By Harrison Flatau
Showtime’s new series United States of Tara is filled to the brim with potential energy. Unfortunately, the show has yet to kinetically use this energy.
Tara stars Toni Collette as the titular Tara who has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, aka multiple personalities). Her personality splits off into three separate personalities: T, a skanky 16-year-old; Buck, a wounded Vietnam Vet; and Alice, a June Cleaver knockoff. The rest of the characters are Max (John Corbett), the loving, understanding husband, Marshall (Kier Gilchrist), the cultured son, Kate (Brie Larson), the promiscuous daughter and Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt), Tara’s jealous sister.
While the premise of the show is interesting enough, the plot leaves much to be desired. Show creators Steven Spielberg and Diablo Cody chose to give the show a slice-of-life story structure. Since there’s no overarching plot that the characters base their actions off of (e.g. Dexter vs. The Ice Truck Killer or Michael Weston figuring out who burned him in Burn Notice), each episode must succeed on the basis of the characters.
The characters in Tara, however, are shallow and flat. The daughter Kate is a two-dimensional 16-year-old rebelling against her parents. The sister, Charmaine, seems to be in the show just to say “DID is not real!”
Tara is seven episodes deep as of this writing and it was only in the sixth episode (of a 13-episode season) that viewers were given shades of a plot–Tara has developed a new personality.
So far the best part of Tara has been the side characters and cameos. Patton Oswalt shows up as Max’s colleague; Fred Ward was Tara’s dad; and there was a terrific performance from Jessica St. Clair as Tiffany St. John, a chipper yuppie.
I haven’t given up on Tara yet. It seems like the writers are still finding their sea legs with this unique concept. It just seems like they’ve squandered the amazing potential of this show.