All hail the Queen of Characterization! Tracey Ullman is back in business, and Eagle Rock is delivering the goods when State of the Union: Season 2 is released as a 2DVD set on May 4 [pre-book order date March 30, MSRP $19.93]. This 2DVD completes Eagle’s growing Tracey Ullman collection, which includes State of the Union: Season 1 (released November 2008) and Tracey Takes On…The Complete Final Two Seasons (released July 2009).
Released just after the airing of Season 3 on Showtime, State of the Union: Season 2 is 201 minutes of feisty, vivacious fun. Produced by award-winning producers Allan McKeown Presents, these seven episodes are a return to form for the Emmy-Award winning comedienne. It’s American culture, and American life, through the scope of Ullman’s twisted vision – incredibly honest with hilarious truths. Utilizing her signature sense of satire, she seamlessly traverses between characters, from the everyday “Joe Six Pack” to a wealth of familiar faces, such as Dan Rather, Celine Dion, Heather Mills, Dina Lohan, Donna Karan, former First Lady Laura Bush, and Harry Potter creator JK Rowling. Favorite characters from the first season, such as news reporter Linda Alvarez and singing pharmacist Padma Perkesh, also make comeback, along with new original personas. Additionally, fans can enjoy 40 minutes worth of bonus footage. Outtakes, deleted scenes, sing-a-longs, and behind-the-scenes footage (including the “How It Was Done feature) are sure to deliver an extra kick of delight.
Although I haven’t seen the first season of this show, I have seen Tracey Takes On… (courtesy of Eagle Rock as well) and although it was foolish of me to expect more of the same, I did anyway. What did I end up with in State of the Union? Well…more of the same, to be honest. Tracey wants again takes on a vast array of everyday Americans, ranging from the more hum-drum daily worker to a myriad of other well-known TV personalities or celebrities. Once again it’s disturbing how uncanny not only her performances are but her makeup as well—there is some genuinely scary good make-up applied to her characters and it’s just a bit unsettling that she can take on so many forms so easily.
But that’s what’s so great about her—if you’ve never seen her, you’d swear that it was a different actor being shuttled around between the show skits, but nope. Unlike her previous works there really weren’t any guest stars in this season (at least none that I recognized)—there were definitely episodes where she was aided by other actors, but for the most part it really is just her tearing up the screen the entire time. Sadly these seasons are abrupt (season one was a mere five episodes and this second season is a scant seven), but it’s still a genuinely remarkable thing to witness nonetheless.
The narration over some of the episodes can be a bit odd at times; the plots seemingly twist in and out with one another with only the barest resemblance of a thread…but it allows us to see Tracey performing a whole myriad of acts, so in the end it’s worth it. It’s definitely a fantastic show for her fans, but newcomers may be a little bit put off by the sometimes extreme subtlety of the jokes—there are a few that jump out at you immediately, but others are a lot more laid back and require you to have knowledge of the person(s) that she is imitating at any given moment. But if you’ve been keeping up with your The Daily Show viewings then you shouldn’t have too much trouble latching on to the parodies.
Overall a Recommended set.
Eagle Rock releases State of the Union on a two-disc DVD set in a clear amaray case. The double sided insert is simple, but effective, and the menu system done up for this release is miles better than what we got from the “Takes On…” set, which was…remarkably bad. Disc art for the two are identical aside from the numerical denote and the extras are limited to the second disc only. The packaging states that this is a TV-14 rated program, but judging by the amount of f-bombs I heard, I’m going to guess they mislabeled this one again (as they did with Takes On… as well). Video is a standard anamorphic transfer and it looks great—as one would expect a modern production. Strong colors, decent depth, but compression is an issue at times, although I’m not sure why since there are only seven twenty-two minute episodes.
This is Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union (20:08)
Sing-A-Long (Four total)
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (Eight total)
How It Was Done (Four total)
The packaging states that there are “over 40 minutes” of extras, but only just. The songs make up a little less than nine minutes worth, while the deleted scenes are generally under a minute each. The “How it Was Done” segments are similarly short, running under a minute and a half each in most cases. So there are over forty minutes, but not by much; still it’s a nicer treatment of a Showtime show than I’ve seen from other studios (I’m looking at your Californication and Dexter releases, Paramount). It’s a decent mix and the participation of Tracey in the “This Is” bit is crucial because she performs so many roles on the show.
Overall a solid set and one that’s Recommended.
Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union – Season 2 arrives on DVD on May 4th.