A few weeks ago, a friend of mine encouraged me to watch Showtime's series "United States of Tara." I was unsure, as I had heard the concept and expected something silly and outlandish, but I gave it a shot, because I'm a fan of creator Diablo Cody's film "Juno", and I had heard that Steven Spielberg was an executive producer. He popped in the DVD, and we watched the pilot on his computer. The instant it ended, I pushed him away, loaded up Amazon and ordered the first two seasons for myself! I was that taken by the show! Within two days of the DVDs arriving, I had watched both seasons, ran to my mothers house, hijacked her TV (and her Showtime on Demand), and watched every single episode available! "United States of Tara" is easily one of the best shows on TV right now. It is an often poignant, thoroughly dramatic, and generally hilarious look at the life of a woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder, and how she tries to hold her family together through her struggles.
Toni Collette easily earns her Emmy Award as Tara, the star of the show, and her (thus far) seven "alters" (her alternate personalities) who take over when Tara cannot deal with reality. The performance Collette gives is incredible, because Tara and each of the alters is it's own "being", with its own style, voice and traits. For all intent and purpose, Collette has played eight characters on the show, often switching between 2-4 per episode.
John Corbett, Keir Gilchrist, Brie Larson and Rosemarie DeWitt round out the cast as Tara's supportive (almost to the point of breaking) husband, her kind-hearted son (who happens to be gay), her sometimes troubled teenaged daughter, and her somewhat self-absorbed sister, respectively. This is one of those rare casts that perfectly "gels", and there is no sore thumb in sight!
The show itself is well structured. While I had heard it was comedic, it is actually more often a very serious drama, with comedy thrown in. While you will laugh at it, and with it, you will also often find yourself ready to shed a tear for the characters. Cody and the other writers prove themselves, establishing and paying off characters masterfully, in ways that most shows could only dream of. Story lines also draw you in, and you will feel a very human suspense. This is a show that feels real, feels edgy, feels funny... It just works.
Thus far, the show is comprised of three seasons (I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a fourth, despite season 3's lower ratings). This is why the show didn't get a perfect 10 from me- a slight inconsistency with the second season's quality. The first season was outstanding. It truly was one of a kind. It tugged at my heart, and made me laugh. The second season was at times just a bit too... "blah." It was occasionally too dark (more than once forcing story lines and images that felt just too darned uncomfortable, and derivative of the first season), and it felt like there wasn't as much happening. It was still good, but it wasn't as fresh. There wasn't quite the sense of urgency that season one seemed to ooze. It felt like, for lack of better word, an unneeded movie sequel- sure, it's fun to catch up with the characters, but it's not quite as fresh. Thankfully, it did finally get back on track as the season wrapped up, and the finale was heartfelt and worth the "wonky" earlier episodes. And I'm happy to report that Season Three (the current season) is arguably just as good, it not better, than the first season! It was quite a comeback, and I'm glad the show found its legs again.
All-in-all, I highly recommend "United States of Tara" to all open-minded people who want a touching, thought-provoking and smart comedy-drama to follow. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a phenomenal show overall, despite an only so-so second season. I give it a near-perfect 9 out of 10!
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