Inimitable comedian Tracey Ullman turns up in a first-class showcase of her versatility and classy talents. Three shrewdly interlocking playlets — shot through with humor and quality writing and a select cast directed impeccably by Don Scardino — show what top-flight talent can do.
“The Johnsons” catches a Wisconsin married couple — Ullman and Dan Castellaneta — as tourists in Manhattan, with Ullman exuberant and outgoing, Castellaneta worried sick about the dangers of the city. Separated, they find their own levels.
“Family Reunion” features Ullman, bitchy editor of a smart New York magazine, pretending her middle-class British parents (Ullman, Michael Williams) are dead.
Actually they’re domestics for a rock star back in England. A jealous assistant springs them on her in N.Y. during a TV interview;
Ullman’s savvy editor knows exactly what to do.
“The Rosenthal Affair,” the most intricate and effective of the three sketches, casts Ullman as an outrageous Long Island Jewish mother whose daughter is marrying a young Minnesota Jew whose conservative parents (Blythe Danner, John Cunningham), in town for the wedding, unnerve her.
Already boisterous, insecure and flamboyant, she unrestrainedly loathes the refined parents of the groom.Ullman lends depth and insight to all her characterizations, ranging from a faded TV star trying to make a comeback to the sunny Midwestern tourist. But her raging, jealous mother of the bride zings home with extraordinary perception. And heart.
Ullman and the first-class cast surrounding her, the superior writing and direction give TV comedy a much-needed lift.