In these trying times, we’re all doing more with less. So it is on the new and interesting (in a good way, mostly) United States of Tara. As the ubiquitous ads declare, U.S. of T. is about “one woman; multiple personalities.” In other words: They’re milking Toni Colette’s awesome acting chops for as many roles as possible. The concept could have easily veered into territory described by one character as a “Lifetime lady tampon movie,” but thanks to the brash, female-sexuality-obsessed perspective of series creator and writer Diablo Cody, the show balances — nay, overcompensates — for any possible after-school-special parallels with, basically, bad words.
But at heart, U.S. of T. owes much to the traditional family dramedy. This episode, the third, deals with an issue typical of suburban marriages: trouble in the bedroom. And since time immemorial, couples have attempted to “spice things up in the bedroom” with role-playing games. Lucky (or perhaps unlucky, as she later tells her shrink) for Tara, she needs no urging to wield a can of Reddi-Wip while outfitted in a garter-belt-and-pinafore ensemble — Susie Homemaker–personality Alice is all over it. There’s just one catch: Tara and her husband, Max, have a deal. No doing it with the “alters.” Which seems to pose a key conflict …
We’ve so far seen Alters No. 1 (T, the thong-flashing, 15-year-old hot-topic adherent) and No. 2 (Alice) hit on the devoted hubby, and when it is suggested by Max’s landscaping-business partner (Patton Oswalt) that Max might hook up with No. 3, Buck (the boozin’, bowlin’, brawlin’ bigot and ’Nam vet — a man), it becomes less a joke than a probability. The show closes with Buck and Max sharing a drink and going through Buck’s porn collection — we hear them trying to decide between the barely legals and the big black boobies. Will they or won’t they?
Will the gay, Louise Brooks–worshipping son take on the role of “AIDS patient flogged at the gates of hell” just to win the attention of his evangelical-boy crush? Will the rebellious teen daughter fall for the most unlikely pick-up line ever, which essentially boils down to: I worked at the ground-zero T.G.I. Friday’s on 9/11. Wanna swap spit?