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The Tudors returns and Tracey tackles America

“The Tudors” and “Tracey Ullman: State of the Union” premiere on Showtime Sunday and although they are back-to-back, the two could not be more different. The fact they share in common is they are stellar.

The royal romps are backSheKnows was given an inside look into the first four episodes of both shows’ new season. In their own unique ways, one is compellingly dramatic and Ullman is, as always, hysterically funny. She holds a comic mirror to her new adopted country — America — as nobody else can.

“The Tudors”
9 p.m.

Royally good

“The Tudors” stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VIII in the stretched for drama true story of the leader of the British Empire who went through wives like socks.

In this second season Queen Katherine is dead and Queen Anne Boleyn gets her opportunity to create an heir to the throne. The drama is intense, passionate and captures the time period as many sixteenth-century-set films have tried and failed compared to “The Tudors.”

There is drama at every turn, from romance to politics. It is amazing how much King Henry VIII’s world mirrors our own – minus the leader with an insatiable sexual appetite.

This season has the blessing of two legendary British actors joining its cast – Jeremy Northam and Peter O’Toole as Pope Paul III. O’Toole’s range as a performer is from the old school of British theater and the power he brings to the Pope pops off the screen. Northam is also fantastic, as he always is, with character further adding drama to an enigmatic drama that somehow still manages to push the envelope.

The women of Henry’s court bring a sensuality to their roles that makes the King’s follies and the risks they entail, feel true of a regal man of that era. In this second season with its darkened tones, Meyers’ King is valiant and venerable and, as an actor, has found his career role. As is accurate to history, the King was willing to throw away a 1,000-year old relationship with the Catholic church in order to marry the woman, Anne Boleyn, who promised him a son that Queen Katherine could not.

Of course we know that never happens, so ultimately the intrigue is sure to grow more passionate. But for this season, Henry wants to marry Anne and make her Queen. With arrival of O’Toole’s Pope, the likelihood of him allowing a divorce, even for the King, grows slimmer. Henry is left with one option – leave the church and start his own – The Church of England.

“The Tudors” is lush, more than anything on television currently. Living in the sixteen century is captured with such grace, that although the world seems to be on the verge of a historical fight between government and the church, “The Tudors” still feels intimate. And since sensuality drives much of the commanding drama in the story, it is evidence of a show finding its mission and delivering on it thoroughly.

“Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union”
10: 00 p.m.

Royally funny

Tracey Ullman has long lampooned America. But now, as a newly minted American citizen, she feels especially comfortable poking fun at her new home. “Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union” plays out like a day in American complete with dramatic voice-over describing each scene’s set-up.

Tracey loves America“Meanwhile, it’s 8 a.m. in Beverly Hills, California and actress Renee Zellweger is getting ready for a press conference,” the narrator may say. Then, cue the hilarity.

Her impressions run from the real, Suzanne Somers, to the fictional — a priceless WNBA coach. Each half-hour is filled with enough variety that the time flies. Without commercials, it is unmatched how Ullman can deliver comedy and maintain it solidly for the entire program.

As Ullman says, “Impersonating a nation, one character at a time,” she does so in a tour de force comedic performance. “State of the Union” features 30 of her characters, some familiar and some brilliantly inspired in their new creation. One of those characters that is returning to Ullman’s madcap world is Chanel Monticello, the airport security agent who does things her way.

From satirizing Bollywood musicals with lyrics producing hilarity about the American medical insurance crisis to her Dina Lohan that capture celebrity motherhood better than if a camera followed the real Dina Lohan around for a night. You laugh because it’s funny. You laugh because it’s true. But you also laugh because Ullman is a natural comedienne. This is the woman who first featured “The Simpsons” on her show and has the foresight to know that the time is right for America to laugh at itself.

Tracey Ullman is now an American citizen and nobody makes fun of ourselves, better than we do, just ask a long lineage of American comedians. Seeing Ullman with a cache of characters spanning the gamut of U.S. society is a pleasure and a lesson in who we are as a nation.

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