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Ullman’s ‘Union’ Edgier Than Ever

hollywoodexclusive1"Tracey Ullman's State of the Union" returns to Showtime Jan. 25, and look out! Fans of the multiple-Emmy-winning comedienne can expect plenty of bite in her humor along with the laughs. As one critic put it, she's been moving away from Carol Burnett territory and more toward Lenny Bruce. Ullman agrees that she has more edge.

She tells us, "I'm older and I'm an American citizen now. I think that, psychologically, that allows me to say a little bit more about society and politics — without being afraid they're going to take my green card away." However, the southeast-England-born star adds, "I'm never mean-spirited. I love this country and I love these people and what goes on."

She also gives credit to her latest collaborator, Bruce Wagner, for making a change in what she does. Says Ullman, "He's a brilliantly funny, interesting person — and a very good novelist. I think I owe him a lot."

Expect her to continue to take swipes at such social ills as the over-prescribing of medication. (Yes, her hilarious Padma, the Indian pharmacist who gives drug warnings in Bollywood-style production numbers, is coming back.) She'll also endeavor to make fun of today's financial problems. She claims, "It's not all gloom and doom. I'm trying to look at it in a positive way. It's certainly what's going on this year."

Ullman won't be doing an imitation of either President Obama or first lady Michelle. Though her dead-on Laura Bush imitation had jaws dropping a year ago, she hasn't added either Obama to her list of famous characters. She couldn't find any way to make either one "organic," as she puts it. So, what are her latest favorite celebrities to impersonate at the moment? CNN's Christiane Amanpour and MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow. Because she has a goofy laugh," says Ullman, mimicking the liberal commentator perfectly. She adds, ala Maddow, "I just really admire her. I love her show, and I think she's an intelligent, fabulous woman. My whole family has a crush on her."

HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW: "If I wasn't a choreographer, I probably would be a hairdresser. I have a thing with shoes and hair," admits famed choreographer Mia Michaels. That's Michaels as in the personality who shocked fans several months ago when she debuted a newly shaven head and then announced her departure from "So You Think You Can Dance."

She explains with a laugh, "Hair for me just represents where I am in my life. Because there is so much rebuilding and newness, I just had this intense need to shave my head and I did. That's the one thing where I'm kind of badass like that."

In fact, her naked noggin set off a number of rumors that she had cancer, but she quickly nipped them in the bud. Says Michaels, "I'm not attached to what a girl is supposed to look like. I think the girl comes from the inside out. We get so caught up on the exterior that we forget that the beauty of a woman is so much from within."

This wasn't the first time she shaved her head. She notes, "I did this 11 years ago and it was probably one of the most powerful times in my life creatively and I felt my most beautiful. Now I'm at this stage in my life where it's this whole new beginning and it felt appropriate to do it again."

SWEET DREAMS: Who'd have ever thought that there'd be room for so many shows on TV devoted to the art of cake decorating? "Ace of Cakes" star Duff Goldman, whose Food Network show returns for its eighth season come Jan. 14, says he doesn't mind sharing the tube with other illustrious bakers. In fact, he says, "The more shows about cakes, the better, I think. It raises people's awareness of the cake decorating industry, which is really fantastic. It's definitely increased the demand for our product."

Indeed, his Charm City Cakes bakery of Baltimore is booking jobs months in advance. Goldman has been having fun playing celebrity while his trusty crew gets things done in the kitchen. Next up, he guests on the Disney Channel's "Imagination Movers" Jan. 16. He's playing the part of Baker Ben on the high-energy kids' show. As he points out, it wasn't as if they asked him to play "a surgeon or a race car driver. This is definitely within my realm," he says. "I'm also in a band, so the musical aspect of the show was fun for me."

INDUSTRY BITS: With production of the Mickey Rourke-Megan Fox "Passion Plays" now underway in Santa Fe, N.M., casting forces have been rounding out the roster of subsidiary characters — thugs and junkies. This is the odd tale of an angel and redemption that has the gorgeous Fox playing a "freak with huge white wings growing out of her back" as casting notices put it. Rourke's down-and-out character initially plans to make the most of this creature he finds in the desert, but of course, things get much more complicated.

Comedy Central has been looking at "hilarious, edgy, realistic twentysomething" candidates for its forthcoming "Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down" show. It's described as a pseudo reality series about hot young people trying to find success in the sex-crazed, druggy nightlife scene of today. It's a comedy, folks.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.



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