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'United States of Tara': It's the little deets that make a big diff

February 2, 2009 |  6:41 am

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Even though Alice started off the episode, can of whipped cream in perfectly manicured hand, she thankfully disappeared quickly, and we got a healthy dose of Tara for most of the half-hour. John Corbett talked about his feelings for some of the characters in my interview at the "Tara" set. "They’re like people, there’s some I like, and some I wish would leave. There’s an old saying that some people liven up a party by not showing up, and there’s a couple of characters, I’m not going to name any of them ..."  He trailed off, then explained that he wants you, the viewer, to make up your own mind about the characters.  Have you?  Whom would you rather see come out?

As the painful screeching at Marshall's high school audition for "Grease" mirrored his awkward crush on jock Jason (Andrew Lawrence, of the TV Lawrence brothers), so now we dig in to Tara. Cut to the therapist's couch and our first session with Dr. Ocean.  Bantering between psych-speak and guy talk (landscaper Neil comparing Max's sex life to a cereal variety pack), the scene dissects Tara and Max's sex life, or lack thereof.

Tara continues to make it through her day with nary the need for an alter.  Was I the only one holding my breath as she consulted with Tiffany on a design scheme?  I thought for sure T or Buck was going to come out to deal with the vibrant Vita-sell salesperson when Tiffany states, in part, the general basis for us all to connect with the show and with Tara.  "I feel like we all have it, a little bit," Tiffany tells Tara after admitting she knows about her DID.  "I mean, over the course of a day, how many different women do you have to be?  'Work Tiffany' or 'sexy Tiffany' or 'dog-owner Tiffany.'  I mean, it's hard, right?"

And in one well-intentioned attempt at empathy, Tiffany belittles everything Tara actually suffers in living with DID.  "I was molested," Tiffany continues later.  "I'm stronger for it.  I'm actually glad it happened, in a way."

As Gene, Kate's new boss at Barnaby's restaurant points out, "It's the little deets that make a big diff."

A recent Newsweek article asks the question: Is "Tara" a step further in unmasking America's hidden secrets of mental illness or just another "sensational depiction of a serious condition?"

Quoting one of the clinical psychiatrists who works as a consultant on Tara, we are reminded that only 1 in 20 DID cases presents in such a dramatic way. 

But isn't that necessary for a show that could prove to be not only entertaining, but also informative and barrier-breaking?  "The mere fact that Tara is a likable main character helps promote greater awareness," the article continues.  "America is getting ready to let mental illness out of the closet."

What do you think?  Is "Tara" finding its voice in being both entertaining and provocative?  And which alter do you think husband Max is most fond of? 

-- Rebecca Snavely

Photo: Showtime

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