"The United States of Tara" begins its second season tonight at 10:30 on Showtime and if you haven't watched, it's worth jumping in.
Toni Collette has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her part as the woman with mulitple personalities, and although that's the kind of role that's typical awards bait, Collette, a subtle and nuanced actor, earned hers with skill.
I didn't love the show at first. Diablo Cody (of "Juno" fame") is the primary writer/creator and her work can be too precious by half at times. But the show quickly found a voice outside of Cody's and every character has a rich story line.
That's because although Tara's multiple personalities are at the center of the show, it's actually about the entire cast's search for identity (and by extension, all of ours). John Corbett, who plays Tara's husband, is trying to figure out his place in his unorthodox (to say the least) marriage; son Marshall is slowing coming out as a gay young man; his sister is a teen coming into adulthood; Tara's sister Charmaine is struggling with being the sister without the issues.
As the season begins, life is good. Tara's alters are under control, her daughter has graduated early from high school, her marriage is back on track, and Charmaine is in a promising relationship. Marshall, though, is finding out what it's like to be gay in Kansas.
But then a neighbor commits suicide and the idea of someone more troubled than she haunts Tara. And we're off.
Each episode is just 30 minutes long but a lot happens. Much of that is due to the performances of Collette and Corbett; Corbett, underrated in this role, has a knack for revealing fleeting moments of concern or understanding or love, the way those feelings happen within us in real life.
I think you can enjoy "Tara" even if you haven't seen the first season, so don't let that stop you.