Bloomberg (Minute): Ruth Madoff Gets Downsized in New Tracey Ullman Show: Review

Review by Dave Shiflett

Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- There’s a major player missing from the third-season opener of Tracey Ullman’s “State of the Union”: Barack Obama.

Ullman, who wore out a pair of boots kicking George W. Bush, takes a pass on the new president in the first episode, which airs on Showtime tonight at 10:30 p.m. New York time.

You’d think getting a Nobel Peace Prize while escalating a war should be good for at least a laugh or two.

Bernie Madoff, however, gets pasted, as does his wife, Ruth, (played by Ullman) who has been downsized to a small apartment near Harlem, complete with a bare radiator and lots of street noise.

That’s paradise compared to Bernie’s new digs. Cut to a correctional facility in North Carolina, where the pope of Ponzi shares a narrow bunk with a burly black inmate who clearly has not taken a vow of chastity.

It gets worse. Madoff is also blamed for 9/11 and swine flu. His likeness stands in a Holocaust museum beside Albert Speer -- like a pair of pariahs.

It makes you wonder if Bernie might have stolen some of Tracey’s dough here in the real world.

The half-hour show is uneven. Some gags are top-drawer, others fall flat. Ullman is at her best in a terrific send-up of the political chattering class.

The skit unfolds in Rachel Maddow’s dressing room, where Ullman plays Maddow, Arianna Huffington (“I haven’t stopped talking since ‘Morning Joe’”), Meghan McCain and Rep. Barney Frank. Her Huffington imitation is especially tight: She looks like Huff, yaps like Huff and reminds some of us why we reach for the clicker when Huffington appears onscreen.

City Slickers

There’s also a whack at city slickers who pay big bucks for brushed-denim jeans that make it appear they’ve been out digging ditches or putting up houses for Habitat for Humanity, or maybe pack industrial-strength marriage tackle -- a new wrinkle on the old codpiece gag. Ullman also brings back her hybrid car, which gets 900 miles a gallon and is so small you could probably drive it with a three wood.

The funniest segment features a woman who suffers from severe Internet addiction. She’s monitoring a cyst with an ultrasound app and may post a pic on her Facebook page -- so weird and gross it’s easy to believe it has really happened.

After an intervention by friends and family, the patient goes off to a detox facility in Arizona and falls back in love with the pre-digital world. “I want to read books with pages again,” she said. “I don’t want to scroll through life anymore.”

There’s a message here: The U.S. is hooked on addiction and intervention programs. For every American, the show concludes, there’s a staff of four professionals ready to help us regain our footing.

(Dave Shiflett is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this story: Dave Shiflett at