Friday, March 28, 2008

USA Today: State of Tracey Ullman's 'Union' is strong

State of Tracey Ullman's 'Union' is strong
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY

If there's anything Tracey Ullman can't do, we've yet to see her try it.

Sunday, this prodigiously talented actress/comic/singer/impersonator — and recently minted American citizen — begins a whip-fast, five-episode tour of her adopted country. There are a few guests in this day-in-the-life spoof, most notably Scott Bakula. But mostly it's just Ullman in all her glory playing dozens of characters of all races and both sexes, some famous and some invented.

Be warned: Because she can do so much, initially she's doing too much. Though fun, the opener's skits are too short, and the characters too numerous, for any one joke to register.

But give the show a week to settle, and the strengths of Ullman's concept come to the fore. As the show grows clearer and funnier, you may even find yourself anticipating the return of favorite characters — like Padma Perkesh, the Bollywood pharmacist, or Chanel Monticello, a TSA agent who gives free X-rays to people who don't have health insurance.

And really, who can't appreciate the African movie star who comes to America to rescue a poor child from "the strip malls, the Taco Bell, that According to Jim television program. … Maybe, just maybe, my fame can save this boy from dying of stupidity." Nor is it possible to miss the point of Ullman's anti-maternal Dina Lohan, or her increasingly hysterical Campbell Brown — who reduces one report to "Horror, terror, horror, terror, nightmare, horror, fear. Back to you, Brian."

Of course, not everything works. An Andy Rooney bit is a bit too mean, and Ullman is more interested in David Beckham than you may be. But the skits that fail are quickly over, and with Ullman, there's always something better right around the corner.

Who would say no to a tour like that?
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