Tracey Ullman's Show

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Tracey Ullman's Show TV Poster Image
Comedian hasn't lost edge in smart sketch-comedy series.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Positive messages are largely of the ironic kind: A politician who gains attention by going naked subtly points out how women are sexualized in public life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are played for laughs and their pretensions skewered; no role models here; viewers may draw positive inferences from the fact that Ullman is a 50-something woman with her own show, a rarity. 


Violence played for laughs: A recently released ex-con tries to (briefly) strangle her mom when she's awakened suddenly and beats/kicks her old boyfriend for revenge. 


Occasional bawdy humor and nudity: A Member of Parliament makes political points by appearing topless in session (breasts are realistic rubber).


Cursing, usually joking: "bloody hell," "ass," "f--k," and one woman calls another "bitch." A very vulgar expression for a woman's genitals, "twat," is sung repeatedly in one song. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief jokes about drugs; one character just got out of jail for dealing cocaine; adults drink cocktails and talk about being "blotto." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tracey Ullman's Show is a sketch comedy show starring the well-known comedian. Her jokes can target sensitive subjects: One recurring character has returned from a long prison stint after dealing drugs; another is seeking a new job after directing a genocide. Adults drink cocktails and refer to being "blotto." One sketch features female politicians who go topless (wearing realistic rubber chest pieces) to sell their political viewpoints. Cursing includes "bloody hell," "ass," "f--k," and one woman calling another a "bitch." Young viewers may have difficulty understanding many English references to things like a "chip buttie" (a French fry sandwich) and "Woolies" (Woolworth's, a defunct chain of discount department stores). 

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What's the story?

Sketch comedy is the name of the game in TRACY ULLMAN'S SHOW, starring legendary British comedian Tracey Ullman and her amazing array of characters. For example, in Ullman's created world, Dame Judi Dench is a dangerous psychopath who takes advantage of her status as a "national treasure" to shoplift, sneak into movies, and set a co-star's film trailer on fire; a job candidate tries to impress her interviewers by stressing how successfully she ran a genocide; a German chancellor chooses her pantsuits carefully lest she drive the other politicos wild. 

Is it any good?

Ullman's quick, sharp takes on celebs and ridiculous situations are lots of fun, though Americans may be laughing while looking up particularly British words and concepts. If you're the type of Anglophile who already knows about "flat whites" and "chip butties," the chortles in Tracey Ullman's Show will be particularly enjoyable, but Ullman's satire is keen enough to entertain the masses. 

Skewering politicians and celebs and bringing her unique outlook on the state of things, Ullman doesn't disappoint. She's wonderfully weird -- and funny. And this type of female-centered comedy, specifically anchored in the concerns of a 50-something woman, is rare on television, or anywhere. Americans who primarily know Ullman for introducing The Simpsons should take a second look: There's a clever comic mind at work here. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about satire in shows like Tracey Ullman's Show. What is it? Is satire funnier when you know what's being satirized? Is satire ever unkind? What types of things or people are generally satirized? Why? 

  • Families can also talk about sketch comedy. Why would someone want to use this format rather than a 30-minute sitcom?

TV details

  • Premiere date: October 28, 2016
  • Cast: Tracey Ullman
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Comedy
  • TV rating: TV-MA
  • Last updated: September 28, 2020

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