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United States of Tara / 2x01 Review

United States of Tara (Showtime): Review

Steven Spielberg’s Showtime dramedy United States of Tara with Golden Globe winner Toni Collette ratchets up the drama - not the comedy - in its Season Two premiere.

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By Rachel Ray, Washington
23 Mar 2010

Showtime’s United States of Tara, produced by Steven Spielberg, and starring Aussie actress Toni Collette - who won the Golden Globe award this year for best actress in a television series for her role as a Kansas wife and mother who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or multiple personality disorder - begins Season Two with the promise of a more serious look at a devastating psychiatric disorder.

By the end of Season One, viewers had been introduced to all of Tara’s transitioning states. “T” came on as a sassy, provocative teenager; “Buck” was Tara’s gun-loving male personality; and “Alice” was a perfectly decorous 1950s housewife. Tara, along with her three alter egos, was wife and mother to loving husband Max and teenaged children, Kate and Marshall.

The entire family supported Tara in her decision to stay off her medication and deal with her “transitions” - the emergence of alternate personalities. But by the end of Season One, exhausted Tara returns for hospital treatment and agrees to quell her other identities with anti-psychotic medication. Much of the show’s success in Season One rested on Collette’s extraordinary talent in keeping her character’s four separate personalities believably alive as well as comically entertaining.

Season Two opens on the somber note of Tara’s next door neighbour’s suicide. And even though Tara interjects her usual dark humour saying that the death is a small victory for her since everyone probably thought she’d be the one to kill herself, we sense change in the air.

Tara dutifully takes her pills but subsequent gossipy revelations about how the neighbour killed himself and his determination to end his life seem to disturb her. The suicide’s sister asks Max and Tara to keep watch over the house while it’s readied for the real estate market and Tara can’t resist satisfying her morbid curiosity by visiting. DID is brought on by traumatic episodes, and we’re put on notice that something eerie and unsettling is enveloping Tara.

Season Two also deepens the lives of Tara’s children and sister. Her son Marshall, who believes he’s gay, finally sits at the gable (the gay table) in the school lunchroom and Kate lands a job in a collections agency.

Sister Charmaine is proposed to by her new lawyer boyfriend.

But as ever, United States of Tara is mainly a story about Tara and her mental problems and how well Toni Collette can pull it all off. By the end of the Season Two premiere, Tara can’t stop a transition back into Buck and the realisation that, even with medication, her illness is far from cured.

In her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes award ceremony in January, Collette made a point of thanking not agents, co-stars, and family members, but “the people at Showtime” who create shows like United States of Tara. Without those people's original and intelligent approach to storytelling, actors of Collette’s calibre might never been seen on American television.

Watch United States of Tara (Showtime), Mondays, 10:30 p.m. ET

Lol the writer is called Rachel Ray. How are you finding season 2? The new alter Shoshana looks interesting. And Gimme isn't in the promo?
Tags: review, television, television promo / stills

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