Laura Dern and Mike White make “Enlightened” HBO’s best new Fall series

By Barb Oates

Oh what a refreshingly, fun mental breakdown Laura Dern goes through in HBO’s opening scene of their new fall pilot Enlightened, coming Mondays beginning Oct. 10.

Dern plays an executive for a corporate giant who unleashes her inner crazy on a boss who just jilted her. Her Prozac-lacking outburst consisted of a firestorm of office no-nos, and for Dern it was “amazing.”

“I wanted to see what happens to someone when they have absolutely no boundaries,” Dern told us. “I realized it’s exhausting to be a rager.”

Dern, along with Mike White (School of Rock), serve as executive producers and creators of the show, and both found the topic of a very public mental breakdown funny yet easy to relate to.

White says he did his last show he did have his moment. “I kind of like had my own, like you know, ‘@#$% you guys in the hall,” and like started reading self-help books and meditating. I just thought it would be funny to do a show about somebody who comes back from a real publicly humiliating experience and was like, ‘I’m not crazy.’ Somebody who feels like they’ve seen the light and wants to express that to everybody, but they don’t really have the credibility. You know it’s like when someone goes to AA and comes back and is like ‘I’ve got all the answers, and I’ve got the answers for you.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, you still owe me $3,000 and you totaled my car.'”

For Dern’s character Amy, her very public meltdown actually led to a three-month sabbatical, after which she returns with a refreshed mind and spirit, ready to make the world a better place.

Yeah, that doesn’t really work out.

Amy finds herself reassigned to a department of misfits — one of them being the brilliant White. Further screwing up her newfound Zen is Amy’s strained relationships with her mother (real mom Diane Ladd) and her ex-husband (Luke Wilson).

One of Dern’s favorite moments is when Amy decides she wants to make a difference and do something with her life.

“She tries to get a job at a homeless shelter and she is deeply moved, and you see how it affects her. In the middle of her euphoria that she’s changing her life and doing something for the world, she asks how much the job pays, and he tells her. And she says, ‘Holy @#$%! I can’t do this job. I’ve got bills to pay. I’m living with my mother. It’s going to @#$%ing kill me.’ That’s what I love about her. She has such wonderful intentions but sometimes she doesn’t know how to be the person she’d like to be.”

And, that’s both the humor and the tragedy in HBO’s newest fall TV series.