Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Enlightenment is hard but worth the effort

This is the time of year when everyone and his dog make lists of the best and the worst of the year now ending. In several of the lists of the best television shows of the year, I'm happy to see that one of my personal favorites is being mentioned.

Enlightened, the HBO series by Laura Dern and Mike White, which also stars Dern as the main character Amy Jellicoe, has not gotten the buzz that many of the year's series have had. All the talk this fall has been about Showtime's Homeland with critics falling all over themselves to praise it. Frankly, it left me a bit cold, but I loved Enlightened, although I sometimes wondered if anybody besides me were watching.

Amy Jellicoe is a disturbed California woman who has an emotional breakdown on the job and goes away to a rehab center in Hawaii to try find herself. There, she finds more than herself; she finds "enlightenment" and she returns home to try to put her life back together and to make it and the world better.

Amy is quirky and irritating and has serious issues in her relationships with her mother (with whom she now lives) and her ex-husband (played by Luke Wilson) but she is determined to remain positive and be the change she wants to see. She is also selfish, self-righteous, thoroughly obnoxious and supercilious at times and yet she engages my sympathy. I see myself all too clearly in her foibles and her trials, and isn't this the mark of a good drama?

Curiously, this show is classed as a comedy and, yes, it is often funny in a thoroughly heartbreakingly human way. Personally, I would call it a "dramedy," but I guess the award shows don't have such a classification.

Whatever they choose to call it, I'm just glad to see the show getting some recognition and I'm glad to see that  HBO has recognized its value and has renewed it for a second season. It is not always an easy show to watch. Sometimes it makes me cringe for myself as well as Amy. But it is definitely worth the effort.

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