‘Enlightened’ Premiere: Why You Should Watch

HBO’s new dramedy stars Laura Dern as a crazy woman who isn’t crazy anymore — or is she?

"Enlightened" opens with health and beauty buyer Amy Jellicoe's (Laura Dern) spectacular workplace meltdown, a frightening outburst so emotional and so public that no one else who unleashed it would ever dare to face any of her co-workers again, let alone ask for her job back.

But that's just one of the things that sets Amy apart, and one of the reasons why "Enlightened," a dramedy that is going to very slowly unfold its story, is so amusing and endearing.

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For three months after her breakdown, Amy unwinds at a New Age-y Hawaiian therapy center, where she swims with giant turtles and winds herself back up to return home and get her old job back … or try to, anyway.

Amy's full of positivity and a determination to be "an agent of change," but her old corporate cohorts think she's still a big can of crazy.

No one, least of all her old boss, the married guy she had an affair with, is happy to see her.

Rejuvenated, but still savvy, Amy hints at legal action, and she is rehired by the company … to work in a basement data entry center that would send any sane person running back to the turtles in Hawaii.

Vowing to make changes in her own life and the lives of those around her, Amy forges onward, despite getting the brush-off from her old assistant (who now has Amy's office), her philandering, drug-addicted ex-husband (Luke Wilson) and her pessimistic mama (Dern's real-life mom, Diane Ladd).

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No one is going to burst her bubble, but continuing doses of reality are going to test her commitment to making a difference in the world, like the starting salary she's offered when she considers taking a job at a homeless shelter.

That's the biggest mystery of "Enlightened," and it remains one at least four episodes into the premiere season: can Amy hold on to her new world view when the rest of the world is trying to so hard to smash it, or, worse yet, to ignore her altogether?

And is she really enlightened, or is her new approach just a way of trying to avoid dealing with the problems and realities of her life?

Maybe the mystery won't unfold at all, and the series will continue to let viewers decide for themselves, something TV shows are rarely restrained enough to do.