I was visiting Tony Packo’s Cafe in Toledo, Ohio recently. You may be familiar with them from MASH, where Cpl. Klinger used to mention them. Once of the things they are known for, besides good hot dogs and good chili, is the tradition of celebrities signing hot dog buns, which are then preserved and mounted on the walls of the restaurant. Well, guess whose signed bun I happened to see there?
That’s right: Tracey has been immortalized at Tony Packo’s! The bun was not dated, but I think she signed it in 1988 or 1989 during a promotional visit to Toledo (and Detroit, too) to promote TTUS, which was in the middle of its run on Fox.
As I type this, the first series of TUS (Tracey Ullman’s Show) has concluded in the UK. It has just gone on sale on DVD in the UK, but there is no word on when HBO will be airing it. So when will I be offering my comments on it? I’m waiting until I receive my DVD. Yes, I know the series can be seen via various means, but I prefer to wait until I have a legitimate copy in hand before I officially review and comment.
The first episode of Tracey Ullman’s Show (a.k.a. TUS) has aired in the UK, and while we wait for it to officially air on HBO here in North America, we content ourselves with reading the reviews. The BBC News site has a good summary of the reviews: mostly favorable ones from the Times, the Independent and the Telegraph, but less favorable from the Guardian and the Chortle comedy website. The Guardian’s review said it was “unashamedly same-old”; to that, I say “Great!” I’ve seen the sketch featuring Tracey as Dame Judi Dench, and — it’s great, and she’s great. It’s on a par with her best work from State of the Union. Will the subsequent five episodes have work that is just as good? We shall see.
Now the question is, when will we in North America get to see?
Time to make another blog post, and not just to wish Tracey a happy birthday, either. She’s got a new series starting up on January 10 or 11 called Tracey Ullman’s Show. But this one will be different in that it’s airing first on the BBC (HBO will be airing it later) and will feature British subjects and themes. But from the information and the previews I’ve seen, it’s going to look very familiar. Now which show will this new series be most like? Undoubtedly there will be elements that are reminiscent of the original Tracey Ullman Show (the Fox series from the ’80s), while other elements will remind us of Tracey Takes On… (the HBO series from the ’90s). And since we know she’ll be portraying real people such as Dame Judi Dench and Angela Merkel, we also know it will be somewhat like State of the Union (the Showtime series from the ’00s).
I am a little behind in reporting this, but I want to offer my condolences and deepest sympathy to Tracey and her family on the death of her mother, who was killed in a house fire March 23. I can remember her appearance in the Mothers episode (appropriately enough) of Tracey Takes On…
Well, there was good news this week: Tracey is returning to television in a new series with an old title (but I’m sure it’s not a revival). According to several media reports, including this one from the Guardian, she will be creating and starring in a 6-part series on BBC One in the UK, and it will be called The Tracey Ullman Show. But I’m sure it’s not going to be a revival of the beloved 1980’s show on Fox. According to the story in the Guardian, it will see her portray a number of “diverse and distinct characters living in, or visiting, the busy global hub that is the UK.” Hm, sounds like Tracey Takes On … Britain to me. That’s something I’d be very interested in seeing! As to when it will appear on this side of the Atlantic, who knows? It’s not even clear when it will air over there.
It looks like I may have to invent new acronyms or modify some old ones for this series. I’ve referred to The Tracey Ullman Show (the old one) as TTUS for many, many years. For this new series, I will probably refer to it as TTUS-UK, since that’s where it will originate. Will I start calling the old TTUS TTUS-US? That, I don’t know. I’ve got some time to figure that out.
Anyway, it’s great to know that she’ll be back on TV screens soon, doing what she does best.
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!
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.
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.
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