I must admit, I had a hard time watching the 1st few episode of the 1st season. However I like Mike White and I also wanted to find out why Laura Dern won awards for her acting. It gets better and I was quite hooked by the end of season 1. It helps that its only 20 minutes per episode or I might have given it up.
For those who have tried, you should start watching season 2. The pace picks up and the plot thickens. It is not just aimless wandering anymore. Its not like other shows on TV.
Many complained about the lead character not being likable but that is what is so great about the show. It is brutally honest. Its very close to real life. We all like to think we are the hero in our own novel but others might find it repulsive yet it may not really matter. What is more important is how we honestly feel about ourselves.
The romance for Tyler (Mike White) character in season 2 and the love triangle that is so of forming. They are all very real, a lot more than many of the Hollywood series on TV now.
I especially like the sex scene between Tyler and her new girlfriend. That is usually what happened when we sleep with someone for the 1st time. We are usually shy. Many of us are not as super hot as those people on TV and just start ravaging each other.
Had to push through first few episodes - hooked by the 5th. Really started enjoying the cast. The direction is often brilliant. Intrigued by Mike White who's writer, director AND Tyler - subtle performance /touching character! But here's the thing: It's not a comedy. It could be but that's not how it's played (or written!). Nothing funny or amusing about it. More curious still, the main character elicits as much revulsion as pity. "Amy" is an intensely irritating person - self-absorbed, self-indulgent, no sense of self-containment, needy, passive aggressive, righteous, ridiculous. Laura Dern is very off-putting - her face rarely in repose, way big facial contortions, always foaming at the mouth. So I'm trusting that this is all purposeful, and that's the intent and intelligence of the show: that the main character is extremely flawed, but becoming a little better each episode, not in the nonsensical way of her self-help books but actually becoming a tad more aware, say, more "enlightened" (ie 'letting it go' at end of episode w the ever-gorgeous Robin Wright, or looking at and actually seeing her mother). Am almost at end of 1st season and want more. More of the cast: Timm Sharp is great; the women upstairs especially Sarah Burns; her mother Diane Ladd so odd and yet such a sense of depth, again subtle; Luke Wilson reliably good. And Laura Dern - every so often her face relaxes, her intensity softens, and she's compelling.
The irony of the title is that Amy Jellicoe is not enlightened at all. Her sense of righteousness has merely been re-directed. The stereotype that this show presents is the committed "do-gooder" so obsessed with their own agenda that they are completely oblivious to the reality around them.
If this is the character that the writer intended to create in Amy then he has absolutely succeeded. But in order for us to sympathize with her, she needs to be more sympathetic. At the moment, she is at worst, manipulative, oblivious, condescending and stupid. At best, merely irritating.
We are asked to believe that Amy was a (good) buyer in a dept of a market leading consumer goods company. But apparently her transformation included a complete loss of all business sense, including how to pitch an idea or negotiate. Her new job is the pits, but where is her escape strategy? She is prepared to search for work at a Homeless shelter but even when she accepts she can't afford to work in not-for-profit, she doesn't look for alternative business roles? The show needed to address some or all of these issues.
I think the show has great potential, and I kept watching to see if it would be found. I'm afraid so far, we've seen not a whole lot of comedy despite the fabulous material that could be mined from the bunch of misfits in the basement. At the moment with the exception of Tyler, they are merely set decoration. In terms of Amy's relationship with her old co-workers, that's not comedic, it's merely sad.
Please, I want this show to be good. It's taken until E10 for Amy to find a direction, I may tune into S2 to see what she does with it, but if it continues like S1, I'm out.
Imagine, you're in the cleanest and the bluest water in the world, seeing the most vibrant colored fishes in the process. Imagine, you're sitting at the shore on a sunny and pleasant day in Maldives. You can hear the waves of the ocean giving you a sense of calm. Well, that's how you'll feel when you watch this show. Wow. That sounds like text book Dalai Lama, doesn't it? In all honesty, the show will make you feel that way.
Plot-ology: Fittingly, titled 'Enlightened', this show is about a woman's (supposed/attempted) transformation to a better life. And it's not just limited to her, but in a way, a message to every viewer, to be enlightened. It is a show bubble wrapped in a green, environmental friendly feeling. It urges us to look beyond the materialistic world we spend most of our lives chasing after and embrace nature more. As the lead talks about nature, in a scene and says "It was saying, this is all for you and everything is a gift. Even the horrible stuff". After having a nervous breakdown, at a blood sucking corporation, caused by an affair with a married man gone bad, Laura Dern (Amy) is shipped out to Hawaii. There she spends time in a rehab centre for anger management issues. During this time she has an epiphany when she comes across a sea turtle while swimming in the ocean. This alleged epiphany changes her outlook on life and she believes she's been given a new life. She returns to her old life with a different attitude and tries to sprinkle her goody two shoes, puritan spirit on to everyone else. Enlightened will show us Amy's difficulties coming to terms with the real world after her new found perspective keeps getting kicked in the crotch.
Cast-ography: Cast is headed by Laura Dern, who plays Amy, the enlightened protagonist. A veteran of Hollywood with over 30 years of experience, she has pretty much done every role possible in TV and movies. She has an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe win, among various other wins and nominations. Laura portrays Amy quite remarkably. She shows an extremely wide range of emotions that most actors fail to even come close to. In every scene, Amy is on a roller-coaster of some sort and viewers can expect a big smile on her face with the softest of voices in one scene and screaming top of her lung ready to pull your hair out in the next. Sign of a good actor, I say. An Emmy for Laura is almost certain.
(Note: stay away from a person having a nervous breakdown, she can show super strength and stop a moving life with bare hands)
Rest of the cast, is half decent, nothing extra-ordinary. We have Luke Wilson, playing Amy's ex-husband, pretty much a typical Luke Wilson character. How many times have we seen him play that nonchalant, dope smoking, obviously single, loser guy? Add one more to the list. The only thing missing in the first 3 episodes is him sitting on the Playstation or Xbox. Nevertheless, he always stays true to his character. We know what he'll give us, and we're okay with it.
Diane Ladd, plays Amy's mother, incidentally she is real life mother of Laura. (Trivia: She has played her mother in movies/TV shows 5 times).
When Amy returns to her old workplace, she is forced down in the basement. Here she comes across some very diverse and humorous characters. As she calls them circus freaks. Here we see, Timm Sharp, Luke White (the creator of the show), Bayne Gibby among others. Overall, the cast has potential, ample amount of it. But needs time and a lot more dialogues. Funnier, dialogues.
General Paper (Everything else: Soundtrack, Direction etc):The show has a nice calm feel to it, as discussed in the summary. Although I've been a fan of voice-overs, but in this instance, it is a necessity. It feels like you're stuck in a bubble and the wind is blowing you around from one point to the other. The background sounds, music, warm voice of Laura, all do supplement each other to complete the feel of the show. Another interesting thing I noticed was, in every scene you'll see Something green. Maybe HBO took a leaf out of Breaking Bad's book, with their rather successful play with subliminal color coding. But this green has that effect on the viewer. Nicely done.
Enlightened is very intriguing in some regards yet, lacks direction. It is stuck between being a drama about an epiphany and a comedy about a dysfunctional work place. It is truly a dramedy, but, needs a bit more drama and a lot more comedy. I think the creators and writers have to make some concrete decisions regarding the direction this show needs to take. As of now, it's swimming in the open sea and not quite sure which way it wants to swim. That being said, it's a lot better than a handful of other dramedies around (or recently cancelled). When we compare it to other female lead driven shows (like Weeds, Nurse Jackie, The Big C etc) it's doing its bit.
At first I thought - Hey, great, it's Laura Dern and she's back on the screen.
Unfortunately, I only managed to watch the first 5 episodes before I had to turn it of mid-episode and swore myself to never watch an HBO show again.
The pilot started with Amy having a nervous meltdown after loosing her department to an ex-lover and coworker, starting with a crying fit and ending with her screaming and raging through forced-open elevator doors.
After a few weeks off from work, Amy returns to the city a changed person. She is trying to get her job back and to start her life over. The pilot itself promised a good show with a grown woman trying to get back on her feet and change the world around her for the better. While not exactly comedy nor drama, it had some elements of both (and tons of swearing), including some lovely nature-shots.
Soon after getting stuck in a dead-end job in the basement („earned" by threatening the higher management with a lawsuit), Amy starts the life-changing by treating everyone around her like lower-class citizens and/or assistants. She is desperate to win back her former, somewhat bitchy coworkers by acting like a chliché-ridden obnoxious teenager in highschool, butting into conversations, ignoring even the most obvious hints that she is not welcome etc. While all that might be intended to show Amy finding her way in this new environment she has been put in, it only makes me cringe and wanting to slap this woman to her senses AND has me rooting for her mean co-workers.
Still, she trudges on, no matter who or what comes between her and her goal, not a care in the world what everyone else around her might want or need, especially her junkie ex-husband and her mother. If this is the „new" Amy, I am sure glad we did not see the old one.
Still, I am hoping that Laura Dern and the director/producers/writers will find a way to not only make this woman more likeable but to focus this show more on real enlightenment and not „I am woman, hear me roar and now f*cking get me what I want! You know, if that's okay, like, if you want it to? You know?"
Dear writers, please stop this insanity before it becomes permanent. I don't know any 40-ish year olds that talk like that and I sure hope that, if they are out there, they realize how stupid it sounds sooner rather than later.