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The United States of Tara

In a stunning display of poor taste, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to award stripper-turned-blogger-turned-Juno-scribe Diablo Cody with an Oscar for best original screenplay. Then Showtime decided to give the Oscar winner her own TV program, The United States of Tara. It doesn't premiere until January, but Showtime is streaming the pilot over at their website (enter TARA as the password).

The show is essentially a family sitcom. But there's a zany twist! Toni Collette as the title character is a mother with a multiple-personality disorder. The pilot introduces us to the normal Tara, her slutty teenage persona T and her male redneck male personality Bud. Her loving family (which includes Aidan Shaw John Corbett as the patriarch and Rachel Getting Married's Rosemarie DeWitt as Tara's sister) begrudgingly tolerates Tara and all of her different personalities.

It's a reasonable premise with some gentle suburban satire. But the problem is Diablo Cody's writing. There is nothing as forced as Rainn Wilson's scene in Juno, but it still feels unreal. Collette's personalities are so extreme that there is no way the gag will hold up for all 13 episodes of the first season. Her slang-abusing teenager T and Bud are like characters born at an improv show--pure gimmick. There's just no soul. Cody tries to fit a warm family message in there, but the different incarnations of Tara just overwhelm it.

The rest of the cast is perfectly acceptable but don't have much to do except play the straight man to Collette's personalities. Corbett as the supportive husband is fine. It's the usual Corbett. And the children--a bratty teenage slut as the daughter and an obviously gay perfectionist as the son--work with what they have but are too one dimensional. Rosemarie DeWitt shines in her few minutes on screen, but she only appears in five episodes in season one.

Showtime will likely get big ratings with all the marquee names this program offers, but Tara can't hold a candle to the earlier seasons of the network's other dysfunctional family comedy Weeds.

(Hat tip: Vulture)

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