Toni Collette in 'United States of Tara'

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John Corbett as Max and Toni Collette as

John Corbett as Max and Toni Collette as Tara in United States of Tara (Season 3, Episode 1) - Photo: Jordin Althaus/Showtime Photo Credit: Showtime/Jordin Althaus

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REASON TO WATCH: You never know what -- or who -- will happen when Midwestern mom Tara's "alters" act out.

WHEN/WHERE: Season 3 kicks off Monday at 10:30 on Showtime.

As if the family of our multiple-personalitied heroine wasn't facing enough after last year's finale -- Tara and her sister learned, in the midst of hapless pregnant sister's non-wedding, about a half-brother who'd abused them -- here come more thrills.

Tara (Emmy winner Toni Collette) goes back to college, where years ago something unspeakable happened, and where now she'll take a psych class with a multiple-skeptical prof (Eddie Izzard). Husband Max (John Corbett) has a corporation horning in on his landscape business. Tara's almost-grown daughter (Brie Larson) is literally taking flight to find herself, while her gay teen son (Keir Gilchrist) makes movies with his main squeeze.

MY SAY For a show forever detonating bombs, it's surprising how sweet and frothy "Tara" feels. Just a half-hour long, it doesn't waste a second, pulling a gun within the first few and no punches ever.

This is mature stuff in more than language and sex. Tara might be a metaphor for the people you know -- never the same twice, even if they don't "transition" into a slut, a biker guy or the uber-creep emerging shortly. And creator Diablo Cody's writers deliver clever scripts without overwhelming these (truly) average people.

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BOTTOM LINE Don't be scared of "Tara." You can jump right in and get the gist of just who Collette is -- uh, are.


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