MONDO EXTRAS

United States of Tara Premiere

by Lauren Gitlin January 19, 2009
Winter Pilot Season: United States of Tara I have to confess a few things before I get to the beeswax of recapping the first episode of United States of Tara. 1) I liked Juno a lot when it first came out. 2) For various reasons, including but not limited to the fact that I'm easily swayed, I've joined the legions of culture watchers in the subsequent Diablo Cody backlash. I'm not proud of this, but there you have it. Something about the smug, precociously savvy teens she depicted, while cute and novel at first, was so quickly and poorly imitated that it took the veneer off the original article, which on successive viewings became a parody of itself. All that affected blogspeak and cheeky self-awareness is certainly reflective of some pockets of teenaged humans, but it's for this precise reason that I (and many others) find teenagers to be exasperating and intolerable. Why would anyone willingly spend their free time watching these assholes emote and ponder?

So it was with trepidation that I approached the announcement that Diablo Cody would be writing a series for Showtime about a wife and mother who just so happens to have multiple personality disorder. Charming premise, if you're willing to suspend your disbelief (the psychiatric community has pretty much written off MPD as a real-life affliction). Toni Collette, one of my all-time fave actresses ever since the days of Muriel's Wedding, plays the titular character, which I figured might well counteract any bad Diablo feelings I had. Her endlessly patient and understanding hubby is played by my crush object of the century John Corbett, and her uptight bitch of a sister is inhabited by the fantastic Rosemarie Dewitt. A pretty flawless casting pedigree. But as you'll see when I stop yammering your ear off and get to the meat of this recap, the first ep sucks approximately fifty rotten eggs. It's trite, it's implausible, and it's a pathetic waste of my girl Toni's time. (Though we do get to see her show off her smokin' hot bod in the first installment, which is a plus.) Who knows? Maybe later episodes will improve, because admittedly there's a lot of ground to cover, things to establish, etc. in the very first show. Who can say?

Now to the task at hand.

Against a grainy, grey backdrop, a bedraggled Toni Collette sits down on her bed in front of a video camera and begins documenting her day, introducing herself thusly: "This is Tara, obviously. It's Thursday the 12th. Looks like I've got about ... four minutes or so, so I just want to explain where I'm at right now while I'm still lucid." Cue a bunch of expository chatter in which she reveals that she's an interior decorator by way of saying she's been stressed lately because she was hired by the mayor's wife to do a 17th century Rococo-style nursery for her unborn son. Cutesy Cody Alert #1: Flash to a smiling pregnant blonde woman and then to Tara in a surgical mask in front of a mural depicting the pregnant lady as a saint. Then comes the real reason for Tara's stress: her admission that despite being able to keep track of a million things that her career requires, she "can't seem to micromanage [her] daughter's vagina." Echoes of Juno, no?

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