The Tracey Ullman Show

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The Tracey Ullman Show
Created by
Theme music composer George Clinton
Opening theme "You're Thinking Right"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 81 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • James L. Brooks
  • Jerry Belson
  • Ken Estin
  • Heide Perlman
  • Sam Simon
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor 20th Television
Original network Fox
Original release April 5, 1987 (1987-04-05) – May 26, 1990 (1990-05-26)
Followed by The Simpsons
Related shows Tracey Takes On...

The Tracey Ullman Show is an American television variety show starring Tracey Ullman. It debuted on April 5, 1987, as the Fox network's second prime-time series after Married... with Children, and ran until May 26, 1990. The show is produced by Gracie Films and 20th Century Fox Television. The show blended sketch comedy shorts with many musical numbers, featuring choreography by Paula Abdul.

The Tracey Ullman Show is known for producing a series of shorts featuring the Simpson family, which was adapted into the TV series The Simpsons, which is also produced by Gracie Films and 20th Century Fox Television.


By the 1980s, acclaimed television producer James L. Brooks (producer of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and Rhoda), had left the television industry for the big screen. At the time that he won the Oscar for his film, Terms of Endearment, Brooks began receiving videotapes from Ullman's Los Angeles agent, hoping to get his attention. Ullman, who was already famous in her homeland, England, was already landing a variety of television deals and proposals in America, but none had panned out. These projects did not suit Ullman's interests. "[They were] shows with morals, where everyone learns something at the end of the show", related Ullman to a television critic for TV Guide in 1989, describing the television show ideas that were offered to her. Brooks was so taken by what he saw in Ullman that he decided to take the young actress under his wing and return to television. Brooks was determined to develop the right vehicle to showcase Ullman's talents — acting, dancing, and singing — and decided to create a sketch comedy show. Ullman had already had a successful music career in the early 1980s in the UK, and had a top 10 hit on the American charts with a cover of Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know" and her You Broke My Heart in 17 Places.


A typical episode would begin with Ullman giving a brief introduction, ostensibly from her dressing room, leading into the opening titles (the show's theme, "You're Thinking Right", was written by George Clinton). Then two or three comedy sketches would be presented in each episode, most designed to showcase Ullman's ability to skillfully mimic various accents. One popular recurring character was timid, slow-talking Kay ("Iiit's... Kaaaaaaaayyy...")

Typically, the final sketch of the night would include a musical and/or dance number featuring Ullman solo or other members of the cast. The final segment saw Ullman, clad in a robe, deliver a closing monologue to the studio audience before ending the show with her catchphrase "Go Home! Go Home!" and dancing as the credits rolled. Ullman often talked about her husband, Allan McKeown, and her daughter, Mabel. Ullman chose the phrase, "Go home", during the show's pilot episode because she could not think of anything clever to end with. "Oh, you got sore bums... go home!"

Guest stars[edit]


Some of the characters played by Tracey Ullman.

Ullman performed an array of characters. Most only appeared once, as the sketches concentrated on plot, with characters created to best tell that particular storyline. A handful of characters did however return for subsequent sketches. These include:

Ginny Tillman, the ex-wife of a Beverly Hills proctologist; Francesca McDowell, a 14-year-old New York City girl being raised by her father Dave (portrayed by Castellaneta) and his partner William (McMurray); Tina, a Brooklyn postal employee who is best friends with her co-worker Meg (Kavner); Sarah Downey, a quintessential yuppie married to attorney Greg (Castellaneta); Kay Clark, an English office worker and caregiver to her sick mother (Kay also appeared frequently in Tracey Takes On...); Sandra Decker, an aged Hollywood movie actress; Kiki Howard-Smith, an Australian professional golfer; Summer Storm, a Los Angeles disc jockey; and Angel Tish, a singer who appeared with her husband Marty (Castellaneta).

Among the recurring characters portrayed by other cast members, besides those previously mentioned, were Gulliver Dark (McMurray), singer and rival to Marty Tish, and Dr. Alexander Gibson (Castellaneta), a psychiatrist..

In the course of its four-season run, Ullman performed a total of 108 characters.[1]


Animated segments[edit]

The Tracey Ullman Show regularly featured short animated cartoons as interstitials in the first three seasons. There was no recurring cartoon during season 4.

Dr. N!Godatu[edit]

Dr. N!Godatu was a series of animated shorts created by M.K. Brown, and animated by Klasky-Csupo. It was seen during season 1 only, and was the first cartoon seen on Ullman's show. The shorts followed the somewhat surreal life of Dr. Janice N!Godatu, who calmly and cheerfully addressed the camera as she detailed her latest misadventure. The character was voiced by Julie Payne.

The feature appeared in the first two Ullman episodes, then alternated more-or-less every other week with the Simpsons shorts (see below). After appearing 6 times, Dr. N!Godatu was dropped at the conclusion of the first season of Ullman's show. Two additional Dr. N!Godatu cartoons that were prepared for the show never aired.

The Simpsons[edit]

The Simpson family debuted in short animated cartoons on The Tracey Ullman Show, beginning with episode 3 of the first season. The shorts originally were presented on an occasional basis, alternating episodes with Dr. N!Godatu. However, the reaction to the Simpsons shorts was very positive, and after appearing 7 times during season 1, the feature was quickly promoted to full-time status, appearing in every episode of seasons 2-3 before being spun off into their own half-hour series. These shorts, also called "bumpers", aired before and after commercial breaks during the first and second seasons of the show. They eventually had their own full segments in between the live action segments during season three. Except for a repeat airing of the short "Simpson Xmas", they did not appear in the fourth and final season of The Tracey Ullman Show, as they had their own half-hour TV series by then.

All of them were written by Matt Groening and animated at Klasky-Csupo by a team of animators consisting of David Silverman, Wes Archer, and Bill Kopp. Tracey Ullman Show cast members Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner provide the voices of Homer Simpson and Marge Simpson respectively. In the beginning, the drawings appeared very crude because the animators were more or less just tracing over Groening's storyboards, but as the series developed, so did the designs and layouts of the characters and the "Simpsons drawing style" was ultimately conceived. This style evolved even more throughout the first few seasons of The Simpsons and was used more than a decade later on Futurama, another animated series created by Matt Groening.


Tracey Ullman at the 1989 Emmy Awards

The show won three Emmy Awards: for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program in 1989 and 1990, for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program in 1990. Also in 1989, choreographer Paula Abdul won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for her work.[2] Abdul was noted for putting Ullman through strenuous choreographed routines. Ullman had been a trained dancer.



Cast of The Tracey Ullman Show, 1987. Left to right: Dan Castellaneta, Sam McMurray, Tracey Ullman, Joe Malone, Julie Kavner

Animation by[edit]

Series directors[edit]

  • Ted Bessell (unknown episodes)
  • Paul Flaherty (one episode, 1987)
  • Art Wolff (unknown episodes)

Series writers[edit]

  • Kim Fuller (unknown episodes)
  • Jeff Baron (unknown episodes)
  • Dan Castellaneta (unknown episodes)
  • Paul Flaherty (13 episodes, 1987)
  • Marc Flanagan (unknown episodes)
  • Susan Gauthier (unknown episodes)
  • Paul Haggis (unknown episodes)
  • Sue Herring (unknown episodes)
  • Holly Holmberg Brooks (unknown episodes)
  • David Isaacs (unknown episodes)
  • Ken Levine (unknown episodes)
  • Heide Perlman (unknown episodes)
  • Michael Sardo (2 episodes, 1989)
  • Guy Shulman (unknown episodes)
  • Sam Simon (unknown episodes)


Re-runs appeared on Comedy Central and the Lifetime TV cable network throughout the mid and late 1990s in the United States.


  1. ^ "TTO - Characters Performed by Tracey Ullman". Retrieved May 3, 2015. 
  2. ^ "1988–1989 Emmy Awards". Retrieved May 3, 2015. 

External links[edit]