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STUDIO: Showtime / Paramount
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 332 minutes
Diablo Cody extends her fifteen minutes of fame by getting Spielberg to fund her journey into the mind of a loon.
Toni Collette, John Corbett, Rosemarie DeWitt, Keir Gilchrist, Brie Larson
Bitches be crazy.
United States of Tara entered its second season without any real momentum. The first season ended on a weird spot, as Tara Gregson got an idea of why she first started suffering from her alternate personalities. Marshall continued to deal with being a gay teen in the middle of Kansas. Kate Gregson continued to be a smoking hot chick that never showed the goods. Then, John Corbett got to anchor the performance as the most relaxed man on premium cable. Patton Oswalt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Fred Ward also appear to keep the momentum going, as other writers attempt to break away from the Diablo Cody showrunning aura.
The season opener drops the Gregson gang roughly a few months after the end of Season 1. Their neighbor just killed himself, so the Gregsons decide to take over his house and attempt to flip it. Kate lands a collections job that takes her into Asgardian Fetish model territory. If that wasn’t enough, Marshall gets to mack on the ladies and suddenly realize that he prefers weiner. Everyone’s happy as a clam, until the other shoe drops. Tara’s sister discovers that Patton Oswalt knocked her up last season. A new alternate personality works its way into Tara’s life. If that wasn’t enough, Tara starts having prophetic dreams that reveal new aspects of her childhood that will continue to impact her into Season 3.
The second season underwent a great deal of fine-tuning, as the focus seemed to be lifting slowly off of Toni Collette’s shoulders after her freshman Award run for playing the titular character. Director Craig Gillespie and a new team of writers decided to focus less on the alters. The additional focus was shifted to Max and the kids, then the supporting players got in on the act. Realizing that the tiny neighborhood surrounding Tara could be turned into a tribe of story development, the show found its legs. That ability to break away from the central character and develop your supporting cast is so essential to a successful program. But, that’s not to say that there weren’t faults.
Academy Award nominated actress Viola Davis appears as a broke artist that stumbles into Kate’s life. Taking advantage of some awesome Viking Princess gear, Kate strikes up a notion to break out of the mundane. The little lady becomes an internet fetish model and begins to tread into her mother’s identity issues. Marshall has a less direct conflict with identity, as he becomes more comfortable slipping into the idea that he is a gay teenager. If anyone grows this season, it has to be Max Gregson. Breaking out of the doting father role, John Corbett develops Max into an unsure lover of Tara and her baggage. Even if it means, trying to fuck her when she’s another personality. This season, he gets the opportunity to sample his wife’s extra-marital personality pick-ups.
Such notions of morality when placed against a vacuum of self creates new problems that only get pushed to the side, when Tara’s quest for her illness’s origins take over the plot. While the reveal of Tara’s childhood trauma is interesting, the show is becoming less about the illness and more about the people. Hell, Patton Oswalt gets a chance to flex the dramatic muscle and prove that Big Fan wasn’t a fluke. While all of the Season 2 new support vanishes in time for the season finale, it doesn’t take away from the growth of the central characters. Kate becomes an independent young woman, Marshall is finally happy with himself and Max understands his wife better. It doesn’t matter that Tara spouts a new personality whenever she gets stressed, the Gregsons will cope.
What does that mean going forward? Sophomore season development is a bitch to maintain, but I feel that Cody and company have found what works. I just hope that future guest stars such as Eddie Izzard get adequate time to hold their own against the main cast. There’s still a need for outside voices to push Tara’s development and see if she can handle a life outside of her family. While we’re supposed to understand the illness and take baby steps regarding the matter, I still feel that Tara gets way too much of a free pass. From early previews, it looks like Eddie Izzard will shake that up.
The pacing issues also remained with the second season, as the flow of each episode seems to vary wildly. Some episodes feel like they shoot by you, while others drag forever as we retread past material. There’s no right way to shoot a television series and I accept the every episode is someone’s first approach. But, serial drama demands that there’s a reason for why we keep following the characters. Momentum is the lifeblood for success and I feel that we can’t afford another slowdown season. Season 2 was afforded a lot of perks by the first season’s al dente approach. Now, it’s time to cement what was accomplished here. Tara needs to be challenged by outside authority.
The DVD comes with a few text based bios of the stars and some cast interviews. That’s it for special features, but it’s par for the course when you consider that it’s Showtime TV on DVD. The only other supplement they know how to work is including bonus episodes of upcoming shows. It would’ve been a perfect time to pimp Shameless or Episodes, but they chose to pass. Oh well, it’ll help to keep prices low as it begins to dip below MSRP. The A/V Quality is strong enough for standard definition. While, the show is regularly broadcast in HD…Showtime has not bothered to give us a Blu-Ray release. I get that the show is a drama and they save their big cash for Dexter, but give us a break. Toni Collette gotta eat.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars