Tracey Ullman is the most talented woman in show business.
Not to put too much pressure on her or anything. And, hopefully, not to raise expectations for her new TV show too high although it's great.
Ullman gives a whole new meaning to the term "one-woman show." An astonishing mimic, she plays pretty much all the parts in her new Showtime series "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union," which premieres Sunday at 11 p.m.
It's a faux documentary, narrated by Peter Strauss, that's sort of a day-in-the-life of people across the United States. One minute, Ullman is an immigrant woman heading off before dawn to make donuts. The next she's a Jamaican caretaker to an elderly Jewish woman. The next, she's former Los Angeles anchorwoman Linda Alvarez (who has fictionally moved to Buffalo).
Ullman isn't not shy about poking fun at TV news. Alvarez's idea of "international news" is that "Paris Hilton has miscarried in Dubai." Former MSNBC newswoman Rita Cosby thinks she's got a big scoop by crawling around the gurney that's about to be used for an execution. NBC newswoman Campbell Brown gives viewers "their daily dose of fear."
It's funny because it's so, um, sort of true.
Ullman also takes aim at celebrities ranging from environmental activist Lori David (ex-wife of Larry David); political pundit Arianna Huffington, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; actor Tony Scirrico; soccer star David Beckham; and Lindsay Lohan's mother, Dina.
And she creates lots of "regular folks" characters, including the woman with restless leg syndrome; the wife (of three weeks) of a death-row inmate about to be executed; and an executive secretary about to have an affair with her boss.
That's all in the first episode. Which runs 25 minutes. Including the credits.
Some of Ullman's past TV efforts like her HBO series, "Tracey Takes On ... " have been good but not great. She's done a fantastic job of creating (or impersonating) dozens of characters, but the shows have been more clever than funny.
No such problem with "State of the Union," which is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Like when Ullman's Arianna Huffington comments on former presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani.
"You know, it was very smart of Giuliani's campaign manager to make him shave his head. He was having a hard time campaigning in the windier states with his little comb-over flapping and flapping," says the faux Huffington in the faux Hungarian accent.
And there's a wildly entertaining sequence in which Padmah, a pharmacist in Oak Ridge, Tenn., is being robbed by a drug addict and suddenly she's headlining a Bollywood-esque musical production number.
There's always something unexpected and funny on "State of the Union." Including some footage of Park City in Episode 3 faux Dame Judy Dench is interviewed about her film at the Sundance Film Festival.
The show airs on pay-cable channel Showtime, so it should come as no surprise that "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union" is not intended for children. There's R-rated language including multiple uses of the f-word and sexual references.
THE TUDORS seems to be the object of no small degree of criticism these days because gasp! it's not entirely historically accurate.
I hate to burst anyone's bubble by pointing out the obvious, but "The Tudors" is not a documentary. It's a lavish, sexy soap opera that's based on the life of Henry VIII.
It's true that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is a decade younger and a whole lot better looking than King Henry, but, um, you're aware that this is TV, right? Go turn on your set right now and start flipping channels. The majority of the people you'll see are better looking than average.
And most of the people on "The Tudors," which begins its second season Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime, are darn good looking. And, I'm guessing, probably cleaner than their real-life, medieval counterparts.
There are reasons to criticize the series. The biggest is that, for everything that's going on, it moves a bit too slowly.
Of course, if we burn through all six wives quickly, the series will end. And Showtime is hoping to get a few more seasons out of it.
On Sunday, we pick up where we left off. Ann Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) is on her way in; Queen Katherine (Maria Doyle-Kennedy) is on her way out; Thomas More (Jeremy Northam) is in trouble; Henry's ego is growing by leaps and bounds; and the pope (guest star Peter O'Toole) isn't happy with Henry.
It's gorgeous, lavish soap opera. (And, yes, this is Showtime so there's a bit of sex and nudity. Although the beheadings are surprisingly tastefully handled.)
As for the historical inaccuracies, sure, they're there. But you could always do what "The Tudors" prompted me to do go check out actual history texts to learn what really happened.
And maybe the liberties "The Tudors" takes aren't all that important. There was a recent story about them on the New York Times News Service that indicated that last season, "Princess Margaret, ... marries an older man, the king of Spain, against her will. As any number of Internet history buffs will tell you, it was Henry's other sister, Mary, who did that, and the older man was the king of France."
Actually, as any number of people who watched "The Tudors" will tell you, Henry's sister Mary married an older man, the King of Portugal, against her will.
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