Tara (Emmy winner Toni Collette) is a 40ish mom of two with multiple personality disorder. She's actually less screwed up than Jackie (Edie Falco), a 40ish mom of two, who is hooked on pain meds, having an affair and is in a thankless job.
Two of the best actresses on TV right now return tonight for "The United States of Tara" and "Nurse Jackie," which debuts tonight beginning at 10 p.m. on Showtime followed by "Tara" at 10:30 p.m.
"Tara" was created by Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody. Collette plays a mom who has to deal with her "multiples" -- a redneck male trucker, an oversexed teen (who had sex with her son's boyfriend), a 1950s June Cleaver-style control freak and a speechless, animalistic personality.
This season, Tara adds a fifth one: Shoshonna, a therapist. Her long-suffering husband (John Corbett) tries to hold the family together.
It's an extremely funny series without being exploitive, and Collette was well-deserving of her first Emmy.
Falco, who is always deserving of an Emmy, is no less brilliant as Jackie, an overworked, stressed-out nurse who has been cheating on her husband with the guy working in the hospital's dispensary, supplying her with all sorts of pain meds for a sore back. Jackie broke up with the guy, only to see him buddy up to her unwitting husband when the season ended.
Jackie also is the true boss of the ER, having to deal with budget and staff issues, including an overly nervous trainee and a flirtatious, narcisstic ER doc.
"Jackie" is much more dark-humored than "Tara," but no less biting. They say it's rare in Hollywood that women over 40 get shots at quality projects, but Showtime seems to have cornered the market.
MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "Chuck" (NBC, 8 p.m.) follows last week awesome (not Capt. Awesome, just regular awesome) episode of Chuck (Zachery Levi) almost completing his training. But will he be able to complete an assassination to become a full-time spy? It's followed by "Trauma" and "Law & Order."
"Castle" (ABC, 10 p.m.) follows a new "Dancing With The Stars." It has Dana Delany guest starring on a two-parter in which Castle and Beckett track a serial killer.
The CBS comedies are all-new, followed by a new "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.
After a "House" rerun, "24" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is brand-new, while the CW has new episodes of "Life Interrupted" and "Gossip Girl."
On cable, ABC Family's shows are all new, as is "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.), yet another series centered around a brilliant over-40 actress (Glenn Close).