Three of a Kind (1981)

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This influential British sketch-comedy series served to make major stars out of two of its three regulars. Debuting July 1, 1981 on BBC1, Three of a Kind was a showcase for the versatile Tracey Ullman, Lenny Henry, and David Copperfield (not the magician). Although Ullman was a woman and Henry was black, the series was refreshingly free of sexist and racist humor, relying instead upon quickie, non sequitur satirical sketches and quirky characterizations. The laughs were sustained by a special effect called "Gagfax," in which jokes were printed onscreen in the manner of a breaking news bulletin (a device borrowed from America's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and later streamlined as the now-familiar "pop-ups" seen on VH1 and other cable services). Running two seasons and 17 episodes, plus one special, Three of a Kind enabled Tracey Ullman to launch her own weekly series on America's Fox Network, and transformed Lenny Henry into a virtual cult figure. Curiously, David Copperfield never quite attained the career heights of his costars, even though he was a talented performer in his own right. The final episode of Three of a Kind aired on October 8, 1983.