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Fall TV Preview: Get Your Zen on With Laura Dern and Enlightened

Luke Wilson, Laura Dern, Enlightened Prashant Gupta/HBO
WWK Fall TV Preview 2011

Have you checked your chi lately?

Get ready to draw some positive energy from the most unlikely of places: TV. Specifically, HBO's new offbeat series Enlightened.   

Starring powerhouse actors Laura Dern, her mom, Diane Ladd, Luke Wilson and Mike White, also writer and executive producer (with Dern), HBO's new dramedy is a gorgeously filmed, perfectly written and flawlessly performed masterpiece.

So how do we really feel?

MORE: Find more TV happiness with our fall reviews, previews and exclusive interviews

Enlightened (HBO)
Premieres Monday, Oct. 10 at 9:30 p.m.
Time-Slot Competition: Mike & Molly (CBS), The Sing-Off (NBC), House (Fox), Hart of Dixie (CW), Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Cast: Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Luke Wilson, Mike White
Status:
We've seen the first four episodes.

Honestly this is not a paid commercial for HBO. However it is surprising that the show isn't receiving the buzz it deserves. The first four episodes could be a standalone indie film, which we'd have to stay in the theater until the lights came on because of our crying. (The fourth episode is that moving.)

Laura Dern plays the titular "enlightened" Amy, who opens the series with a Jerry Maguire/Office Space-style meltdown after being demoted by her married boss and lover. After publicly humiliating the cheating scoundrel—and herself—Amy finds peace at a spiritual retreat in Hawaii.

Amy's chi—which you will share via cinematic footage of a giant sea turtle swimming in the clear blue sea—doesn't last long after she returns to L.A. Broke, she has to move in with her skeptical mother (Ladd, Dern's real-life mom), whose simple daily routine and dog Ginger annoys Amy. With a sunny smile she strongarms her former employer into rehiring her—but they give her a job as data-entry clerk, working with other "misfits" (including White) in a sub-basement office.

No one in Amy's life accepts her attempts to enlighten them—her mom, coworkers, former boss/fling or her endearing ex-husband, Levi (Wilson), who achieves his own zen through a recreational drug habit.

It's Levi, and the fourth episode, that had us bawling like a baby at the end of the fourth episode. The couple's idyllic river-rafting trip (featuring more visually stunning nature scenes) explains, via flashbacks, why their marriage failed—namely, a miscarriage and the death of their beloved dog. Their tranquil escape is inevitably shattered, and ends with Amy driving her ex-husband home after a drug binge.

"Don't try to save me," Levi sadly beseeches Amy. "When I'm sober it's all so much worse. And when I'm high there are times when I actually don't think about any of it...and I need those times."

Cue Kleenex.  

Verdict: DVR—but only so you can savor every single moment.

PHOTOS: Check out some other enlightened stars in our Do-Gooder Gallery!

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