Any show with a musical number called "I'm Dating A Corporate Lawyer" cannot be ignored.
Like David Frost and Benny Hill, Tracey Ullman succeeded where many Brits before and after failed - in conquering America (case in point Lenny Henry's appalling "True Identity"). In fact, "The Tracey Ullman Show" was a bigger hit in America than when it aired on the BBC; too bad.
This playlet show (most of the pieces were too long to qualify as "sketches") was a great showcase for Trace and her fellow players, most notably Julie Kavner and Dan Castellaneta (though I suppose we shouldn't overlook Sam McMurray [especially as the Tom Jones-type Gulliver Dark] and even Joseph Malone). The show went more for character than slapstick - although there were recurring characters, with the most memorable including the Janis Joplin-esque Summer Storm, secretary Kay ("'Ello, mummy? It's Kayyyy..."), and golfer Kiki Howard-Smith - and the humour was more gentle than roll-on-the-floor; for instance, Jinx Haber was hired for the role of Peter Pan because she could really fly, but when the union objected that she was putting harness operators out of work she was fired.
Of course, the show's most notable for giving the world its first exposure to "The Simpsons" (they weren't introduced immediately - the early episodes featured cartoons revolving around a psychiatrist called Dr. N!Godatu, with Matt Groening's creation alternating... until ultimately the producers made the correct choice, and the rest is truly history) - they were even billed in the opening credits of the show in later seasons. (The BBC reportedly edited out the Simpson shorts when they aired the show, which certainly helps explain why they didn't get around to screening "The Simpsons" until 1997.)
"The Tracey Ullman Show" also had plenty of musical moments, though not from guest bands but from the cast itself - kudos to both the performers and to Paula Abdul, hired as the show's choreographer and the inspiration for the third-season playlet "The Wave Girls" (set amongst a basketball team's cheerleaders - Paula herself appeared at the end of this episode. This was when her pop singing career had taken off). Anyone else ever seen a song-and-dance number set to "Paint It Black" or "Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This"? Didn't think so. Too bad the final season was the weakest, but all good things... all this and a theme by George Clinton. Ripe for watching in repeats somewhere.
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