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Featured TV on DVD Review: United States of Tara: Season Two

January 7th, 2011

United States of Tara: Season Two - Buy from Amazon

I reviewed season one of United States of Tara and I thought it was good, but it had the potential to be great. Will the show reach its potential during the second season? Or will it slip up?

The Show

Season two starts with the Gregson family in front of a cloth drop box. They are there to get rid of Tara's alt's clothing. It's been months since since Alice, Buck, T, or the other one had shown up, so she is obviously cured. Right? It's not as irresponsible as that sounds, as she did have a rather major breakthrough last season, and she is still taking her medications regularly. However, at the start of the season, the family seems very normal. That is until their neighbor kills himself, which sets into motion a lot of the storylines of the second season.

For instance, deciding that they don't know their neighbors enough, they have dinner with Ted and Hanny, the gay couple next door. I'm not entirely sure, but I think one could argue having openly gay friends of the family helped Marshall come to terms with his sexuality and come out of the closet. Meanwhile, Max decides to buy the suicide house and flip it, which has some major, but very unexpected consequences. Kate graduated and gets a job as a debt collector. Tara's sister, Charmaine, gets engaged to Nick. It's not all good news, as Buck makes a return, and starts a lesbian affair with a bartender. ... And all of that happens in the first episode.

Yeah, they don't mess around on this show.

A lot happens this season, probably too much. Each character has a least one major storyline, some of which interact, many of which include introducing new characters. For instance, Kate meets an artist, Lynda P. Frazier, and becomes obsessed with a creation of hers, Princess Valhalla Hawkwind. Marshall meets a very, very out gay kid from school, Lionel, who helps him come to grips with being gay, but also is a bad influence in other ways. Charmaine finds out she's pregnant, which is great news, till she finds out it's not Nick's but Neil's.

On a side note, in one episode, Tara and Charmaine are discussing the baby situation and Charmaine floats the idea of just not telling anyone, but she's worried the baby will look like Neil. My first thought was, "Don't all babies look like Patton Oswalt, only much smaller. ... Or maybe the average baby is not that much smaller than Patton Oswalt." ... I'm a mean man. I'm also only one inch taller than him, plus I have a similar body type, so I'm making fun of myself as well.

The big storyline involves Tara remembering more of her childhood, which is spurred on by being in her neighbor's house. (I think it's the 70s shag carpet that does it.) This is the most interesting of the storylines, as well as the most frustrating. We do get to learn a lot more about her life, sometimes in ways that are more than a little jarring, but we also get a new alt out of it. When "Shoshana" showed up, I was thinking this show was entering Lost territory, where every season they added another group of people to the show. If they were going to introduce a new alt every season, it was going to get ridiculous really fast. Then "Chicken" showed up.

This show is so frustratingly close to great that stuff like that hurts so much.

The Extras

The only extra on this 2-disc set is an interview featurette. However, it runs more than 30 minutes, so while there is only one extra, it's at least very substantive.

The Verdict

I've mentioned in the past that sometimes being close to great is worse than being terrible. If a show is terrible, you can just write it off and move on. United States of Tara is close to being great, but there are enough flaws that I'm not completely drawn in like I should be. Season Two is still worth checking out, but I worry about the show's longevity.

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