Close-up of a woman crying. Mascara-streaked face, hitching sobs, the whole works. It’s Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern, “Jurassic Park”) and she’s just lost her all-important corporate job for sleeping with her married sleaze of a boss.
Mondays at 9:30
Cut to a scene on the beach and a gorgeous sunset (of course). A newly frizzy-haired Amy is cleansing out her chakras at a treatment center in Hawaii. She snorkels with rainbow-colored fish and a sea turtle, even diving down to grab a wayward shell from the ocean floor. We get it, already. Amy is now “Enlightened.”
Back to a scene of smoggy L.A. traffic and a newly transformed Amy, ready to take on the world. We see her navigate the tricky waters of moving back in with her mom (Diane Ladd, “Christmas Vacation”), dealing with her druggie ex-husband Levi (Luke Wilson, “Old School”) and her thankless corporate job.
Here’s where “Enlightened” fails to see the light. None of this material screams “new” or “exciting.” Corporate America is a soulless operation? No way! Men can be cheating pigs? Who knew? Relationships are hard work? Get out!
And while the series does seem especially relevant, considering the relatively recent push for environmental awareness, what is “Enlightened” really trying to say? It swings wildly from poking fun at the entire self-help genre to wholeheartedly embracing the granola movement.
“Enlightened” just can’t make up its mind as to whether it wants to be a satire or not. While it’s better for a show like this to avoid blatant parody, this style of vague pondering (can people really change?) leaves plenty to be desired. Make no mistake that the 30-minute format lends itself to comedy — but the amusing moments invariably get lost in all that brooding self-medication.
The only redeeming factor in the series seems to be its lead, Laura Dern. The veteran actress pulls off the attitude swings seamlessly, moving effortlessly between crazed stalker, depression sufferer and rambling pseudo-philanthropist. The series co-creator Mike White (“School of Rock”) also has some memorable scenes as awkward computer tech Tyler, whose well-placed silences perfectly balance Dern’s hyper exclamations.
What really buries “Enlightened” is the complete lack of subtlety. That corporation Amy is so eager to change? It so happens to be named Abaddon, a Hebrew word for “hell.” How convenient.
Not to mention the abundance of over-the-top imagery. A close-up of a sea turtle swimming in slow motion while sunlight flickers through the crystal blue water — oh, please. It’s virtually meaningless. Then there’s Amy, with frizzy curling hair, donning a sunshine yellow dress while she goes off to change the world, all with a big, fat smile on her face. Overkill.
“Enlightened” spends way too much time stuck in these ambiguous images, leaving viewers scratching their heads and ultimately reaching for the remote. The series needs to firmly establish a position before it can even begin to accomplish its goal, whatever that is. Otherwise, what’s the point?