Entertainment & Arts

Tracey Ullman returns to TV 'on fighting form'

Tracey Ullman as Dame Judi Dench (left) and Angela Merkel (right)
Image caption Tracey Ullman as Dame Judi Dench (left) and Angela Merkel (right)

Tracey Ullman's return to British TV screens after some 30 years has been largely welcomed by critics.

Tracey Ullman's Show, on BBC One on Monday, included impressions of a kleptomaniac Dame Judi Dench and a "sex bomb" German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Other comedy characters included drugs mule Karen, adjusting to modern life after 28 years in a Thai prison, and topless feminist MP Sally Preston.

Times reviewer Alex Hardy said Ullman's sketch show delivered "mostly hits".

"Someone confiscate her passport," she wrote. "It's as if a prodigal daughter - last seen mucking about with French, Saunders and pop producers in the mid-1980s - has returned to the UK from 30 gap years in America and wrapped herself instantly round British hearts and funnybones."

The Arts Desk's Veronica Lee said: "Last night's opener didn't just have some of her pitch-perfect impressions, but also her keen-eyed observations of British life today. Clearly her long sojourn in the States hasn't blurred her view, nor made it more rosy about dear old Blighty."

Ullman's strongest characters, she thought, were the shoplifting Dame Judi Dench as well as Dame Maggie Smith, seen making an audition tape for a part in Star Wars.

Image caption Tracey Ullman has enjoyed decades of success in the US

The Independent's Sally Newall said Ullman was "on fine fighting form".

"The duds were few and far between," she wrote. "In the pipeline are some swipes at the royal family, and if the pictures I've seen of Ullman as a tweeded-up Camilla Parker Bowles and Carole Middleton are anything to go by, we're in for a treat."

In The Telegraph, Michael Hogan described the "hit and miss" sketch show as cross between Victoria Wood and Little Britain.

"The cosier skits (the animal-stealing zookeeper or accident-prone masseuse) were generic and simply not funny enough. The best material was the darker, dafter stuff, where jokes got stretched to surreal extremes, such as a war criminal going for a job interview."

He concluded: "She might be 56 and rich enough to never need work again, but Ullman's lost none of her youthful bite. Welcome home."

The Guardian's Sam Wollaston was less enthusiastic, describing the show as "unashamedly same-old".

'Does not feel like much of a classic'

"It's not brave or funny enough, like a step backwards from Little Britain, 10 years after Little Britain."

Steve Bennett, on the comedy website Chortle, said Tracey Ullman's Show did not feel like a classic. "Perhaps too much has been pegged on securing Ullman's talents and not enough into why this show otherwise needs to exist."

Ullman last appeared on the BBC in A Kick up the Eighties and Three of a Kind in the early and mid-1980s.

She also starred in ITV sitcom Girls on Top, before emigrating to the United States.

The comic later created The Tracey Ullman Show for the US Fox network, winning several Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

The show famously spawned cartoon series The Simpsons, which started out as short sketches either side of a commercial break.

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