At A Glance:
Title: The Leftovers
Premiere: June 29, 2014
Channel: HBO 10PM EST/PST, 9PM CST
Production Company: Warner Bros. Television
Showrunner: Damon Lindelof
Executive Producers: Damon Lindelof, Tom Perrota, Ron Yerxa, Albert Berger, Peter Berg, Mimi Leder (co-executive producer – 4 episodes), Sarah Aubrey (2 episodes)
Producers: Nan Bernstein Freed (4 episodes), John Blair (co-producer – 4 episodes)
Writers: Tom Perrota (based on the novel by), Tom Perrota (written for television by), Damon Lindelof (written for television by), Curtis Gwinn (written for television by, 1 episode), Jacqueline Hoyt (written for television by, 1 episode), Kath Lingenfelter (written for television by, 1 episode), Carlito Rodriguez (written for television by, 1 episode)
Starring: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler, Michael Gaston
The Leftovers is a new series premiering on HBO this coming Sunday, June 29th. It’s premise will be familiar to people who have read Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s Left Behind series, or seen the movies made from it. Then again, the story should be familiar to anyone who attended Sunday School when they were growing up. In a nutshell, it’s about the biblical Rapture, the sudden uplifting of the chosen to heaven preceding the seven year reign of the Antichrist on Earth, leading up to Judgement Day. One day, two percent of the world’s population suddenly disappears. There is no explanation (beyond the mystical), no understanding – they’re simply there, and then they’re gone. The Leftovers deals with the fallout of this event for those that are left behind. Dealing with loss and grief is hard enough when you know what happened to your loved ones; how do we react when everyone’s lost someone, and no one knows why?
This is a bit of an experiment for HBO: it’s the first television series that they will be premiering that they have bought from an external production company – in this case, Warner Bros. Television, which has been around since the 1950s. They’ve been enjoying recent success with shows like Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and genre specific shows such as Arrow, The Following, and The 100. While their comedies have been hits, they do have quite a few serious dramas and genre series under their belt as well – a show like The Leftovers is not new ground for them. And HBO has enjoyed quite the string of successes – they would not put their reputation on the line if they felt this was a sub-par production. Whether or not the show finds its audience, it should at the least be presentable.
A lot will depend on how fans of Lost feel about Lindelof’s ability to run a successful show. For many, there’s still a pretty bad taste in their mouth from how the series failed to end in a satisfying manner. In the time since Lost ceased production, Lindelhof’s track record has been spotty: a critical hit (Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)), a critical miss (Cowboys & Aliens (2011)), a box office smash (World War Z (2013)) and a movie that generated a collective “hunh?” (Prometheus (2012)).1 Fans of Lost appear to have forgiven J.J. Abrams for his involvement in the show – perhaps it’s time to give Lindelof a pass as well. One thing that could help us do so is the cast he’s assembled for The Leftovers – after all, the cast for Lost was one of its strong points (until the storylines and cast size got too unwieldy). Cast size may end up becoming a problem here, as well: there are already 117 billed actors prior to a single episode airing, and there are sure to be additions and omissions as things move forward – and this for a show that has only ten episodes on order.
Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey
Theroux is an accomplished actor who has played recurring characters in recent series (Six Feet Under (2003-2004), Parks and Recreation (2010)), and is also a successful screenwriter (Tropic Thunder (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010)). He may also be familiar to viewers for his turn as Seamus O’Grady, Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore)’s ex-con former boyfriend in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003). This will be his first starring role in a series since The District (2000-2001).
Amy Brenneman as Laurie Garvey
Brenneman brings a wealth of experience to the table, having already starred in two very successful shows: Private Practice (2007-2013), and Judging Amy (1999-2005). She’s proven that she can carry a show on her own, and her presence here should help to bolster the large ensemble cast.
Christopher Eccleston as Matt Jamison
Eccleston has been acting for almost a quarter of a century, starring primarily in BBC productions across the pond. American viewers will likely know him best as The Doctor in the Doctor Who reboot which began back in 2005 (technically, this makes him the ninth Doctor). He brings true geek-cred to The Leftovers.
Liv Tyler as Meg Abbott
As Arwen in the three The Lord of the Rings movies, and as a top billed actress in several films in the last decade, Tyler is both recognizable and will help attract the attention of some of the same demographic Eccleston appeals to (although not to the same degree). This is her first foray into television.
Michael Gaston as Dean
An accomplished television actor, Gaston has been a regular or recurring character on no less than nine series in the last five years alone. He’ll bring solid presence to the show.
Promos and Teasers:
Below I’ve embedded each of the teasers and promotional videos HBO has released in the lead-up to The Leftovers series premiere.
Trailer #1 (Warning for some nudity, sexual scenes):
The trailer covers the basics: people disappearing, people mourning their loss, people trying to live normal lives that can never quite be normal again. There are a few interesting flashes during the clip that are easy to miss. There’s a group that looks as though they are in a sanitarium, but a sign on the wall seems odd: “We don’t smoke for enjoyment. We smoke to proclaim our faith.” We see a lot more of them – they appear to be some sort of death cult. There’s a lot of sex, a lot of violence, and a haunting song by James Blake hanging over the whole (check out the video for his song below).
A bit more backstory on show here, and we see a few more of the actors, with particular focus on Christopher Eccleston.
Here’s an on-set video with a few soundbites from Lindelof and several of the actors:
Finally, here’s a half-hour documentary released by HBO on the making of The Leftovers:
The series has a lot of potential: a showrunner with one of the most popular shows of the last decade to his credit; a popular novel, whose author is hands-on involved with the series; a cast with tons of experience; and a usually can’t miss channel, HBO. The questions that will need to be answered will largely center on how fans of Lost feel about Lindelof, and how well Warner Bros. Television can elevate its game to find the level of quality HBO series viewers are used to. I suspect that of the latter works out well, the former won’t even be an issue. Check back here late Sunday or early Monday morning for my review of the series pilot episode.
Here’s the video of the song used in the Trailer: “Retrograde” by James Blake