Tracey Ullman’s Showtime series State of the Union is a hysterical skewer of “The Good, the Bad and the Absolutely Ridiculous” of America. Through a series of monologues and skits, co-written with Bruce Wagner, Gail Parent, and Craig DiGregorio, Ullman crisscrosses the nation and holds up a mirror
Over the five episodes of season one, it is amazing to watch Ullman slip into so many roles, bringing to mind the work of Lily Tomlin. Rather than finding a quirk and a catchphrase to create an easily identifiable caricature, Ullman becomes these characters, finding what their essence is and delivering. Through the Emmy-winning make-up and her amazing voice work, she plays both the famous and the familiar as she travels the countryside.
Ullman has always immersed herself in interesting characters. Gretchen Pincus of Huntsville, Texas is fond of men on Death Row. When we meet her, her husband, the “Wetwipe Killer,” is about to be put to death. Before she has time to mourn, she receives a letter from “The Tastee-Freez Rapist.” Pharmacist Padma Perkesh from Oakridge, Tennessee breaks into Bollywood musical numbers to pass on information, either to help an old man understand the side effects of Viagra or a thief attempting to steal painkillers. Sgt. Lisa Penning from Macon, Georgia is on leave from Iraq, and the scene were she reveals she’s only got three hours leave and just barely has time to see her son after his soccer game, is heartbreaking although they stop the laughs.
Ullman has returned to doing celebrity impersonations and they get a good ribbing. Environmentalist Laurie David spends a good deal of time on her private jet and Arianna Huffington is obsessed with blogging to the point where she uses the word “blog” in place of verbs and sleeps with her PC. Two people who get it a severe roasting are celebrity-mom and nightclub patron Dina Lohan and actress Renee Zellweger. The men don’t get a free pass as Ullman plays Tony Sirico (The Sopranos’ Paulie Walnuts as an Intuit Eskimo), David Beckham and Andy Rooney to name a few.
The news people get a good mocking whether it’s the fear-inducing Campbell Brown; the rough-voiced Rita Cosby who tries to get in as close to the story as she can; or Buffalo news anchor Linda Alvarez, a Hispanics newscasters who speaks perfect English until she has to pronounce her own last name and then she overemphasizes the Spanish pronunciation of it.
State of the Union is a funny show and also an unfortunate reminder of how few women get to go all out on television with their comedy.
The DVD has thirty minutes of bonus features that include the title storyboard, Showtime promos, Make-up Tests, Bloopers & Outakes, Extra Material, and a number of Deleted Scenes including two, one of which has commentary, with a character Amber that didn’t make the cut.
The packaging for the disc is terrible. Made entirely out of cardboard, there’s no nub to hold the disc, so it has to be slipped into a holder.