Showtime has won considerable acclaim for these two sophomore series, which share many of the same strengths and, increasingly, similar flaws. Both shows feature compelling female leads in showcase roles, but in each case the complementary ensemble isn't quite so compelling. Calling them "comedies," moreover, is really a misnomer, since they function more like half-hour dramas, with an occasional laugh thrown in. "Nurse Jackie" and "United States of Tara" still make for a formidable and watchable-enough block, but while each has flirted with greatness, neither consistently achieves it.
Based on its promising first season, "Tara's" second go-round is the bigger disappointment, due largely to a story arc that blunts some of the charms associated with Toni Collette's title character, who struggles with dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personalities.
After acting to address the problem at the end of season one (and stop here if you're planning to catch up on DVD), Tara has seemingly stopped experiencing such episodes. When they resume, she's reluctant to inform her husband (John Corbett) about these new bouts and her nocturnal carousing, potentially disrupting their relationship: Other personalities he can deal with; being misled is another thing.
Yet while most of the first season was filtered through Tara and her "alters," the second spends roughly equal amounts of time with each of the regulars, including her son (Keir Gilchrist), a teenager grappling with his sexuality; daughter (Brie Larson), who meets an intriguing woman (Viola Davis) through her dreary job at a collections agency; and relationship-challenged sister (Rosemarie DeWitt).
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