Tuesday, April 27, 2021

TV Tuesday: The United States of Tara

We are a bit late to the party, but we've just discovered the outstanding drama-comedy of The United States of Tara, a half-hour show that originally ran on Showtime from 2009-2011. We are enjoying this wholly original series.

Toni Collette plays Tara, a wife and mother with Dissociative Identity Disorder aka Multiple Personality Disorder. Stress can trigger her to morph from her normal, ordinary mom persona into one of three other distinct personalities: T, a 16-year-old with a wild streak; Alice, a buttoned-up, perfect 50's-type housewife, complete with high-heeled pumps and frilly aprons; and Buck, a rough male Vietnam vet. Tara has no control over when or where one of the other personalities takes over her body and often doesn't remember what happened while she was one of the others. She lives with her long-suffering but loving husband, Max (played by John Corbett); older teen daughter, Kate (played by Brie Larson); and younger teen son, Marshall (played by Keir Gilchrist, talented star of Atypical). Tara's younger sister, Charmaine, played by Rosemary DeWitt, is often around, too. They are an ordinary suburban family, except when they aren't. Though Tara's alter egos often wreak havoc in their lives, sometimes they are just there for awhile, and the family has gotten used to the sudden shifts. T borrows Kate's clothes, Alice loves to bake, and Buck is an excellent bowler. The family weathers the usual ups and downs, with Tara's unexpected personality shifts thrown into the mix. She suspects there is some forgotten trauma behind the disorder, and she sometimes tries therapy and other approaches to getting better, but much of the time, this is just normal life for this very unusual family.

OK, I know this sounds like a very weird premise ... but it works. In fact, it works extraordinarily well. All of the actors on the show are excellent and work very well together, but Toni Collette's performance, playing four very distinct personalities, is outstanding. In fact, she won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and several other awards for this role. She and the rest of the cast manage to capture both the ordinariness of their life and the insanity of it. Though Tara is at the center of it, the show is also about a regular family living this extraordinary life: Kate's issues with boyfriends and jobs, Marshall's struggles with his sexual orientation, and Max's attempts to hold the family together and earn a living. And Tara is actually a great mom, when she isn't punching Kate's boyfriend as Buck or embarrassing the kids as T! The show is warm and engaging and both moving and very funny at times. We just started season 2 (of 3) and are enjoying it.

The United States of Tara originally aired on Showtime, so is still available on their platform. It is now also currently available on Hulu. You can also purchase episodes for $1.99 or seasons for $10.99 at this link on Amazon or start a 7-day free subscription to Showtime there.


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