Bloomberg Review's "State of the Union" Season 2

April 09, 2009

Tracey Ullman as Laura Bush in Tracey Ullman's State of the Union, season 2.
Photographer: Cliff Lipson/Showtime via Bloomberg News

Ullman Mocks Snoring Bush, Accented Arianna in ‘State of Union’

Review by Dave Shiflett

April 9 (Bloomberg) -- George W. Bush is gone but not forgotten, at least not by Tracey Ullman, who whacks the former president and his wife Laura in the season opener of “Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union.”

The half-hour series, whose second season debuts April 12 on Showtime at 10 p.m. New York time, also features Ullman’s barbed impersonations of Arianna Huffington, Heather Mills and Celine Dion.

Nobody, however, gets busted like the Bushes.

Several skits are set at the family ranch in Crawford, Texas, where Laura is getting ready for a presidential garage sale. Ullman’s Laura is not quite as dead-on as Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin, but it’s pretty dang good, as the Bushes might put it.

Her Laura is a chirpy, chain-smoking thief who pinched several White House treasures on the way out of town, including a longish fertility symbol from Zimbabwe boss Robert Mugabe, a family portrait of the Lincolns and a pair of French love seats. Also slated for sale: the presidential seal.

George is more heard than seen. He snores loudly in bed and drags a dead deer into the house. Though he’s no longer in office, he’s still the subject of ridicule, even from his own wife.

“Remember when you asked why there are no old buildings in Hiroshima?” she gibes.

Streep in Spandex

The Obamas come off far better, though their presence is restricted to phone conversations with Laura and Huffington, the liberal, heavily accented Greek-American multimedia star.

Huffington phones the new president in pursuit of patronage. She’d be a perfect envoy to Greece, she insists, and would even be willing to forgo a first-class ticket. Self- flattery gets her nowhere, however. The president apparently has his mind set on Meryl Streep (good eye, sir).

“She does look good in Spandex -- for her age,” snipes the jilted Arianna. After hanging up she adds, “Maybe I should have gone with Hillary.”

Ullman’s impersonations are not restricted to politicos. Mills, Paul McCartney’s ex, belts out “Baby, I’m gonna make it on my own,” then tosses away her artificial leg. Dion, looking somewhat like a lizard, does a Larry King interview from New Orleans and floods the set with phony tears.

Buffett, Manson

There’s also a production number hailing the “American spirit” that includes a paean to urban violence -- “Drive by shootings, yes we can!” -- and a line that links Warren Buffett and Charles Manson.

Less successful are skits featuring a pair of flight attendants who snarl at customers and gossip about the virility of male colleagues. Not the types you want around for an emergency river landing.

Ullman might be accused of kicking folks when they’re down: Mocking Bush and Mills isn’t exactly daring. But the bottom line for comedians is whether they’re funny, and she’s several cuts above most of our jesters almost all of the time.

By the way, a future episode includes a skit that compares the Catholic Church to a polygamist cult. Now that should really stir things up.

(Dave Shiflett is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this story: Dave Shiflett at

Last Updated: April 9, 2009 12:18 EDT

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