Created by Mike White and Laura Dern, Enlightened is an offbeat half-hour comedy series which centers on Amy Jellicoe (Dern), a self-destructive corporate executive, who suffers a nervous breakdown. A spiritually awakened Amy returns from rehab and attempts to get her life back in order. She begins to mend her relationship with her somewhat-estranged mother, Helen (Diane Ladd) and heal her ex-husband Levi (Luke Wilson), who is battling drug and sex addiction. Amy gets rehired at Abaddon Industries and sets out to expose the unethical company after uncovering years of corporate abuse and corruption. Season 2 sets the stage for the ultimate showdown, as the well-intentioned protagonist gathers evidence against Abaddon with the help of Jeff Flender (Dermot Mulroney), investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
Ensemble Cast is Sublime
There’s a reason Laura Dern won a Golden Globe for her multi-layered portrayal of the well-intentioned, yet self-involved and socially awkward Amy Jellicoe – she’s absolutely phenomenal. Dern is delightful and downright endearing as the character you love to hate and hate to love. Her performance is matched by a uniformly terrific ensemble that includes Dern’s real life mom Diane Ladd as Amy’s hash and sometimes cold mom, Helen. Luke Wilson was born to play Amy’s drug-addicted ex-husband Levi. Timm Sharp is hilarious (in the most subtle way) as Dougie Daniels and Sarah Burns and Mike White are equally fantastic in their respective roles. Dermot Mulroney and Molly Shannon also play major recurring roles in season 2.
Behind the Scenes
The series was co-created by Mike White who previously worked as a writer/producer on Dawson’s Creek and Freaks and Geeks. He also wrote and acted in Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Orange County, and School of Rock. White incorporated elements of his own experience with an on-the-job meltdown into Dern’s character. Viewers often find his comedic style to be unconventional and, at times, uncomfortable. White utilizes a team of humanist filmmakers to direct Enlightened including Miguel Arteta (Chuck and Buck), Nicole Holofcener (Please Give) and Jonathan Demme (Something Wild).
It’s Unconventionally Hilarious
Enlightened is an edgy comedy, simultaneously built on sadness and hope, which makes it extremely awkward yet rewarding to watch. Most American viewers aren’t use to unconventional satire centering on deluded self-righteous characters. Thought-provoking humor forces viewers to sympathize with characters who are more like them than they care to admit. The series' deft touch with humor is especially funny at Amy’s company, Abaddon Industries. The series opens with a workplace meltdown that is Office Space-worthy.
The Path to Enlightenment
Enlightened explores the relationship between the self-help movement and the hell that is corporate America. Amy may be enlightened, but she lives in a world that is not setup for spiritual enlightenment. As a viewer we feel uncomfortable watching Amy self-destruct because we’re not used to seeing someone so emotionally vulnerable. If nothing else, Amy is persistent. She gets knocked down, but she gets up again and again. This is a woman who has literally been on the edge and is fighting with everything she has to make it out. We find ourselves rooting for her, but in a way we’re also rooting for ourselves because we share her desire for enlightenment.
Enlightened’s season 2 finale airs Sunday, March 3 at 9:30 pm ET. It remains to be seen if the HBO series will return for another season.