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Laura Dern. Photo by Lacey Terrell.

Enlightened: Season 2

Available from January 13 until July 12, 2013 at HBO Canada On Demand and online at RogersAnyplaceTV.com.

This preview photo of Laura Dern (above) as humbled corporate high-flyer cum naive evangelical eco-warrior Amy Jellicoe tends to suggest that Amy is finally given her marching orders in Season 2. And not before time. If that means we get to see more of the hilarious Judy (Amy Hill), the eternally exasperated and wonderfully robotic head of human resources, then bring it on!

Season Two holds such promise, and could charge off in any direction, especially given that Season One hinted at greatness while meandering to find its feet, tinkering awkwardly with corporate satire and moral preachiness while succeeding hugely at genuine character exploration.

From where I stand, the freewheeling Amy truly deserved to be extricated from her well-paid job and shipped off to Hawaii for months of hug-thy-neighbour therapy. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, frankly. Naive, self-righteous and perpetually on the verge of another tantrum, she’s possibly one of the most annoying characters on television. (Laura Dern, to her credit, has always managed to pull off the naive-desperate-unstable thing, going back as far as Blue Velvet.)

And yet she’s surrounded by some of the most likeable colleagues, friends and family. Her mother (Diane Ladd) has a wonderfully pained expression permanently etched onto her face that really says it all: Stop your whining, c’est la vie, get out of my face and get a grip. “I don’t mind being alone,” she says. “The conversation’s better.” Episode 9 of Season One, especially, is worthy of repeat viewing. (All 10 episodes of Season One are available until March 12 at HBO Canada On Demand and RogersAnyplaceTV.com.)

Sometimes it’s hard to know if the show is taking the piss out of itself or trying just a little bit too hard to be earnest with its power-to-the-people underpin. Whatever the intention, Enlightened kept us guessing for the entire first season, and certainly kept us coming back for more. Maybe Amy really will decide to torch her hell-hole office building in a moment of sanctimony and then drive off to her yoga class while listening to whale music. (Let’s just hope it happens after 5pm when all the nice people have gone home.)

Molly Shannon turns up in Season Two as a potential squeeze for Tyler (Amy’s adorable desk-mate, played by series co-creator Mike White) and Dermot Mulroney costars as the boyfriend Amy has always dreamed about. And to celebrate his newfound sobriety, Levi escapes rehab for a night of drugs, booze and debauchery. A little less of the creaky, “goodness is all around” moral talk at the end of each episode would be nice, although somehow you end up buying in. A very curious series indeed.

Broadcast premiere: Sunday January 13 at 9:30pm

On demand until: July 12, 2013

Channel: HBO Canada

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