TV Listings | The light that burned so bright

Pick of the Week: Enlightened, SVT2, Tue 22:15

Nominated for a 2011 Golden Globe, the HBO drama comedy-drama series Englightened has been described by the Washington Post as “the most hauntingly nuanced and carefully written show currently on TV”.

Laura Dern (Blue Velvet, I am Sam) plays Amy Jellicoe, a 40-something corporate drone who has a sobbing, shrieking breakdown at her workplace, Abbadon Industries. We follow Amy as she works her way towards enlightenment through a process of rehab, self-help and inner healing, and her eventual return to Abbadon, this time as a whistle-blower.  

Dern, who was also the co-creator of the series along with writer Mike White, secured the 2011 Golden Globe for best actress for her portrayal of the flawed but endearing Jellicoe, and she has been widely hailed as the star of show. “Dern is fantastic as Amy,” says the Boston Globe. “You cringe as her histrionics drive people away and cringe again as she tries to suppress her feelings behind a veneer of New Age peacefulness.”

The show gives viewers a one-of-a-kind TV experience, not easily comparable to any other. As the Huffington Post put it: “it ultimately succeeds at one of the hardest but most important things any story should do: it brings you inside in the emotional state of the people at the heart of the tale.”

As a show that has been on the receiving end of rave reviews, it comes as a surprise that HBO has pulled the plug after the completion of two seasons, citing low ratings. The outcry that this has provoked among fans of the show only serves to emphasise the reverberating appeal of a show like Enlightened. It just goes to show that the easiest way to cement a cult following for a show is to kill it off in the prime of its youth.

Responding to praise for Jellicoe, Dern enthused: “I’ve never felt more attached to a character, more protective, or more defensive of a character. You know, there’s grief in saying goodbye to someone like that.” (LD)

Also New:

The Guardian liked Mrs Biggs, a 2012 British miniseries about the wife of one of the participants in the infamous Great Train Robbery. The daughter of a respectable headmaster, Charmian Biggs was charmed into a life of crime that saw her go on the run with her husband Ronnie (the always good Daniel Mays) to Australia, where she remained when he fled to Brazil.

The strong week for drama continues with the fifth series of Damages (DR1, Wed 23:30) and a chance to watch the entire first season of Homeland (DR3, Sun 08:45) – be warned: once hooked, it’s difficult to switch off.

Elsewhere, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (DR2, Tue 20:30) documents everyone’s favourite jailhouse rockers; there’s some living on a soft-rock prayer to be had in Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful, and Terror in the Desert (BBC World, Sat 22:10) learns how a gas plant in Algeria didn’t have a prayer under attack from terrorists in January. (BH)

Sport of the Week:

Another decade of Formula One is being ruined by a German. Watch Sebastian Vettel amass more points at the Singapore Grand Prix on his way to his fourth title on the trot. So why not try three sports the Germans are rubbish at? There’s live Aussie rules action from the AFL, a live Indian Premier League cricket game and the Beach Football World Cup (Eurosport 1 & 2, all week). As Churchill knew, Germany will never win on the beaches. (BH)

Film of the Week:

The Town, the film Ben Affleck directed before Argo, is a slick, suspenseful affair, but labours towards a formulaic conclusion. If only they’d kept the ending in which Affleck is killed by one of his victims. The ending is all-prevalent in Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic drama Melancholia; asylum drama Crossing Over ends up being a political statement, romance Bright Star (SVT1, Mon 22:50) ends with the premature death of poet John Keats; and Captain America: The First Avenger (SVT4, Fri 22:25) doesn’t end fast enough. (BH)

We suspect chiselled Cillian had a no facial hair clause in his contractComing Soon: Peaky Blinders

The Guardian has described the BBC’s new six-part series Peaky Blinders as “a beautiful, engrossing and doomed story, shot with passion and style, rough humour, and much rain”.

Starring Cillian Murphy (Inception) and Helen McCrory (Hugo), the drama, set in 1919, offers a violent, tweed-clad insight into Birmingham’s post-war underworld.

According to the Telegraph, the drama portrays Birmingham, somewhat unbelievably, as a thrilling, lawless outpost “at the mercy of a vicious gang of ruthless racketeers, social deprivation and the prospect of violent, Communist-led revolution” – so more like the Wild West than the West Midlands.

Comparisons with HBO’s Boardwalk Empire are inevitable given the period, the haircuts and flashbacks to the Great War. However, the series manages to be original despite the accents! (CJ)

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