Tracey Ullman helped Rupert Murdoch launch the Fox network in 1987 with her sketch comedy series “The Tracey Ullman Show” — which went on to spawn “The Simpsons,” one of the most lucrative franchises in TV history. Now, Ullman has been parodying the relationship between Murdoch and Jerry Hall in her current series, “Tracey Ullman’s Show.”
In the BBC series, which returns in the U.S. on Friday night for a third season on HBO, Ullman plays a wide variety of politicians and celebrities — including Hall. The Murdoch sketches feature Ben Miller as the media mogul opposite Ullman, and the two of them play Murdoch and Hall as giddy and sex-crazed — much to the chagrin of grown children James and Lachlan, who’d rather discuss Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s production assets.
“From the feedback I’ve gotten, they like it, the Murdochs, they think it’s fun,” Ullman said. “They’re taking it in very good humor. I think it’s rather funny.”
Ullman said she decided to parody Murdoch and Hall after they got married, and the couple’s various children all showed up at the wedding. “It gave me the feeling of ‘The Brady Bunch,'” she said. “I hear they’re very happy, they love being together. We put my little touches in, like she’s making him wear really tight black jeans.”
In Ullman’s sketches, “they’re obviously very sexual and can’t wait to run back up to bed together,” she said. “I think that’s kind of funny. The kids are all incredibly nice to him because there are so many of them, and they don’t want their inheritance threatened.”
Ullman said she has kept in touch with Murdoch over the years since “The Tracey Ullman Show.” “I like him, I try to go for his Australian sense of humor, because he’s funny,” she said. “He’s always been very friendly to me.”
Beyond Hall, Ullman reprises her usual stable of impressions, such as Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. But her emphasis in Season 3 is on politicians — including German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister Theresa May, French First Lady Brigitte Macron, and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump.
In the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, her show changed somewhat, Ullman said. “I’m still weathering the storm with my Angela Merkel character,” she said. “Things have changed for her. And Theresa May has been fascinating to impersonate.”
One other thing that has changed: Ullman is now shooting fresh sketches right before air in the U.K. in order to keep up with the fast-moving news cycle. “When it gets closer to transmission day we’ll shoot some pertinent news sketches the day before it goes out so that we can be topical,” Ullman said. “That’s made it a more fun and interesting show. You can’t shoot an Angela Merkel sketch and put it out three months later!”
HBO’s “Tracey Ullman’s Show” returns for Season 3 on Friday, Sept. 28, at midnight ET.