HBO imports 'Tracey Ullman's Show' for 2nd season

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By Kevin McDonough

I've always admired Tracey Ullman for her skills as a mimic. And for the audacity of chasing a smart audience instead of a large one. Ullman's efforts have often found a small circle.

Her groundbreaking series on the fledgling Fox Network in the late 1980s was famous for two rather astounding things. It introduced the world to a little cartoon called "The Simpsons," and it came in last place in the ratings, week after week. I didn't even know there were 88 shows on television back in 1990 when Ullman's show consistently came in 88th.

"Tracey Ullman's Show" (11 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) was clearly made for British viewers and imported onto the premium network. Her references have not been adapted for American tastes. Sometimes you have to wonder just who HBO is hoping to entertain with this offering. Looking for prolonged skits about BBC broadcaster Clare Balding? I didn't think so.

But enough British pop culture has filtered over here to make this worthwhile. "Ullman" kicks off with a skit about an "inaudible" detective that's clearly based on the BBC's Yorkshire-based "Happy Valley," a critically acclaimed detective drama that I've always found unintelligible. I'm happy to see that it baffles viewers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ullman reprises some of her favorite characters, including a spot-on imitation of Dame Judi Dench, who is forever using her reputation as a "national treasure" to get away with petty infractions. At one point, she imitates Dame Maggie Smith, sent to bail Dench out of a jail cell.

Ullman has thing for imitating German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and does so here in a prolonged musical number. Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world, but it's probably a long shot that she'd show up parodied or mimicked on an American comedy series.

Speaking of Americans, Ullman has added Jerry Hall to her list of impersonations. She appears in a sitcomlike take on the domestic life of Rupert Murdoch and his battling brood.

• Streaming on Netflix, beginning today, "The Day I Met El Chapo" (TV-MA) is a three-part profile of Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, whose encounter with the world's most wanted drug lord led to his downfall.

• In the new documentary "One of Us" (TV-14), also on Netflix, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady ("Jesus Camp") profile three adults who have left insular Hasidic communities.

• A film adaptation of Stephen King's novella "1922" (TV-MA) also begins streaming on Netflix.

CULT CHOICE

Jeff Bridges stars in the dark 1979 satire "Winter Kills" (10:15 p.m., TCM) as a man obsessed with trying to unravel the mystery behind the assassination of his brother, the president. A sprawling cast includes John Huston, Anthony Perkins and Elizabeth Taylor in an uncredited role. Besides wading into the swamp of JFK conspiracy theories, the film was beset with so many pre- and post-production problems that it inspired a 2003 documentary "Who Killed 'Winter Kills'?" Based on a novel by Richard Condon.

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• Rebecca enlists Nathaniel in her revenge plot on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).

• Ron Livingston ("Loudermilk") stars in the 1999 workplace satire "Office Space" (8 p.m., IFC).

• Carlos Watson hosts "Third Rail With Ozy" (8:30 p.m., PBS, check local listings).

• The foster home gets a new recruit on "The Exorcist" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

"Inside With Chris Cuomo" (9 p.m., HLN) visits New Hampshire to explore its opioid crisis.

• A witness is silenced on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

SERIES NOTES

Sew what on "MacGyver" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * The boys discuss their abusive past on "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) * Cinderella makes a new friend on "Once Upon a Time" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * A hacker reveals informants' identities on "Hawaii Five-0" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * The royals remain scattered on "Marvel's Inhumans" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Adam brings out Jane's lighter side on "Jane the Virgin" (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG).

LATE NIGHT

Steve Martin and Mark Feuerstein are on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Hillary Clinton and Miley Cyrus on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC, r) * Woody Harrelson and Paul Shaffer appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC) * Sofia Vergara, Craig Robinson, Julie Klausner and Gregg Bissonette visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) * Matt Bomer, Niecy Nash and Julia Michaels are on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

© 2017, United Feature Syndicate