Tracey Ullman Hits the Right Note with Viewers as 3 Million Tune in

BBC1 sketch show marking comedian’s first British TV programme in more than 30 years takes 24% of all viewing in Monday night slot

Tracey Ullman’s first UK TV show in more than 30 years was watched by an average of 2.9 million on Monday night. Photograph: Rory Lindsay/BBC Paul Revoir 

Tracey Ullman’s long-awaited return to UK screens, with her first British TV show in more than 30 years, has proved a big hit with viewers after the opening episode attracted an audience of almost 3 million.

The sketch show pulled in an average audience of 2.9 million in a late 10.45pm slot on BBC1, trouncing its rivals and bettering the usual audience share for the slot.

There was uncertainty ahead of the opening episode as to whether the British public would still be interested in Ullman as a performer, given how long it is since she appeared on a home-grown programme.

Others questioned whether the fact that younger generations did not know who she was would severely damage the show’s ratings. While Ullman is said to be Britain’s highest earning female comedian, she has been largely anonymous on UK screens in the decades since moving to America. 

But clearly there is still great affection for the star, who came to prominence in the 1980s BBC sketch show Three of Kind, where she starred alongside Lenny Henry and David Copperfield.

Monday night’s Tracey Ullman’s Show, which featured impressions of Judi Dench and Angela Merkel, took a 24% share of the audience when it aired.

It beat factual series Saved on ITV, which drew 600,00 viewers, Newsnight which was watched by 700,000 and Channel 4’s David Bowie tribute which attracted an audience of 500,000.

The show also pulled in more viewers than Question Timeattracted in the same slot, in its most recent episode on 17 December, which got 2.6 million viewers.

Some have expressed surprise that the BBC put the show on in such a late slot given that, despite her low-profile in the UK, she is a hugely successful performer.

But the programme’s opening episode received a mixed response from those watching.

While some viewers praised the “disguised depth” of her comedy and called the sketches at times “extremely clever”, others branded the show “very patchy.”

One viewer wrote on the BBC’s Points of View message board: “I found it very patchy. The ongoing bit with her returning after a long stint in gaol wasn’t funny at all. On the other hand, the library song was brilliant.”

Another praised the show, saying: “It is true there is a disguised depth to what she does. I think these sketches are more like literary short stories and/or portraits than just comedy sketches.”

One viewer added: “Her shows were always patchy, always had ups and downs. Sometimes she is extremely clever and takes great trouble with impersonations like Judi Dench. Often, though, she seems to me that she carries a sketch too far and loses the basic point of it.”

Source: The Guardian