My TV

19 January 2009

Pilot Watch: United States of Tara

By // TV

Tonight marked the premiere of a new show on Showtime that has everything going for it.

United States of Tara, a half hour comedy about a woman with multiple personality disorder, is incredibly promising. The first episode was funny and engaging and absolutely unique. I’m hoping the show proves unsinkable, and the evidence is on my side.

First of all, the show was conceived by Steven Spielberg- yes THAT Steven Spielberg. Then it was developed and written by Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, whose unique turn of phrase and knack for developing interesting characters and relationships is what made her famous. Next is the force that is Toni Collette. Playing Tara and the many characters that come with her, Collette is remarkable and one of the few women in Hollywood who could pull off such a challenging feat. Then there’s Tara’s husband, who happens to be played by one of the most charming and endearing men in the business, John Corbett. Here, Corbett uses his trademark sweetness as the head of an incredibly understanding family who loves their mother no matter what. The cast also features Rosemarie DeWitt whose memorable turn as Anne Hathaway’s sister in Rachel Getting Married remains one of my favourite performance of the year. And Nathan Corddry (whom I learned to love while watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) is slated to appear in most episodes to come.

I already love this family. I love that we’re joining them after they’ve already been dealing with the reality of Tara’s illness for years. There’s none of that annoying “learning to adjust” crap that comes with most pilot episodes. The illness is just a twist in their life, something that, as Marshall (the youngest) says “makes them interesting”. I love the dynamics that (only 22 minutes into the series) have already begun to make themselves clear. I love that Kate (the teenage daughter) finds a friend in T (the rebellious 15-year-old “alter” aka alternate personality) and that Marshall is a bit afraid of Buck (the male hillbilly alter who mocks him for his sensitivity). I love the dichotomy of Kate’s rebellious persona and her classical ballet training and honest appreciation for her challenging family. I love that Marshall bakes his sister “muffins of triumph” for her ballet recital. I love that Max has to struggle with relating to each alter as separate from Tara herself and that Tara’s sister Charmaine (DeWitt) can’t seem to understand even though she’s lived with it all her life.

United States of Tara is simply really cool. For 22 minutes tonight I wasn’t guffawing weakly at the screen, I wasn’t trying to remain invested and I wasn’t playing tetris while watching. United States of Tara had me invested in mere minutes, and I stayed that way the entire way through.

I’ve had my heart broken many times recently: I lost Valentine and My Own Worst Enemy only a couple episodes in and Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money were taken from me in one fell swoop. So can United States of Tara survive this dangerous TV climate? I really think it can. Because if Spielberg, Cody, Collette and Corbett can’t do it, who can?

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