel


SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1611 January 2016 (2016-01-11)15 February 2016 (2016-02-15)
Special30 December 2016 (2016-12-30)

International syndication

HBO has picked up the American rights to the show; the first season began airing 28 October 2016.[40]

Country Broadcasters
Afghanistan Afghanistan ITV Choice
Algeria Algeria ITV Choice
Bahrain Bahrain ITV Choice
South Korea South Korea ITV Choice
Taiwan Taiwan ITV Choice
Canada Canada HBO Canada
United States United States HBO
Germany Germany NDR, ZDF

Home media

The first series of Tracey Ullman's Show was released on DVD in the UK on 22 February 2016 by Acorn DVD.[41]


  1. "BBC - Tracey Ullman's Show - Media Centre". BBC. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 "Tracey Ullman returns to BBC with own comedy show". BBC. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  3. "BBC One announces the cast for brand new family comedy The Kennedys". BBC. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  4. "BBC One's Tracey Ullman's Show to return for second series – Media Centre" (Press release). BBC. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  5. "12 facts about Tracey Ullman's Show". Western Morning News. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  6. "Tracey Ullman returns to Brit TV with a new BBC sketch show". Daily Express. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Tracey Ullman takes on the current state of the entertainment industry". Metro. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Tracey Ullman: one of a kind". Televisual. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  9. "BBC celebrates its commitment to comedy with raft of new commissions". BBC. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  10. "The Tracey Ullman show". 12 September 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  11. "Tracey Ullman: 'My face is good for impersonations'". The Guardian. 10 January 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  12. "Tracey Ullman Sketches Out Her Next Chapter With New HBO/BBC Series". Variety. 27 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  13. "Tracey Ullman Says Her New HBO Sketch Series is the Antidote to TV's Rash of Bleak Comedies". Indiewire. 28 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  14. "Tracey's Papers". The Face: pg.69.
  15. "Tracey Ullman returns to BBC with first television series in 30 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  16. "BAFTA Awards". BAFTA. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  17. Rosenberg, Howard (April 17, 1988). "QUEEN OF THE SKITCOM : Tracey Ullman Has Lost Her Prized Anonymity, but Her Ratings Have Fox Grinning". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  18. Mills, Nancy (19 November 2000). "A Demented Pixie Grows Up". You Magazine: pg.29–32.
  19. Farr, Louise (February 20, 1988). "Enter Ullman, Swinging from a Rope and Singing 'Goldfinger'". TV Guide.
  20. "Tracey Ullman - About This Person - Movies & TV -". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  21. "Ullman to leave Fox network". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Spartanburg, South Carolina. 16 May 1990. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  22. "'The Simpsons' weekly half-hour series was announced in 1989". New York Daily News. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  23. "Tracey Ullman sues Fox". Daily Express. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  24. "BBC - Comedy - Guide - Tracey Ullman: A Class Act". BBC. Archived from the original on 4 April 2005. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  25. Ullman 1998, p. xv
  26. "Brit comedienne Tracey Ullman can't crack the UK". Daily Express. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  27. "'Lifetime Bafta award' for Ullman". BBC News. 8 April 2009.
  28. "Newmarket youngster bags spot in opening sequence of Tracey Ullman television show". Cambridge News. 16 January 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  29. "How US comedy star Tracey Ullman came home to the BBC". Radio Times. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  30. 1 2 "Tracey Ullman Talks HBO's "Tracey Ullman's Show," Grandma Camilla, Getting (Literally) Duded Up and More". CHannel Guide Magazine. 28 October 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  31. 1 2 3 4 "Tracey Ullman's Show: Tracey Takes on Famous and Everyday Brits in New HBO Series". TV Insider. 27 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  32. "12 facts about Tracey Ullman's Show". Western Morning News. 9 January 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  33. "Tracey Ullman: I had to wear fatsuit to play Judi Dench and being Dame Maggie Smith was hard". Mirror Online. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  34. „True total hottie Frau“: Die bislang beste Merkel-Parodie kommt von der BBC, Buzzer, 21.01.2016.
  35. "SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: The mystery of Sienna's faltering film company". The Daily Mail. 6 January 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  36. 1 2 "'Such a thrill':Comedian Tracey Ullman returns with a new show on BBC". Daily Express. 17 January 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  37. "Tracey Ullman gets set to begin her imitation game". The National. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  38. "SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: News anchor Fiona Bruce loses her footing". The Daily Mail. 1 February 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  39. "From Maggie Smith To Angela Merkel, Comic Tracey Ullman Leaves An Impression". NPR. 28 October 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  40. "HBO Acquires Tracey Ullman's New Sketch Show; Sets Stand-up Comedy Specials". 25 August 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  41. "Tracey Ullman's Show -- DVD". Retrieved 22 October 2016.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Tracey Ullman's Show
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/27/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.