Category: United States of Tara

TCA 2011: New shows bring Showtime into the real world

Showtime's Josh Lawson, Kristen Bell, Jeannie Van de Hooven, Don Cheadle, Dawn Olivieri and Ben Schwartz of 'House of LIes.' Credit: Showtime.

"Dexter," "The Borgias," "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie" are among the popular Showtime series that revolve around high concepts of serial killers, corrupt royalty, pot-selling soccer moms and pill-popping nurses. But upcoming series on the premium cable network will be more grounded in the so-called real world.

Showtime's president of entertainment, David Nevins, said the network is gradually evolving into a renewed sensibility with series such as "Homeland," about a former prisoner of war who may or may not be a terrorist, and "House of Lies," about a self-loathing management consultant.

"We're getting into shows that have scope and bigness and are relevant to the world we live in," Nevins said. "We believe in real diversity of programming. We will be sophisticated and adult but can also be bigger and edgy."

Photos: Which veteran actors are returning to TV this fall?

"Homeland," which stars Claire Danes and Damian Harris, will premiere in October, while "House of Lies," which stars Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell, is scheduled to premiere Jan. 8.

Upcoming on the Showtime schedule is "Laughing Stock," a new series that will feature interviews with top comedians as they explain their art and the state of comedy. Steve Carell ("The Office") and David Steinberg ("Sit Down Comedy With David Steinberg") are executive producers, and Chris Rock, Tina Fey and Ellen Degeneres wil be among the comedians participating.

Nevins said he was also proud of Showtime's reliance on its veteran slate, which he categorized as "renewable resources" that keep growing in creativity, attracting bigger audiences.


Mandy Patinkin returns to TV in 'Homeland'

Showtime's 'Homeland' has 'fortuitous' timing

Fall TV: A video guide to what's new on television

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Josh Lawson, Kristen Bell, Jeannie Van de Hooven, Don Cheadle, Dawn Olivieri and Ben Schwartz of "House of LIes." Photo credit: Showtime.

Showtime renews 'Nurse Jackie, cancels 'United States of Tara'

Tara Multiple personality disorders are out, but drug addiction and medieval mayhem are still in at Showtime.

The premium cable network has canceled "United States of Tara." Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Diablo Cody, the show followed  suburban mom Tara as she tried to make her marriage work and raise a family while contending with multiple male, female, young and old personalities.

Toni Collette, who played Tara during the show's three seasons, won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the role. Though it generated a solid amount of buzz at its launch, the show never really caught on with sizable numbers of viewers.  The dark dramedy drew about 1.9 million fans between live and time-shifted viewing. Ratings had been dropping -- they're 30% lower this season than last -- and didn't look poised for a turnaround.

Its season finale, scheduled for June 20, will also serve as the series finale.

"Nurse Jackie" -- which the network has renewed for a fourth season, along with a previously announced second season of "The Borgias" -- has been pulling in an average of 2.8 million viewers in its current third season. (Much of the viewing happens via Showtime On Demand or DVR replays through the week.)

Edie Falco, an Emmy winner from "The Sopranos," also won an Emmy for "Nurse Jackie," in the comedy category, after which she famously said in her acceptance speech, "I'm not funny!"

The series, from executive producers Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem, also stars Anna Deveare Smith, Peter Facinelli, Eve Best and Merritt Wever.

-- T.L. Stanley

Photo: Toni Collette in "United States of Tara." Credit: Jordin Althaus / Showtime


Full Show Tracker coverage of 'The United States of Tara'

Full Show Tracker coverage of 'Nurse Jackie'

Showtime crowns 'The Borgias' for a second season


Showtime addresses ill-timed Japan story line on 'United States of Tara'


Sometimes television can be a little too ahead of the curve.

In the third season of "United States of Tara," Kate (Brie Larson) decides she wants to move to Japan and teach English in an attempt at gaining some independence. But, as viewers will see on Monday, [spoiler alert!!!] before she boards her plane, she learns that there’s been a massive earthquake in Osaka -- where she was headed -- that has left hundreds dead.

But rather than be sympathetic about the tragedy, Kate's upset that the quake has ruined her plans and quickly begins a hunt for another Japan city -- preferably one that "doesn't have an A-bomb" -- instead. Eek! 

It’s a touchy story line in light of last month's massive 9.0 earthquake. Talk show host Glenn Beck, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, rapper 50 Cent and TV writer Alec Sulkin came under fire after inappropriate comments from each circulated about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that resulted in massive destruction and death.

On the film side, Warner Bros. Pictures pulled Clint Eastwood's Matt Damon drama “Hereafter,” which features real footage of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, off screens in Japan.

Here's what Showtime had to say about the story line: "The current season was written and filmed last fall, long before the tragic events that have occurred in Japan. All of us at Showtime stand with the world in expressing our deepest sympathy for the tremendous loss and ongoing challenges facing the people of Japan."

Following Monday's episode, the network will display a website address for the Red Cross for viewers interested in learning more about donations and relief efforts in Japan.

Show Trackers, what do you think of how Showtime is dealing with the matter? 

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Brie Larson as Kate on "United States of Tara." Credit: Showtime

'Rooted in reality': Chatting with the cast and creators of 'United States of Tara'

Us_tara_gal2_kal_vertical_cDissociative identity disorder wouldn’t normally be a laughing matter.

But for two seasons of Showtime’s hit “United States of Tara,” the psychiatric condition where a person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities, known as alters, takes center stage and has provided plenty of laughs on the way.

The show (read our coverage of Season 1 here) features Toni Collette as a wife and mother who suffers from the disorder, and on any given episode she switches from a loose (and we do mean loose) teenager, perfect "Stepford"-esque housewife, a crazy war vet, an animal-like monster and this season saw her transform into a new alter: her own therapist.

Creator Diablo Cody said blending this very serious – and incredibly complex – disorder with comedy was “such a fine line to walk on the show.”

“We want things to be funny. At the same time we’re dealing with some pretty intense issues,” Cody said. “At first it was a challenge to write funny stuff and still keep it emotional.”

Cody said that pulling off the show, which scored an early third season pickup, is a daunting task because of the intricacies of DID.

Continue reading »

What we overheard at the Golden Globes

A Good WifeawardsbackstageDexterGleeGolden Globe AwardsGolden GlobesMad MenUnited States of Tara

Backstage and on the red carpet, we caught up with some of the TV winners at the Golden Globe Awards.

 “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy

On celebrating: We're shooting tomorrow at like 8 in the morning, a big choir scene, so we're good to go and have a mimosa at 5. I don't know, it's very exciting, like -- we did this a year ago when we were making the pilot and we all loved it, but I'm literally shocked.

On the future: We're shooting a Madonna episode. She may or may not be in the show. We're doing a great number with Jane Lynch and Olivia Newton-John -- they're gonna do “Physical.” Idina Menzel is coming on. Just people we love and who we idolize and grew up with…. I had a meeting with Jennifer Lopez, she wants to come on. We want her to be a cafeteria lady. It all feels like a fever dream to me.

On whether he thinks “Glee” will open the door for other musical shows: I really don't. When I pitched the show, they were very skeptical but loving towards me because I'd done “Nip/Tuck” for Fox. But I've looked at the slate of pilots shooting for May and there's no one else doing a musical. I think we lucked out.



The “Mad Men” team

Matt Weiner [on winning]:  It's hard to believe we've gotten to do this three times, but as I said in this speech, I feel like this organization [the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.] picked us and basically put us on the map. I'm very well aware of what the competition is. TV is really, really good right now and there's shows that weren't even nominated that are amazing.

Jon Hamm [on his facial hair]: I had gone right from filming Season 3 of “Mad Men” right into another project, and I'd been shaving twice a day and I just got very tired of shaving. I'm sure there's a hilarious joke there too, but I just decided I'd stop shaving and this is the result: It's a beard.

Michael C. Hall of “Dexter”

On the success of this past season: Well, John [Lithgow] certainly turned the knob up to 11 for us and had such an energy about him that infected everybody around him from the crew to the producers. People who have been watching the show from the beginning appreciated the cumulative effect the Trinity killer had on Dexter. There was just such a potency to that relationship, I think it compelled people.

On how Rita’s death will affect next season: Fundamentally. The writers reconvene this Wednesday, so we have to see what sticks. But I really am as excited as all of you are to find out what's in store.

On the cap he wore to the awards: I wanted something that was pretty simple but maybe a little fancier than your normal thing. I found this Japanese thing and it's actually really long, but I got the women who helped with her dress to help me out.

John Lithgow of “Dexter”

On his ending: I was certainly prepared for it. I knew I would come to a bad end. The worse the villain, the worse the death. I think it would have diminished the character to go on forever.

On preparing and working with Michael C. Hall: He's just a miracle to work with, a tremendous actor so committed to the series and so ego-free. I loved working with him. As far as preparing for the role, it was just a delicious role. I'm a character actor and a character actor looks for roles different from himself. I also loved the fact that Trinity's cover is the cover of a very nice guy, a family man with even a sense of humor. That's what made him so very, very creepy, and they found the right actor for the part.

On nude scenes:  It's a very discomforting thing but I also knew these scenes have to be very, very disturbing.

Julianna Margulies of “A Good Wife”

On Elin Woods: I'm not going there. It's not my business.

On winning a Golden Globe: Oh, it's awfully nice. Any actor who says they don't want to get one is lying. But it shouldn't be your goal. The goal should be good work and fulfillment in what you do. This doesn't go with you when you die.

On kissing George Clooney en route to accepting her award: That was the best! I got flustered because I couldn't get up there and I saw this familiar face and it was very heartwarming for me.

On the power of her show: It makes me so sad because I got flustered in my speech and forgot my writers.... It's the writing. I think it's the most adult writing on TV right now. One of the things people stop me on the street for is the content and the way in which it's told. I was looking for a cable show because I wanted to be able to play a role that would allow me artistic freedom. And on CBS I got that, so I'm incredibly grateful.

Toni Collette of “United States of Tara”

On preparing to play multiple characters:  I think initially it was just an issue of understanding what personality disorder is. This woman has experienced some horrible intense abuse, and the story is that the mind is able to splinter off and create these defensive characters and protect her from the knowledge of what actually happened to her. Create entire individuals the audience could invest in. It was a little daunting at first. I didn't know how it would work but it's a lot of fun, actually.

On what makes her nervous: Probably the notion of having to speak in front of people. Last night there were three Australians being honored at a ball and I was the third up there and they were very prepared and I was ill-prepared. And I chose to be in the moment and speak from my heart, and I think that's the best way to go in life. That's what I did this evening. I did forget some people….

-- Amy Kaufman and Denise Martin

'United States of Tara': Being apart is not an option


Everyone had a part to play in the jam-packed season finale of "Tara."  Everyone, that is, except Gimme.  I expected to see all the alters come out for the finale.  I expected to see it happen when Tara faced Trip, the man everyone thinks responsible for the dissociation of Tara.  Though I wasn't sure how they'd come out, I wasn't too surprised to learn that Tara's alters had been around long before Trip "took advantage" of her, as he so lightly described the trauma.  Granted, he was sitting in front of his wife, Judy, who came prepared for the face-off with a picnic of Sunny D and chocolate-chippers. 

When Trip so casually says "See ya, T," it all comes together and all falls apart.  The easy answer Tara had hoped for was not to be found in that particular hospital rec room.  And necessarily so for a second (and third and fourth?) season of the show. Soon the room was filled with all her alters, T claiming responsibility for the drunken night, Buck saying he wasn't allowed out to deal with the situation, and Alice coming out once safely back in Dr. Holden's office. 

Continue reading »

'United States of Tara': Alter-free?


This episode was one for my friend Jonathan and all you "Tara" fans who love the show when it focuses on the family and lose interest with the dramatic transitions to Tara's over-the-top alters. With Tara taking a couple weeks away and Charmaine moving into the house to play "fake mom" and bring home her new boyfriend, "fake dad" Nick, this one was especially chock-full of family. 

It's our second-to-last peek into Tara's psyche before next week's season finale, and the alters were almost nowhere to be seen. After last week when Mom as T hit on Jason, Marshall's first love, and Marshall subsequently torched T's shack, it was apparent that no one was enjoying the ride anymore. "She should be put away," Marshall tells Max.  "In the words of police chief Martin Brody, 'We need a bigger boat.' " 

Tara overheard her son's final dismissal of her, which must be one of the hardest things for a mother to hear. The next we see her, her bags are packed and she confesses to her testimonial tape, "Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is ask for help.... We need a bigger [expletive] boat."

Continue reading »

'United States of Tara': 'Gimme' a 'T'


You've never had mother issues like these.  Marshall may wish he could take back his earlier acceptance of Tara and her alters when he said, "We're lucky mom.  Because of you, we get to be interesting."

Things may have become a little too interesting in the "Betrayal" episode.  We were fooled into thinking the title referred simply to Dr. Ocean ending her therapy with Tara.  This act of betrayal, for those of you with a strong connection to your therapist, seemed bad enough for an entire episode.  I visited the set for this episode and watched as Toni Collette delivered her disbelieving, "You're breaking up with me?" time and again.  I wondered why the publicist was so insistent that I only see that one scene, and that we couldn't photograph the other costume changes, assured they might "confuse" the reader prior to seeing the show. 

Having watched the episode, I had my "aha!" moment. At the slightest touch of a massage therapist, all-id, prone-to-peeing-on-people Gimme came out at the spa, trounced the tranquility and was quickly replaced by T.  T, in all her glory, saw Marshall awkwardly asking Jason up to his room, and took the opportunity to capitalize on Jason's sexual confusion. Kate caught sight of the photograph her manager Gene stole from her fridge and finally saw the creep in him and the opportunity to deal with the bureaucracy of corporate HR by filing a "my manager is a freak-show" sexual harassment claim.

And if the family drama wasn't enough?  Tara admits that while she wasn't present, she was able to hear what went down at the tattoo parlor with T, and that she recently interacted with Alice while making dinner.  While this may seem terrifying to some, it's a breakthrough of co-consciousness, says her soon to be ex-Dr. Ocean.  Marshall, seemingly low-key and able to go with the flow, reaches his own boiling point when he catches T, in his mother's body, making out with his first love, Jason, and sets fire to T's lair, the freak-out shed where she's so often sent.

How did Charmaine end up the cool and collected one in the family?  After meeting Gimme at the spa ("that was really scary back there") Charmaine gives Tara a kiss on the cheek, tosses the robe T stole over her shoulder and asks Max to drive her home in time to "get her glow on" for her second date with the lawyer. 

I feel a little exhausted after this episode.  Was there ever a downbeat?  Things are definitely coming to a climax as the Showtime tease for the next episode involves a little more "commitment" on Tara's behalf.

As Billie Holiday crooned, "Good morning, heartache.  Sit down."

--Rebecca Snavely

(Photo courtesy of Showtime)

'United States of Tara': Nothing like love

Corbett_250 What does love look like? 

With only 30 minutes to explore the character and story arcs of not only Tara and her daily dose of alter personality, "Tara" also delves into a sensitive yet bold gay teenage son, a seemingly insensitive rebel daughter and a white knight of a husband.  The episode didn't pull any punches, starting off right away in the therapy session where Tara finds out that Max has discovered the name of the man (Tripp) he thinks is responsible for Tara's trauma in boarding school. 

Tara cuts short the session, storming outside to accuse Max of being a cowboy, always wanting to "ride into town and clean everything up.  I'm not your town."

And with that, Tara and Kate leave town on a road trip.

For a family whose goal is to face whatever surfaces sans meds, they certainly seem to run away a lot.  Tara and Kate end up at a random motel hosting a pharmaceutical convention across the street from a tattoo parlor.  Max tells Marshall, who is performing perhaps his first set of push-ups to get in shape for jock Jason, that he's gotta go do some "stuff."  "That's rather vague," says Marshall.  "Yup," and Max is off to deal with his problems at a bar with Neil, drinking and complaining about Tara calling him a "cowboy."  Neil convinces him that Tara was right, Max is a cowboy.  "Get out of here, and go (expletive) wrangle!"  And Max is off on his white horse again, trying to track down Tripp, despite what Tara has told Max about his need to fix her. 

Marshall is the first of the family to show some guts.  He does what any guy does and gets his date drunk.  Marshall and Jason have a drink while they watch a film for class, and then end up lying back on Marsh's bed, commiserating about and toasting "to mother issues."  Never one to miss such an obvious clue or an opportunity, Marshall makes his move after Jason falls asleep on his bed, leaning down to kiss him.  And as we hold our breath in one "eeks ... no!" moment, thankfully for Marshall's future confidence, Jason kisses him back. 

Meanwhile, having run away from her husband, Tara can't escape her alters.  T comes out to play after Kate tells off Tara, making it clear that their relationship is never going to be written about in a Hallmark card.  At home, Max is back, unsuccessful from his Tripp-finding mission, to realize that Marshall has it bad for Jason.  Max looks exhausted as he lays his head on the counter, gazing at his son.  "Nothing like love."

So what does love look like?  Like your daughter talking you out of an alter-moment and a "slut" tattoo.  Like a brave kid making a  move toward love.  And like a husband finally hearing his wife, as Max leaves Tara the message, "If you want me to stop digging, I'm done." 

I wish I could believe Max.  Do you?  Can he stop digging, fixing, wait for the truth to surface and learn to enjoy the ride?

-- Rebecca Snavely

Photo: John Corbett. Credit: Showtime

'United States of Tara': Five creepiest moments

Alice_300 The Hell House episode hath arrived. Who is a better alter to witness the circles of hell but Alice?

After stalking Dr. Ocean to get an appointment while Tara is still herself, Max caves and confides in his wife that another alter may have appeared, and, perhaps more disturbing in a marriage, that he's been talking to Tara's doctor behind her back.  "It's animalistic, pure id, I guess," Max tells Tara.  "You're making me sound like an evil, rabid squirrel or something," she replies.  Time to transition into Alice, who likes to come out when damage control and modulated tones are required. 

While Hell House was definitely creeptastic in its over-the-top portrayal of the church's scare tactics for teens (did we really need to see the abortion table?), there were other, more subtle creepy moments to this episode.  Here's a top five list of the best:

5. Watching Alice try to pee on command to take a pregnancy test to prove that, despite Tara's IUD, she is "with child." 

4. Kate canned for her "general lack of glee" after she dumped her manager, Gene. 

3. "The Others" no longer referring to Richard Alpert's indigenous people on "Lost," but to Alice's "charges" inside Tara.

2. Gene's DVD knock-and-drop delivery of a creepy poem telling Kate she has her job back with the next after-school shift. I was sure we'd see him in the window, watching Kate watch the DVD.

1. "Please excuse us, Jesus." Alice raising her voice to Max, in church! after asking Jesus (played by Paulie) to bless her faux-baby.  "You've gone and brought Gimmie out.  You have no idea, no idea, what you're dealing with."

Shiver.  Can Gimmie really be bad enough to upset Alice to raise her dulcet tones to a threat?

What was your creepiest moment of the show?

-- Rebecca Snavely

Photo: Showtime

'United States of Tara': Not a bad booby-buddy

Buck_charmaine_hair_400 Buck came back.  It seemed terrible timing, triggered by Max quizzing Tara about her childhood memories.  Buck came out to play just as Max left to take sister Charmaine to see Dr. Pete for her elective, reconstructive breast enhancement. 

When Buck arrives post-op as Charmaine's stand-in "booby-buddy," Charmaine keeps up her insistence that Tara is just playing the part.  Referring to Buck as Tara, Charmaine asks her to "just stop."  As Charmaine's drugs kick in (Diablo Cody notes on her Twitter commentary that she knows "OxyCONTIN is 'hillbilly heroin,' not oxycodone. But y'know ... creative license") she begins to relax a little, and starts to see Buck, not Tara.  To talk to Buck.  To bond with Buck?  As Buck performs the post-op booby-buddy job of washing Charmaine's hair, she reminisces about when Tara would wash her hair when they were little girls.  And just as Buck emerged with questioning about her childhood, Tara returns with a real memory. 

I wish Cody had twittered more about the theme of "being yourself," but it seems the live commentary is more about behind the scenes/insider info, e.g.:
"FYI, Tricia Brock directed this ep. She was our one and only female director last season, and she did a fabulous job."  Kate gives Marshall relationship advice, seemingly garnered from reading "The Rules" in Charmaine's bathroom.  "Don't ever be yourself," she warns.  "It's the kiss of death." 

And while Charmaine seems to be coming around to accepting the reality of Dissociate Identity Disorder, and accepting Tara for who she really is, alters and all, we get a glimpse that more drama may be about to unfold.  As Max, freaked out by the poncho goblin who pisses on people, begins to explore Tara's past without her knowledge, I wonder if things, and the new alter, might take a darker turn. I, for one, get very nervous hearing a therapist state, "I think having a professional and a loved one working in tandem can be very productive."

-- Rebecca Snavely

(Photo courtesy Showtime)

'United States of Tara': Let your freak flag fly

It's parents' weekend at Tara's house, and there's nothing like a critical, slightly crazy family to bring out another alter. 

Tara and Charmaine's folks pull up in their RV to celebrate Charmaine's birthday and spend the weekend trying to convince Max that kids Kate and Marshall would be better off living with their grandparents.  Dad looks lovingly at his daughter Charmaine and declares, "She looks thin."  Mom chimes in, "Well, she barely eats, and when she does, she eats alone." 

That's enough to drive anyone to drink, and sure enough, Tara and Charmaine's first move is to the kitchen for the vino. Though Max has already popped a pill to deal with the in-laws, Tara declined, even though she is worried that Buck might make an appearance. "Let your freak flag fly," Max encourages his wife. He later runs her in circles around the yard to try anything to keep her from transitioning and leaving him alone with "these people."

Though there are fights and freak shows (who can erase the image of Charmaine flashing the family with her botched boob job?), the visit seems to go off without a hitch or an alter's appearance. That is till the last night, when Max wakes up to an empty bed. Searching the house, he sees a figure in a red rain poncho crouching above Grandpa, urinating on the bed. When Max whisper-shouts at her(?), the poncho-person takes off, outside into the night.

Is this a new alter?  Stay tuned.

-- Rebecca Snavely

Photo: Showtime


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