It was thirty years ago today

Actually, at the time I’m typing this, it was a little longer than thirty years ago, but I can’t pass up using that slightly modified song lyric!

Tracey Ullman on Solid Gold, March 1984
The first time I saw Tracey – on Solid Gold

 It was thirty years ago (plus nearly two weeks) that I first saw Tracey Ullman. It was late March in 1984. I was on spring break from Michigan State University, but although the calendar said it was spring, the chill in the air and the snow on the ground said it was still winter. I was staying with my aunt and uncle in Dearborn Heights. Earlier in the week, I’d taken the Amtrak train to Chicago (my first time riding Amtrak) and spent the night there at a hotel long since demolished. That was a fun trip. Then came Saturday the 24th (I had to verify the date by looking up vintage Detroit TV listings). At 6 PM, channel 50 aired a rerun of Star Trek — no Next Generation, no Deep Space Nine, no Voyager, no Enterprise, but the original series. I don’t remember which episode aired that night, but it was probably a good one.  Most of them were. Right afterwards, channel 50 aired that week’s episode of Solid Gold, a program featuring the top hits of the day. The TV guide listed the performers as Shalamar, the Pretenders, Culture Club, Stevie Nicks, and Paul Young, as well as Tracey. If I’d seen the listing earlier in the week, her name would have meant nothing to me.

A little before the halfway point, host Marilyn McCoo introduced Tracey and her then-hit song, “They Don’t Know.” I don’t remember my exact thoughts when I first saw her, but I would have probably thought something like “Hm, she’s kinda cute” and “That’s a catchy song.”  By the time the song ended, I was intrigued.  I resolved to look for the song when I got back up to State.  A few days later, I found the cassette of You Broke My Heart in 17 Places at the State Discount store in Meridian Mall in Okemos.  I put it in my tape player, and I was hooked.  And that continues to this day.

Now if my dorm room at Michigan State had had cable television, I might have seen her stint as a guest VJ on MTV in February. Or if I’d been more of a regular viewer of the Tonight Show, I might have seen the original broadcast of her first appearance with Johnny Carson rather than the repeat in April 1985.

Tracey on the Tonight Show, Feb 1984
Tracey singing “They Don’t Know” on the Tonight Show, February 1984

It does seem hard to believe it’s been over 30 years.

This was adapted from a post of mine from 2004, “20 Years of Tracey in the USA” on the old TTO site.


One of the things I’d like to do is to have organized re-watches of Tracey’s old shows. It would be great to watch them again, especially in the virtual company of friends whom I didn’t necessarily know when the shows first aired. One of those friends was too young to see some of them the first time around.

There’s only one problem with this: her old shows aren’t easily available right now. The Tracey Ullman Show (which I frequently abbreviate as TTUS) hasn’t been repeated since the 1990’s and has never been released on tape or DVD; and while Tracey Takes On… (TTO) and Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union (SOTU) have seen tape and DVD releases, they’re out of print now, to the best of my knowledge. In the case of TTO DVD’s, the episodes were altered for various reasons, lack of music rights being one. Ideally, they should be seen as they were originally aired. I’m able to do that because I saved my vintage recordings, but you can’t all come over to my house to watch them 🙂 ! Although that would be an interesting gathering…. Anyway, it’s possible/likely that some of these are out there via alternate sources of greater or lesser legitimacy; perhaps they could serve as the seed of a re-watching program.



Well, here we are. Welcome to the latest version of Totally Tracey Online. I hadn’t updated it for some time, and I had to delete the previous version of the site because I couldn’t figure out how to make it work with a new version of the software that ran it. I’m not sure I’ll be able to recover the updates I made during that time, but I’ll try.  The old version of the site, at, is still active and will be for quite some time. If you want to find the list of Tracey’s talk show appearances, summaries of the roles she’s played, episode guides for her series, etc., you’ll find them there. I’ll be migrating them here over time.

The main reason why I hadn’t updated the site for so long is that Tracey had been inactive, for the most part. I didn’t know why. Sadly, though, I learned why on the day after Christmas, when it was announced that her husband Allan had passed away after battling prostate cancer for many years.  Since then, she’s resumed working, having filmed her scenes as Jack’s mother in the forthcoming film adaptation of Into The Woods, appearing as Robin’s mother in three of the final episodes of How I Met Your Mother, and getting ready to film a pilot for CBS called Good Session, in which she’ll portray a therapist. I fondly remember her role as Ally McBeal’s therapist and hope that the pilot becomes a series.

And now, here we go!