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Enlightened (8:30pm Sun, HBO)
Amy (Laura Dern) is a troubled woman making crazy-ass stabs at transcendence. This season, she has committed herself to doing something meaningful on this Earth by exposing corruption at the company where she works. Friends and relatives think she’s out of her mind, and Amy can’t help wondering if they’re right. “Am I an agent of change or an agent of chaos?” she asks in the dreamy prologue to the season finale.
The plot arc reaches a peak as the company CEO discovers Amy’s whistle-blowing plan and threatens to crush her “like a bug.” But whatever Amy might be (ditz, narcissist, brat), she is not a bug. “I’m tired of watching the world fall apart because of guys like you!” she tells the CEO, standing in for all of us who are concerned with the state of our souls.
Let’s hear it for crazy-ass stabs at transcendence.
Boston’s Finest (8pm Wed, TNT)
Mark Wahlberg’s reality series may make police dramas obsolete. After watching real Boston cops in action, who needs the likes of Hawaii 5-0?
TNT’s cameras gain incredible access to squad-car conversations and apartment raids, not to mention the officers’ private lives. We come to know the men and women in blue, and we come to appreciate the danger they face every day. Wahlberg himself narrates the episodes, which follow various narrative threads. For example, we watch the fugitive unit track a suspect, set up a raid, and execute it when the time is right. You can’t help but pump your fist when they avoid harm and lead the bad guy away in handcuffs.
If any Boston criminals happen to be tuning in, I bet even they would cheer in spite of themselves.
Red Widow (8pm Sun, ABC)
This new melodrama asks us to hang out with scuzzy people involved in unpleasant activities. Marta (Radha Mitchell) is a Russian gangster’s daughter married to a drug smuggler who gets killed for crossing an underworld kingpin. Now Marta must do the kingpin’s bidding to keep her three kids safe. In other words, don’t expect her to change that grim expression on her face for the remainder of the season.
Red Widow features the muddled storytelling you’d expect from creator Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote the Twilight scripts. I think Rosenberg wants us to sympathize with Marta, but it’s hard to warm up to a humorless woman with a penchant for threatening FBI agents. The series is recommended only for aficionados of stringy hair and thick Russian accents.
Vikings (9pm Sun, History)
The Vikings have never been regarded as fun people to hang out with, and this nine-part historical drama will do nothing to improve their reputation. I don’t know about you, but my spirits don’t exactly soar when this title comes up before the first scene: “Eastern Baltic, 793 A.D.” The setting is as bleak and remote as you’d imagine. As for plot, the Vikings’ raid-obsessed manly men (Gabriel Byrne, Travis Fimmel) busy themselves with beheadings, impalings, stonings, and rape.
The dialogue, spoken by stiff actors in furry vests, sounds like this: “I joke about many things, son of Ragnar, but never about ship-building!”
It’s too bad, because one can only imagine how funny those ship-building jokes would have been.
World of Jenks (10pm Mon, MTV)
Millennials have a reputation as a narcissistic generation, and World of Jenks is Exhibit A. Twenty-six-year-old filmmaker Andrew Jenks often turns the camera on himself in this MTV series, even though the subject is ostensibly other people. Andrew sets out to profile three fellow young folks facing obstacles in their lives: an autistic man, a reformed drug dealer and a cancer victim. He hangs out with them to explore their struggles — not to mention his own response to their struggles. (See title.)
The self-promotion may be a bit much, but I am impressed by the season premiere. Andrew has an easy rapport with his subjects, making them feel comfortable discussing their problems. And he’s such a filmmaking wizard that the portraits come alive onscreen, with an editing style and a musical cue for every shade of emotion. Andrew is earnest in his desire to portray everyday heroes, but he also manages a droll and breezy tone.
If this is the way Millennials express their narcissism, I’m all for it.