The Leftovers

TV Review: The Leftovers Pilot (2014 – HBO)

The Leftovers
A new HBO series almost demands a try at this point (AMC as well) given the track record of quality that the network has had over the past few decades. The Leftovers is their newest series, directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) and written by Damon Lindeloff (Lost, Star Trek). It features a world in which 2% of the Earth’s population simply vanished. 140 million people gone in the blink of an eye. There’s a very affecting opening where a mother is tucking her child into the car seat and then turns around to start the car, turns back to check on the child and it’s simply gone.  (Despite the similarity to The Rapture of Christian theology, the show goes pretty much out of its way to emphasize that this was not that.)  The story picks up three years after the disappearances.
Justin Theroux, The Leftovers
The overwhelming feeling of the pilot if one of depression.  This is a depressed, angry world.  Something inexplicable has happened to them and the mood in the world three years later is still one of grief and depression, mixed with a simmering rage with nowhere to go.  This is hammered relentlessly at you in the pilot (which is 1hr 20 min) and if the series is going to go anywhere, it needs to realize it’s been established and mix the tone or this is going to be the most depressing show on TV.Amy Brennerman, The Leftovers
Though the disappearance was a worldwide phenomenon (Shaq, the Pope and Gary Busey we find out were all among the taken in one of the only light moments in the pilot), we’re focusing on one small town and the main character is its police chief (Justin Theroux), his wife (Amy Brennerman) who has gone to live with a creepy cult of people who don’t talk but smoke like chimneys called The Remnant, his daughter who is drifting through high school like a lit stick of dynamite, and his son who has joined a commune centered around someone named “Wayne” who has…..some kind of something going on.  We don’t get deep into any of the storylines in the pilot, we’re just given each character arc a brief kick-start and they’re all starting from low places.  In addition the cast features Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler, Frank Harts and Peter Gaston among others.
The Leftovers
The Leftovers has a strong ensemble and an intriguing premise, but a mostly forgettable pilot that ends up being a tremendous downer. I’ve liked enough of Lindeloff’s writing to give this a few more episodes, but if they wanted to hook viewers with their pilot, they probably shouldn’t have tried so hard to bum them completely out.

3 thoughts on “TV Review: The Leftovers Pilot (2014 – HBO)”

  1. Well, I love the premise, but judging from your description, Lindelof should know a little bit more about hooking an audience.

    The first episode of the Sopranos had a terrific start. Psychiatrists’s office, panic attacks, ducks in the swimming pool, and Tony’s family making fun of him. Only after all that, only after we feel like we really know him, do we see him doing something psychopathic. If the first episode had started with Tony running the guy down with his car, the series probably would not have been a success.


    1. Yeah, it has such potential, but they need to hook viewers because they don’t have such amazing actors that performances alone will hold you for a slow burn like they did with True Detectives. They need the plot to take a rapid upturn in pace. Binge watching this would send me under a blanket in a dark room.


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