You can’t talk about Showtime Monday nights, and Edie Falco’s never-changing JACKIE, without mentioning the always changing, always different Tara on UNITED STATES OF TARA.  The show enters its third season tonight (10:30/9:30c), and Tara’s having an even rougher go of it than before.  When we left our girl, the alters were calmed down, she was trying to have a normal life; Max was being the best husband ever (aside from, you know the Joey Lauren Adams of it all); Charmaine’s wedding didn’t take; Kate was still aimless; and Marshall was in his first real relationship.

When the season begins, Tara’s decided it’s time to go back and finish up the few college credits she didn’t get to finish when the DID took over her life.  Armed with a plan, and a doubting professor in Special Guest Star Eddie Izzard, Tara sets out to conquer the world.  Somewhere along the way, her alters throw a wrench in the plans.

Unlike JACKIE, which is spending more time focusing on the supporting cast this season, US OF TARA has always seemed like much more of an ensemble show with a very strong focus on the titular lead, TARA, and this season, as it’s consistently been, everyone steps up to the plate.  The main source of struggle this season is Tara taking on a scary new alter that threatens the stability (or almost lack thereof) that she’s worked so hard to maintain among her “friends” Alice, Buck, Chicken, T, and Gimme.  Toni Collette is once again killing it as she tackles all of her roles with such dedication, and as the show heads quickly to the final act, so many more questions are raised, that I’m already begging for a Season 4.

Max Gregson is a curious fella – he deals with his crazy wife and family with silence, just suffering in silence, content to make sure it all works.  It takes all season, but the payoff we get by the season finale to his storyline is so worth the wait, and I’ll gladly take a few guitar chords from John Corbett to bide the time.  The stories for Kate have always, for me, been the weakest as they don’t ever seem to connect to the main story at hand (and how Tara affects the family).  That doesn’t bother me, and this season, it’s nice to see Kate dealing with her lack of career goal and a new surprising romance.  She still isn’t affected nearly as much as Marshall seems to be, but it’s nice for a Kate story to be worth rooting for!  Which brings me to Marshall.  Oh Keir Gilchrist!  You slay me!  He gives one of the most nuanced performances as a teenager struggling with first love, and maybe second love, while putting together a film that’s worth celebrating, and suddenly dealing with a random tragedy that changes his outlook on how Tara affects his daily life.  He starts the season as someone completely different than how he ends it, himself a new “personality” in the most basic sense, due to change in his reality.

Patton Oswalt is fantastic this season, and thank God for him, because without Neil, Charmaine is insufferable and more self-centered than ever.  Kudos to Rosemarie DeWitt for making me hate her character so strongly.  I don’t think I’d be as passionate in my dislike if someone weaker was playing her.

The supporting cast is bolstered by great guest stars this season – Eddie Izzard is great as Tara’s Abnormal Psych professor who helps her through some traumatic times; Frances Conroy shows up with a memorable role; Keir O’Donnell is so charming; and Michael Hitchcock steals the show as neighbor Ted Mayo.

I can’t tell you enough to set the DVR for this one!  You won’t regret it!