Tracey Ullman's State of the Union

Tracey Ullman's State of the Union Information

Tracey Ullman's State of the Union is an American sketch-comedy series starring comedian Tracey Ullman. The series was written by Ullman along with Hollywood satirist Bruce Wagner. Gail Parent and Craig DiGregorio acted as contributing writers to the series' first season. On May 17, 2010, it was announced that State of the Union would not be returning for a fourth season. Producers stated that they felt that the show had "run its course."


The series takes a satirical view of the day in the life of America, lampooning political, social, and pop culture, with Ullman impersonating and portraying famous and non-famous characters and celebrities.


The series' first season debuted on March 30, 2008, on premium cable network, Showtime.

A second season of seven episodes debuted on April 12, 2009. Arianna Huffington, one of Ullman's frequent parodies, revealed that she and Ullman had tea together. Ullman was looking to collect more material for the series' second season.

Season three begin airing January 25, 2010 on Showtime. It was directed by Tracey Ullman.

Show direction

The first season of the series is directed by Troy Miller. The show is shot in cutaway fashion.

"It's her kind of sketch show, where she plays many, many characters. No sketch is longer than a minute and a half. Each episode is a day in the life of the United States. You pop in on people all over the country, really quick visits. You'll go to some famous people. You'll see some recognizable faces and some regular Americans. You revisit characters from episode to episode. You'll go in and out, like the Google map of the U.S., in and out from the outer atmosphere. You'll go to Iowa and visit two women on a farm and then you'll pull out and go to Los Angeles and see Arianna Huffington, played by Tracey, in her boudoir, and then pull out and go to Washington, D.C. and see a woman who's an anchor for the evening news. Tracey will play 90 percent of the characters, men and women", as described by Showtime network executive, Robert Greenblatt.

From the Showtime press release, " Tracey tackles the country's celebrity-obsessed, 24- hour news culture by portraying a variety of characters from celebrities such as, Cameron Diaz, Renée Zellweger, Dina Lohan, Tony Sirico, David Beckham, Nancy Pelosi and Arianna Huffington. Additionally, Ullman has created a new line-up of original characters that reflect a cross-section of American society from an Indian pharmacist to a homeless woman without health insurance to a soldier on temporary leave from Iraq."

Much of the show's soundtrack, as well as the title music, is taken from Dvo?ák's Symphony No. 9, popularly known as the "New World Symphony".

Each sketch lasts from a few seconds, to a few minutes, much like a Youtube clip, a style Ullman was looking to achieve. The series is narrated throughout by, Peter Strauss.

The series was inspired by a PBS commercial which featured a tractor and talked about a "farmer waking up in the Midwest to provide a high-quality breakfast to a child on the Pacific rim." "I just thought, 'What a nice journey across America,'" says Ullman.

Celebrity impersonations and reaction

Celebrity impersonations has become a new addition to Ullman's comedic repartee, something that she had not dabbled in since her early days at the BBC, nearly thirty years prior. The slightly famous to the infamous are skewered in, ?'State of the Union''. Reaction to the parodies were fast coming from the actual celebrities themselves.

One of the very first reactions came from actress Renée Zellweger. In a sketch, Zellweger is featured on a press junket for her new movie, where her character has a condition called "chronic narcissistic squint." The real Zellweger was shown a picture of Ullman doing an impersonation of her on the Late Show with David Letterman. Ullman revealed that she wore no make-up to get her Zellweger appearance. She simply donned long eyelashes, very much like Shari Lewis' Lambchop. "This is why I need therapy? I better watch what I say. Look at what happens when I've done nothing to her." She went on to say that Ullman looked like her transvestite twin brother.

Political pundit Arianna Huffington's thick Greek accent and obsession with blogging receive numerous jabs throughout the series. The word "blog" is often substituted for various nouns and verbs. While filling out an Internet dating profile, Huffington types, "Must enjoy nice long blogs in the rain." She clutches her laptop in her arms and kisses it goodnight upon going to sleep. Huffington takes the parody in good humor, saying, "I actually loved it." Huffington continued, "She does a really good imitation of me... And you know....she ends a lot of her imitations of me by saying 'blogs and kisses,' which is kind of something pretty good. I like that. Huffington's parody is generally lighthearted. The same cannot be said for show's take on the American news media and its "fear mongering." Real-life CNN news anchor Campbell Brown serves as the vessel in which this is made apparent. In one episode, "Horror, terror, horror, terror, nightmare, horror, fear. Back to you, Brian", serves as the entire report issued by Brown. Campbell issued a statement regarding the parody saying that she "loves, loves Tracey Ullman, and is a huge fan of the show. " Brown even wants to book Ullman on her 8 p.m. program.

Celebrities Laurie David and Dina Lohan, who also take hits in the show, had no comment.

In the end, Ullman contends that celebrities "love being impersonated".

On January 28, 2010, Ullman paid a visit to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, and did her impersonation of her. Tracey does an impersonation of Maddow in the third season of her series. Maddow's reaction was: "flattering" and "causes excruciating embarrassment".



Main article: Tracey Ullman's State of the Union characters

Celebrity impersonations

Recurring impersonations in seasons one, two and three

Season three

Recurring impersonations in seasons one and two

Season two

Season one


Main article: List of Tracey Ullman's State of the Union episodes


"We're obsessed with India and Bollywood," Ullman revealed about herself and her husband, ?Union' co-producer, Allan McKeown. McKeown runs a production company in India producing television programmes. Padma Perkesh, Ullman's Indian character, is a pharmacist who sings the medication side-effects to customers in Bollywood-styled routines. "There are so many Indian pharmacists in America," says Ullman, whose own pharmacist is Indian.

After handing clients their prescription, Perkesh begins her Bollywood chant, as the stock shelves behind her pull out revealing a colorful dance stage, filled with Indian decor. Padma rips off her white coat, and dances with her fellow stock workers, (and sometimes customers).

Lyrical excerpts from Bipolar medication song:

There's no shame in being Bipolar
A bit like having your mood up in rollers
One minute you feel happy -- a ha a ha
The next you want to cry -- boo hoo hoo hoo
You shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die

I say that I must warn you
The side effects are bad
Far more traumatic
Than your molesting dad
Even Diet Pepsi
Can trigger epilepsy
While shopping at Ikea
Explosive diarrhea

In Season 2, Padma's songs are broader. No longer are they just about prescription side effects.

Critical reception

The series received overwhelmingly positive reviews, with many critics dissecting elements of the show, including the length of the sketches, the show's format, and its celebrity mock-ups. Suggesting that Ullman's stronger portrayals are found in her original characters, rather than the famous, one reviewer wrote, "Ullman's satire is at its best when she inhabits the little people." Others praised its collection of famous, and semi-famous impersonations, including Arianna Huffington, "who sleeps with her laptop and has a dramatic Eva Gabor accent and penchant for using "blog" in every part of her speech." "Her best moments came as Arianna, Dina [Lohan] and Laurie [David]", stated April MacIntyre, of Monsters & Critics.

Its Youtube-format garnered a few complaints. "...She can do so much, initially she's doing too much. Though fun, the opener's skits are too short, and the characters too numerous, for any one joke to register. But give the show a week to settle, and the strengths of Ullman's concept come to the fore. As the show grows clearer and funnier, you may even find yourself anticipating the return of favorite characters..."

Commenting on the writing, a critic noted, "Ullman is obviously great at impressions, but it's the sharpness of the writing that sets this show apart from other sketch comedies. Ullman tosses off so many excellent one-liners along the way, it's hard to keep track of them all."

"It may take "Saturday Night Live" a season to put out this many funny characters and celebrity portrayals. But the glossy "State of the Union", narrated by Peter Strauss, churns out a dozen or more in each week's half-hour."


?'State's'' premiere episode raked in 907,000 viewers for its first night of three airings, 776,000 combined for 10PM and 10:30PM, (just short of Showtime series, Californication's debut total of 795,000). Pre-airings of "State of the Union" were available through cable television's OnDemand service, weeks before its official premiere on the network.

Season two

On November 1, 2008, Ullman was interviewed briefly by Showtime during the Darchinyan vs. Mijares boxing match. She announced that she had completed filming and did 52 characters for the series' second season, due to premiere in 2009. Among the new season's celebrity impersonations were, Tom Brokaw, Dancing With The Stars judge, Len Goodman, Tony Sirico (season 1), and Laura Bush (a year after leaving the White House). Alternate endings were filmed depending on the outcome of the American 2008 Presidential Election.

Also returning in the second season are celebrity impersonations of Dina Lohan, Renée Zellweger, and Arianna Huffington. Ullman will also impersonate, Jonah Hill, as well as a take on Celine Dion's emotional appearance on Larry King in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Season three

Season 3 has been dubbed Ullman's most "ambitious to date". Sketches include Ullman playing 5 characters in an MSNBC make-up room, and a Michael Jackson tribute. Characters include, Rachel Maddow, Barney Frank, Meghan McCain, Christiane Amanpour, and Ruth Madoff.


On November 6, 2008, it was announced that "State of the Union" would be remade for Germany starring comedian, writer, Mona Sharma, under the title Lage Der Nation.

Broadcast worldwide

The Movie Network
Nelonen CH4
TV4 Komedi
Yes Stars Comedy

DVD and Blu-ray releases

Region 0

DVD name Release date Ep # Additional information
Tracey Ullman's State of the Union: Complete Season One November 11, 2008 5 This one-disc set contains all 5 episodes of Season 1, along with extras which include: 30 minutes of bonus footage including blooper reel, character makeup tests with Tracey commentary, making of the opening sequence with Tracey commentary, extra material and deleted scenes.
Tracey Ullman's State of the Union: Complete Season Two May 4, 2010 7 This two-disc set with a running time of 201 minutes, contains all 7 episodes, and 20-minute documentary, outtakes and deleted scenes, "How It Was Done", and 4 sing-alongs.
Tracey Ullman's State of the Union: Complete Season Three August 20, 2011 7 This two-disc set is only available through Each set is printed on demand through Amazon's print-on-demand service. The two discs comprise of all 7 episodes, plus 40 minutes worth of extras: The Making of State Of The Union Season 3/Behind The Scenes with commentary from Tracey/Outtakes/A Twist on Outsourced Call Centers. The total running time is 117 minutes.

Region 2

DVD name Release date Ep # Additional information
Tracey Ullman's State of the Union: Complete Season One 2010 5 Extras unknown.
Tracey Ullman's State of the Union: Complete Season Two 2010 7 Extras unknown.

Region 4

DVD name Release date Ep # Additional information
Tracey Ullman's State of the Union: Complete Series One and Two October 1, 2009 12 This two-disc box set includes all 12 episodes of Seasons 1 and 2. Season 1 contains the same extras as the Region 0 release. Season 2 contains a 20-minute documentary, outtakes and deleted scenes, and 4 sing-alongs.




  • Emmy " Outstanding Makeup For A Single-camera Series (non-prosthetic) - WON
  • Emmy " Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-camera Series
  • Emmy " Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Miniseries, Movie Or A Special
  • Satellite Awards - Best Comedy Series - WON
  • Satellite Awards - Best Performance in a Comedy Series, Tracey Ullman - WON

  • Screen Actors Guild Awards - Best Actress in a Comedy Series, Tracey Ullman, "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union"
  • Art Director's Guild - Variety, Music or Nonfiction, "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union -- Episode 3" (Dan Butts)
  • Emmy - Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Miniseries, Movie Or A Special
  • Emmy - Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-Camera Series

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