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I'm Lying Alone with My Head on the Phone

By Seth Freilich | TV | March 22, 2010 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | March 22, 2010 |

Last year, Dustin review the first season of “United States of Tara” and concluded that the show, while entertaining, just wasn’t terribly engrossing. While I think the season managed to pick up a little after the first two episodes, which was all Dustin had to go on, I don’t particularly disagree with him. And having watched the first two episodes of the second season, things seem to be following the same path this season.

The best thing about staying the course means that we should be in store for of an excellent performance from Toni Collette, who deservedly won an Emmy and Golden Globe last year for her portrayal of the titular Tara. In fact, she may be even better this year, given Tara’s likely story arc this season. As the show returns, we learn that Tara has not transitioned in month. While her new drug cocktail is working well, it’s not much of a spoiler, given the underlying premise of the show, to acknowledge that her good health isn’t here to stay. And when the personalities start returning, and start showing a greater sense of “independence,” I think it’s safe to say that Tara is going to be on quite the emotionally devastating roller coaster.

And yet, despite Collette knocking it out of the park, I’m just not pulled into the show the way I want to be. The rest of the performances, from regulars like John Corbett through guest star like Joey Lauren Adams, are all completely serviceable, but they just don’t jump off the screen. And as with last season, I seem to again find myself only on the edge of being interested in the show’s story arcs, rather than chomping at the bit to find out what happens next. While I find the the character of Marshall, the son, amusing, I wasn’t particularly interested in his dalliance with the religious boy last season, nor am I all that interested, so far, in his ongoing storyline of further exploring his sexuality. Similarly, Kate’s storyline was the weakest last season (despite the presence of Nate Corddry) and, so far, I’m not all that interested in her new storyline, which stems from her post-high school job as a debt collector.

The best I can figure, this show simply fails to engage me because its attempt to toe the line between comedy and drama is just a bit too uneasy. Aside from Collette’s work, the dramatic side of the show lacks any meaningful sense of gravitas. And while there are some laughs, the comedy is a bit too uneven on the whole. Plus, some of the best laughs come from the more farcical aspects of the show, which further separates the comedy from the drama. Disappointingly, however, there weren’t even that many laughs through the first two episodes — while some of the Marshall and Kate bits from last season were amusing, the only thing that’s really working from a comedy standpoint this season is Charmaine’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) engagement storyline. Hopefully that continues, while the writers also manage to mine some humor out of the other story arcs because if they can at least keep me chuckling, coupled with Collette’s performance, I’m willing to stick around despite not being pulled in by the storylines as much as I’d like. But if the next few episodes don’t do something to keep my interest, I could see this failing by the wayside, to be caught up on sometime down the road when I’m unclogging old shows from the DVR.

The second season of “United States of Tara” premieres tonight on Showtime at 10 p.m. and then reruns a huncha-buncha times throughout the week.

Seth Freilich wonders if he can develop a second personality to do his day job for him, while he just hangs out in the back of the brain thinking about stuff.

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.