On HBO's "Enlightened": Or The Resurrection of Laura Dern

So Monday night has become one of those rarities: the premier night of must-see TV. I mostly ignore network TV these days, because the many commercial breaks get so tedious that once you get used to programs without them, they seem too intrusive to put up with. That leaves most of the TV series, then, to the movie networks, as in HBO, Showtime, etc., and those can be hit-or-miss. I like Boardwalk Empire, which has still not quite reached the heights of The Sopranos, though it is the product of some of the same writers/producers. My new favorite show is Enlightened, now in its first season, which features nothing less than The Resurrection of Laura Dern’s Career—as in once again showing what a dynamic actress she is/can be. She seems most noticeable in the Jurassic Park films, which are fun in their own way, but she’s a much better actress than that. The last film I can remember where she was used to her potential was Alexander Payne’s Citizen Ruth (1996) in which she uttered the famous line, “I slept on some babies!” She was also great in Recount (2008), doing the famous Florida Republican stooge Katherine Harris to a tee.
In Enlightened she plays Amy Jellicoe, a frustrating/sad/agonizing/narcissistic/New Age train wreck of a character, who alternates between being profane, funny, heartbreaking, and self-destructive, all in the space of a half-hour show. It’s not quite a comedy, not quite a drama, not quite a dramedy: It’s painful at times to watch, because I know people like Amy, and they can be frustrating. It has an up-to-date feel that anchors it in the here-and-now. It’s not another Medieval wetdream targeted at withdrawn teenagers daydreaming of swords and talking unicorns. There’s a realness to the events/people that makes for great TV. The recent episode about a kayaking trip was maybe the best yet: both comical and heartbreaking.

This entry was posted in Good TV. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *