Genre: TV series, Comedy, Drama
Country: United States
Starring: Toni Collette, John Corbett, Toni Collette, Brie Larson, Toni Collette, Keir Gilchrist, Toni Collette, Rosemarie DeWitt, Toni Collette, Patton Oswalt, Pamela Reed, Fred Ward, Nathan Corddry, Hayley McFarland, Andrew Lawrence, Jessica St. Clair, Valerie Mahaffey, Joel Gretsch
Eye candy: Collette, Larson, Collette, DeWitt, Collette, St. Clair
Creator: Diablo Cody
Producers: Steven Spielberg, Alexa Junge
Run time: 5 hours 32 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
It’s rare that I get a TV series on DVD and sit through the whole thing. I have to really love the show to take five or six hours out of my life to watch a full season. And I tend not to split the season up either. If I have watched four episodes of Perry Mason Season Three, and I stop, I will likely never go back to finish that season. It’s all or nothing with me. With United States Of Tara Season One, it was “all”. Over the course of two days I watched every episode in the first season with growing interest.
My wife did too – it’s even more rare for her to sit through a whole TV season than it is for me (after watching 33 hours of The 4400, which ended without ending, she is terrified of being burned again, and I am terrified with having to deal with a furious wife when a show ends in an unsatisfactory manner). That’s because this show is compelling.
It’s a comedy without being hilarious, it’s a drama that isn’t terrifically dramatic, but it’s the kind of show that leaves me wanting more. United States of Tara stars the wonderful Toni Collette as five different people. Tara, the wife and mother and regular woman, and her four alter egos. T is a rambunctious slutty and obnoxious teenager. Alice is a creepy 50s-style Stepford Wife. Buck is a beer-drinking, gun-shooting lunatic redneck man. And “Gimme”, who appears only a couple of times in the first season, is a weird, animalistic freak who is described delightfully by Tara’s husband Max (John Corbett) as a “poncho-goblin”.
T is an annoying caricature, Buck is an obnoxious jerk caricature, but Alice is terribly interesting. She is clearly a nut, inventing a pregnancy when no such thing exists and displaying some serious passive-aggressive tendencies. Toward the end of the first season, we learn that Alice might be the caretaker of all the other alter-egos (“alters”, as they are called) and that she could represent the key to Tara’s insanity. She appears to be the only one aware of “Gimme”, and I can’t wait for the second season to find out more.
The family is terrific also. Keir Gilchrist is great as Marshall, Tara and Max’s gay son who is infatuated with a boy at school. I thought it was highly unusual and refreshing in a TV show when Marshall actually managed to get somewhere with this boy, and wasn’t rebuffed like so many other gay TV characters. Of course, it doesn’t work out in the end, but it’s a pretty different plot line.
Brie Larson plays the couple’s smoking hot 15-year-old daughter Kate, a slutty but very self-assured young girl who behaves as many 15-year-old girls behave. She unwittingly leads on her loser manager at work (Nathan Corddry) by making out with him and having a brief relationship. She can’t understand why he still pursues her, since they just “hooked up”. When he (expectedly) becomes a creepy stalker, she files a complaint with the head office, but it’s because she wants money, and not for any legitimate reason.
As the first season ends, Tara has spent some time at an institution for insane folks, and she and Max have come closer to solving the mystery. The idea is that at some point in her past, a specific incident triggered the problems that led to her current craziness. As we think we’re about to get answers about that incident, we just get more questions. And the long, slow march toward the truth that has gone on all season must continue. And that’s why I can’t wait for the first episode of Season Two, which starts in March.
This show is good, and if you’re going to watch Season Two, the DVD set of Season One is a good place to start preparing yourself. It came out on DVD December 29th from Paramount Home Entertainment.