Split decision

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

United States of Tara comes to Showtime with one of the best pedigrees and quirkiest premises on the small screen.

Executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and created by Juno scribe Diablo Cody, who also writes a handful of debut-season episodes, the series stars Oscar nominee Toni Collette as a working mom whose dysfunctional family stress is exacerbated by dissociative identity disorder, better known as multiple personalities.

Having recently gone off her zombifying meds, Collette's Tara reacts to intense situations, many of them spurred by sexually active teenage daughter Kate (Brie Larson), by yielding her body to 15-year-old party girl T, traditional homemaker Alice or chain-smoking, homophobic redneck Buck.

Marquee value aside, Cody's TV transition has its problems. She should expect to hear a new chorus of complaints from those who found Juno's dialogue too arch, and moving from feature length to half-hour episodes has led her to strain against the format with an unusually languorous arc.

On the other hand, Cody introduces 14-year-old son Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) with a shorthand of gay signifiers so obvious, it feels like a set-up.

While there's a wealth of potential in the relationships husband John Corbett and kids have with each of the "alters," after two episodes, it's all more intriguing than satisfying. A phenomenal Collette is the exception. I'm not yet sold on the show as a whole, but I'll eagerly follow her every personality.

"United States of Tara"

10 p.m. Sundays, Showtime

Grade: B