This HBO exercise in exquisite portraiture (I still won’t call it a comedy) …is the most hauntingly nuanced and carefully written show currently on TV. Yes, I already know “Enlightened” is not your cup of green tea, because so many of you have already said so: It’s too slow. Nothing happens. It’s depressing.
It is depressing. It is a real downer, and too many viewers have a bias against that sort of thing. We’ll watch countless Prohibition-era thugs get shot in the head, or detectives examine rape-kit results, and of course we’ll watch a couple hundred people die violently in the “Homeland” finale, but somehow “Enlightened” is too ooky and dark. In its first season, something like 200,000 people tuned in from week to week; even for HBO, where patience is a virtue, that’s the ratings equivalent of a party no one came to.
In addition to its superb cast, “Enlightened’s” real strength lies in White’s and Dern’s commitment to brutal realism. Decades from now (I hope), someone will marvel at the show’s accurate feel for early-21st-century American work culture as well as the way it portrays our daily sense of disconnect and vacuity.