Hey TV.com, Should I Watch Damon Lindelof's Kinda-sad The Leftovers?

By Tim Surette

Jun 27, 2014

Television is a forgiving medium. Case in point: the writing staff for Sean Saves the World will go on to get new jobs. But what about for the creator of one of television's most polarizing (well, mostly hated) series finales ever? After penning summer blockbusters for a few years, Damon Lindelof returns to television for the first time since Lost did whatever it did. His new show is The Leftovers and it's on HBO, so this collision of marquee names means it's one to keep an eye on. But should you actually invest your valuable life minutes on it? I've seen the pilot and am here to help you make that decision in another edition of This New TV Show: Hot or Not?

The Leftovers, so this is Guy Fieri's new show about what he eats out of his goatee?

I wish! The Leftovers takes place in a small New York 'burb known as Mapleton, three years after 2 percent of the global population (about 140 million peeps) mysteriously vanished. Some call the incident The Rapture, others call it something much worse, but whatever it was, everyone is pretty bummed about it. The series is a real slice o' life in Mapleton, but it focuses on chief of police Kevin Garvey and his family, as well as a strange cult that's popped up and calls itself the Guilty Remnant. And because it can, The Leftovers also includes some weird guru and a bunch of animals that have gone crazy. Embrace the strange, because there's a lot of "whaaaaa?" going on in the pilot.

Who made these Leftovers and who stars in it?

As I said above, this is Lindelof's baby, and his first series since Lost. He co-created The Leftovers with Tom Perrotta, who wrote the book that it's based on. Peter Berg, director of the Friday Night Lights movie (and Battleship *ahem*) directed the first episode and is also on board as an executive producer. Justin Theroux leads the cast as Kevin, and you'll also see Amy Brenneman (NYPD Blue), Chris Zylka (The Secret Circle), Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Ann Dowd (who made flowers with Errol in True Detective), Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings), Michael Gaston (Turn), and Charlie and Max Carver (Teen Wolf).   

When does The Leftovers get left behind?

The Leftovers premieres Sunday, June 29 at 10pm on HBO. It'll be paired with True Blood for a block about death that couldn't be more tonally different. 

Who is going to gobble up The Leftovers?

The Leftovers is already getting tagged as the summer's most depressing show, and while I don't totally buy that (Bachelor in Paradise HAS to be more sorrowful), it's not far from the truth. Ain't no sunshine in this bag of sadness. But its dominant theme of loss makes for incredibly heavy drama, so if emotional pain (and the beauty in it) is your thing, you'll like it. If you've got one foot on the ledge, however, this will push you over. 

What's tasty about The Leftovers?

Lindelof knows what he's working with here, which is a town healing from inexplicable tragedy. The anguish over "being left behind" and anger of not knowing why is well laid out in the pilot as different people handle the situation differently. Wait 'til you see what the Mapleton teens get up to. Despite it's gloomy subject matter, The Leftovers is a gorgeous watch. And the doomed atmosphere is punched up with a really great soundtrack that every depressed and angry adolescent should own. But what spices things up here are the underlying mysteries, which aren't front and center like they were in Lost, but are enough to add more to The Leftovers than perpetual despair. 

What should be trashed about The Leftovers?

Like I said, this show is about loss and all the despondence that comes with it. It is NOT uplifting. It will be easy for many to see The Leftovers as unnecessary, slow-moving melodrama that bludgeons viewers with sad, sad themes. And that's not far from the truth. Most of the initial audience that comes for the mystery of why people vanished will be disappointed; that's not the point of the show nor is it even really touched on (it's three years on and most people have accepted the incident as some mystery they'll never understand). There are questions of how sustainable the series can be, too. In fact, I'd say that's The Leftovers' biggest red flag. Also, those of you offended by the F word beware! Every other word is F(iretr)uck now that the muzzle is off Lindelof.  

So, should I watch it?

This is going to be a show that will be really, really enjoyed by a specific audience, but has no chance to be a mainstream hit. However, there's a fascinating season of television here if it can be handled correctly, and my hopes for that exceed my worries of a series that will meander and thin out, at least for Season 1. If you can appreciate the beauty in coming to terms with loss, then you'll like it. If not, you'll only wonder how anyone would watch such a thing.

Let's take a look at a trailer!


The Leftovers premieres Sunday, June 29 at 10pm on HBO.

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  • Jd0287 Jul 01, 2014

    Definitely intrigued by the "left behind" part. But you said they barely touch that subject... I might give it a shot.

  • legersem Jun 30, 2014

    Look, just as with Lost, the people getting invested in this show solely because of the mystery are missing the point. Lindelof created some of the most dynamic and complex characters in Lost, and based on this review, he's doing it again on The Leftovers. Dealing with the more emotional themes instead of focusing on the event is going to set this show apart from other "big mystery" shows that have all failed (see: Revolution, The Event, FlashForward, etc.). It's definitely enough to get me to watch the first episode.

  • gothceltgirl Jun 30, 2014

    That trailer was so strange and melancholy. And thanx so much Tim for such an insightful article! I was already in, but now I have more of an idea of what to expect from the pilot, as well as the tone of the series.

  • PomieLerchesa Jun 29, 2014

    Excellent song choice for trailer. Great taste. Will give it a shot.

  • hockeyrick Jun 29, 2014

    Interesting, but how does anyone know its a tragedy, that they are gone? seeing as how the world is shaping up, maybe its really a blessing!

  • Ian281099 Jun 29, 2014

    Really, 2% of the population just suddenly disappear. Nobody knows where they are, what happened to them, or if they're ever coming back. What if a member of your family disappeared out of the blue and nobody in the entire world could explain to you why they're gone or how.

  • Jared3648 Jun 28, 2014

    Amy Brennenman (NYPD Blue) hahahaha, yes, but how about Judging Amy where she played the lead (or her most recent tv show: Private Practice)

  • dref22 Jun 29, 2014

    Yes, it is a bit weird that they menitoned NYPD Blue instead of Judging Amy. XD

  • stevenstewart4 Jun 28, 2014

    Many modern shows' overuse of the word "F(iretr)uck" is just lazy writing/ acting. "Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind attempting to express itself forcibly" is often true. The word loses whatever power it once had and just becomes an ugly and annoying stutter. Sure, people do talk like that. But art and entertainment can and should be written and acted better so that the audience can get whatever emotion that word it meant to evoke without needing to beat it into the ground.

  • Muderboy Jun 28, 2014

    You know, I often wonder what Lindelhof thinks about his disaster of an ending to Lost. Does he think we're all idiots who just didn't get his brilliance? Is he sorry he blew it, because he has to know he did from the overwhelming negative response? Leonard and Sheldon didn't like it, and neither did many of us. But I will watch this hoping he has learned a valuable lesson. And don't anyone profess to know what the man thinks--we clearly can't know--and I doubt very much if he knows he screwed up, he would ever publically admit it. But he has to know...doesn't he?

  • brainonthecouch Jun 29, 2014

    At some point a while back he came out and said something to the effect of "look, I know most people hated it, I'm sorry that what I did made a lot of people feel like I had ruined one of their favorite shows, but I thought it was good and I stand by it. Now please stop telling me how much you hated it, I've heard it enough times that I will assume you hated it unless you specify otherwise, and I would really like to talk about something else."

  • Muderboy Jun 29, 2014

    Well, that at least answers my question, thank you for that...

  • Units420 Jun 28, 2014

    Or maybe, given that he wrote it, he's completely satisfied with how it ended. Who knows? Like you said, we have no place to profess, to any degree, what this man thinks unless he says it quite bluntly. From the little he's spoken on it, he seems satisfied with his direction. I will take an educated guess and say he's probably not losing any sleep at night over a couple of fictional characters not liking the ending

  • Muderboy Jun 29, 2014

    But what about the rest of us real people who hated it?

  • django_palcich Jun 29, 2014

    To quote Jacob , what about you? I liked the finale even after watching the entire series three times over. I also think that does who didnt are just louder minority.

  • safibwana Jun 29, 2014

    Really? I think it's those who liked it who were a loud minority. Now that people have had some distance a reliable poll could be done (in theory, most internet polls are totally bogus, like the ones here that measure only fanaticism and script writing ability).

  • django_palcich Jun 29, 2014

    *not does, those

  • bluefish Jun 28, 2014

    I loved LOST but the ending was a horrible disappointment. I learned my lesson and won't be wasting my time on another disappointment.

  • gothceltgirl Jun 30, 2014

    I actually just started watching Lost, but I know the disappointment b/c I was plot spoiled by watching an episode of Tosh.0 because I didn't really believe him when he said the following would contain spoilers, so I kept listening; so from what I heard him say that sounds like quite the letdown. And it took me a while to reconcile all the wonder that I have heard the show contains with what I know comes at the end. Maybe in some ways it's better that I know so I won't be as disappointed as all the peeps who actually watched it.

  • Jd0287 Jul 01, 2014

    Good luck. I tried to rewatch the show last year, got through half of the first episode and thought... "All of this just to lead up to that BS ending" I couldn't do it. I think I need a few more years.

  • Units420 Jun 28, 2014

    I think polarizing was the right word to use. I know just as many who enjoyed the ending of Lost (myself included) that where disappointed.

    But back on topic, this show seems interesting and will give it a try

  • Units420 Jun 28, 2014


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