With series such as "The Tracey Ullman Show" and "Tracey Takes On" under her belt, it's no wonder that Tracey Ullman brought her comedic skills back to cable with the series "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union." The series feels like a combination of her previous efforts, but with a more focused premise. Again, Ullman sheds light on all of the humorous aspects of her character's lives, only this time many of the characters are not imagined, but very real and very American.
"State of the Union" takes an up-close look at America and the people who give it, well, character. When the series first started I couldn't help but worry that it was going to be a collection of dead-end skits that provide solid efforts, but little substance. By the time the first thirty minutes rolled by, I was gladly mistaken. "State of the Union" is anything but lackluster as Tracey Ullman offers her take on the American life. Each episode runs just under thirty minutes and takes you through a day in the life of average and not-so-average Americans as only Ullman can. Most of the characters return multiple times within one episode (and the majority returns throughout the seven episodes), while other one-time characters appear leaving a long-lasting impression. While this isn't a show about storylines, the vignettes do manage to tie together in order to provide greater impact. Another enjoyable and extremely well-written aspect of the series is the narration that guides the viewer through the day and then wraps up the episode nicely.
With sketch shows like SNL lingering far too long on one skit, "State of the Union" boldly jumps from scene to scene, offering punchlines and a current point of view within a matter of minutes, often less. Don't let the phrase "sketch comedy" fool you either, "State of the Union" is more than a few jokes, it's a satirical look into the workings of politics, pop-culture, global issues, the news, health care, the day-to-day life of the working class, and more.
In season two, Tracey Ullman continues to prove that she's not only a talented comedic performer, but also a fantastic writer. There are some skits that don't go for big laughs, but instead feel more like a commentary on how Ullman views America. Still, the subtlety of these skits only seem to enhance the series and provide balance to some of the more over-the-top performances. Some of the funnier moments include a woman who's made the effort to go green and use less oil by driving a "body trap hybrid", only to get stuck inside. Ullman tackles everyone including: Wendy the hog callin' champion, Arianna Huffington, overworked flight attendant Dee, Laura Bush, J.K Rowling, Tom Brokaw, a Bollywood loving pharmacist, and so many more.
The greatest compliment I can give "State of the Union" is the fact that I forget I'm watching Tracey Ullman. I'd go so far to say that her impersonations are brilliant and it's clear that she's underrated. While "State of the Union" may offend some, it's important to go into the series with a sense of humor and an appreciation for the skill that went into bring each skit to life. Recommended.
6 2-01 12/Apr/09 Blogs and Kisses
7 2-02 19/Apr/09 Hog Callin'
8 2-03 26/Apr/09 No President Left Behind
9 2-04 03/May/09 Creating a Buzz
10 2-05 10/May/09 First Children
11 2-06 17/May/09 Society Dog Walker
12 2-07 24/May/09 Substitute Teacher
VIDEO: Eagle Rock offers "State of the Union" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality isn't dazzling, but is a perfectly acceptable presentation of the TV material. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory throughout the program, which generally looks crisp and clean, aside from a few mildly softer moments. Colors remained bright and well-saturated throughout, while flesh tones appeared accurate.
SOUND: Crisp, clear Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. While activity is understandably limited, dialogue and other elements do sound clean and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: "This is Tracey Ullman's State of the Union" is a twenty minute featurette focusing on Tracey Ullman and writer Bruce Wagner. The featurette explores how and when the series originated, the writing process (including starting with something that annoys them), character transformations, and more. The interviews with Ullman and Wagner are very entertaining and offer a lot of insight into the series. Throughout the featurette, there are clips from the season as well as footage of the writing process. Definitely worth watching.
"How it was Done" goes behind the scenes to show how four skits were made including "Tom Brokaw Swallows a Spider", "Lisa Penning Sets Her House on Fire", "Heather Mills Loses Her Leg" and "The Mormon Wives Get Some Land".
There are eight "Outtakes and Deleted Scenes" that you can view all together or separately. Also included on the DVD is a "sing along" feature that allows you to sing along with the character Padma's songs "American Spirit", "MVP", and "Buzz", as well as with character Granny Cyrus's song.
Final Thoughts: "State of the Union" is another solid effort from Ullman, with some tremendous laughs found in this second round of episodes. Recommended.