United States of Tara

by Melissa Schroeder
As some of you know if you read any of my posts on our old blog, I like the unusual. I tend to find music to write to that just isn't what other people would use, and I tend to LOVE the shows that get great reviews, win awards and get cancelled. I still complain at least once a week Arrested Development isn't on anymore. US TV execs give shows very little chance of succeeding, and if they don't do it on their time frame, or don't hold up to multiple schedule changes, then they cancel a show. If it isn't a fave of the execs, they tend to do everything in their power to get rid of it. So, I am constantly disappointed. But earlier this fall I heard of a show coming up on Showtime, developed by Diablo Cody of Juno fame, and produced by Stephen Spielberg, and I knew I had another show to look forward to.

The United States of Tara tells the story of a woman with multiple personalities, or dissociative identity disorder. Toni Collette plays a woman who has decided to go off meds to find out why she has these personalities, or alters. John Corbett plays Max, the steadfast husband who never knows who the hell is going to be at home when he gets there. There is a great supporting cast including the two kids played by Brie Larson and Keir Gilchrist. Each family member has interactions with all the alters, well except the new animalistic one that showed up all of the sudden. You also have a sister, Charmaine played very well by Rosemarie Dewitt who isn't completely convinced that Tara is truly sick.

You have three distinct alters in Tara. There is T, the trashy teenager who can't be trusted with money because you never know if she will buy too much makeup and clothes or possibly get a new tatoo. Then there is Alice, who is a scary version of a 1950's homemaker, who wants everything censored and tends to wash her daughter's mouth out with soap. Then, there is Buck, who is my favorite. A man who makes rednecks look gentile, he usually has his gun at his side and likes bowling and wrestling. And at the end of episode six, we were introduced to Gimme, the animalistic "poncho goblin" who urinates on people, namely Tara's father (so that makes you wonder what part he played in her splinter of personalities).
It has its funny moments--i.e. the Buck personality showing up to be Charmaine's boobie buddy after plastic surgery-but there is something else going on here below the surface. As each person interacts with the different character. They all have different reactions to each alter, and that family dynamic is a huge part of what makes the show great. Each character, Tara, her husband Max, the kids, her sister and parents, have some fear of the unknown, although, as I said, I think the parents know more about it than they are saying. While they try to hold the dysfunctional family unit together, they each have to deal with not only every day life, but life with a woman who has a sketchy mental state.

There is also a strong sense of romance in this show. Not with flowers and candy, or amazing erotic scenes but with every day life with Max. To put up with a woman with so many problems, not to mention distinct personalities, Max has got to love her. But there is something so basic and true to his character. While he may appear to be completely Beta in a way, allowing Tara's personalities to rule the world at times, there is something so Alpha about his need for solving her mysteries. And what woman wouldn't want a man who put up with what he does and still love and desire his wife? There is something about him that just makes my heart sigh whenever you see them together.

I have read some criticism from groups about the way the different alters dress up, which I leave up to making it easier for the viewer to realize which alter is on screen. There have also been some complaints about the idea that a high school rape caused the alters to emerge. While I don't know enough about the disease to say one way or another, it definitely doesn't mean that is the way the show is going. One of my biggest bitches about TV is that they don't allow things to unfold, they rush everything. The way American TV ties everything up at the end of 30 minutes with every problem resolved, the viewing public expects that. But, like with so many other shows that I like, US of Tara is delving into her past, trying to piece together the parts she doesn't remember, which is most of it. We don't know if it was the rape, or some other childhood trauma. There are hints that something happened earlier. She seems to have buried some hatred of her parents.

But, the one thing that many people complain about, that the show is moving slowly and not telling us everything up front, is something I LOVE. I hate when everything is neat and tidy at the end of every episode. I like to see the unfolding story develop and how it alters the relationships. It gives each character substance as we see the interaction with Tara and her alters. I don't think everything will be solved this year, nor would I want it to be. I hate feeling rushed, I like to enjoy the excellent acting and writing, and I hope that Showtime keeps making the right choice with this comedy/drama and I hope the writers and producers keep up the high level of work.

United States of Tara airs a new episode each week at 10 pm est.

Melissa Schroeder is an erotic and sensual romance author who has had over 25 novels, novellas and short stories published. Her next release is Saints and Sinners, the print version of two digital futuristic action adventure releases from Ellora's Cave. It will be on sale this April. She lives with her military husband and two kids in her nation's capitol.


  1. I totally agree with you! This is a fantastic show and I hope it gets the time to grow. Great post!

  2. I haven't watched it yet - I don't know if it's on in Canada yet - but I'll check it out. I think it's a very interesting and original premise - it does remind me a bit of "Medium" - Patricia Arquette plays a wife and mom who has psychic abilities which often throw her into an "altered" state of mind - making life tough for her hubbie and kids. But you're right - it's great to watch a show that gives us that kind of richness. And what a great role for an actress! I bet Toni Collette is going to get loads of nominations for the next awards run.

  3. Great post, Melissa! I've yet to check it out, too, though I want to. Have to find a time when the hubby's busy - I suspect it's not a guy thing. I love quirky characters, and Toni Collette seems more than capable of pulling off multiple ones.

  4. In my house, it's definitely a guy thing - my husband found this series on Canadian pay TV and now it's one of our favorite series.

    Melissa - we're definitely soul sisters when it comes to American TV. I don't bother with 95% of it anymore. Anything worth watching gets yanked within three episodes. But HBO and Showtime keep TV worth watching for me (and of course BBC and Masterpiece.)

  5. Hi, I'm a new poster and blogger. US of Tara is quickly becoming one of my favorite shows. I can't wait to watch the new episodes. I've been trying to get everyone I know to watch it! Even though it's quite funny at times, I personally really get involved with the story and feel for some of the characters.


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