The Tracey Ullman Sketch Show (A review of an exclusive BBCTV preview screening)

By Ron Bingham the_tracey_ullman_show

I was lucky enough to score tickets for the two screenings on a Sunday afternoon of four episodes of the new BBC TV show from Tracey Ullman who hasn’t done her own sketch series since the very American State of the Union in 2010. She was most recently seen in Into The Woods as Jack’s Mother. I arrived early (2.15pm) at BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place (the radio theatre since the 1920s and now the BBC London centre) excited but bemused. At this point nobody really knew what we were there for and some thought it could be a live radio recording.

We went in for the first show, to see a big screen set up on stage, which sort of gave away the fact that it was to be filmed sketches and probably no live appearance of the star. After being warmed-up by the warm-up man who I had seen do a sterling job for the Alan Davies shows, we got to see the first two episodes, with a small break in the middle. At this point an audience member stood up and loudly asked whether Tracey would be making an appearance, and, when answered in the negative, stomped out with her partner/friend/entourage. This made the rest of the audience laugh and brought us all together that tiny bit more. Then there was a break and the second set of sketches, with a little genuinely funny banter from the audience pre-show which involved a guide dog and her loud owner. Anyway the second set of sketches (with one sketch repeated from the first screening) ended just after 8pm.

The sketches themselves were about 70 per cent very funny with a few OK ones and one or two that will probably be dropped before the screening date, sometime early next year. Tracey did impressions of some British National Treasures among the sketches of general citizenry, with an excellent Dame Judy Dench and Angela Merkel (there could be an international incident if some of the stuff gets translated into German), a good Dame Maggie Smith and an appallingly bad Stephen Fry (listening to conversations amongst other audience members, I wasn’t the only one with this opinion). The Dame Judy sketches portray the National Treaure using her status to get away with doing terrible things to people, Dame Maggie is compiling a show reel for new parts and Angela gives us a behind the scenes glimpes into the life of the German Chancellor.

There were a couple of recurring characters such as the woman who has looked after mum all her life and is unable to escape (mum is now 103), the zookeeper who loves her charges a little too much, a man who is operating a business in the local cafe, a Northern super-successful businesswoman and a woman who has been released from a Thai prison after 25 years on a drugs charge.

The supporting cast is very good and I recognised a few of the actors, including one who I’m sure was my favourite waitress in my regular Edinburgh cafe during Fringe, and the great Geoffery McGivern (played Ford Prefect in the BBC radio version of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy). There was a song in each episode, with the one from the first episode being so popular (it was about the closure of libraries) we were allowed to see it again at the end of the screening.

In conclusion this looks like it’s going to be well worth waiting for. Tracey looks, acts and sings very well. So well, I’m thinking she’s been cryogenically frozen since 1990.

Keep an eye out for The Tracey Ullman Sketch Show coming to a TV or Internet connection near you