Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta‘s The Leftovers, which I watched last night on HBO, is about a community of sad, numbed-out souls in a small New York State town experiencing something between a stasis of the spirit and a combination slow-motion freakout and behavioral meltdown over the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world’s population, or roughly 140,000,000 people. I didn’t like it that much. The show, I mean. Or the premise, for that matter. I felt intrigued from time to time, but mostly I felt irritated and underfuckingwhelmed.
It’s not so much that relatively little is “explained” or even discussed in any kind of half-comprehensive way, although it’s a standard technique for a drama about a cataclysmic event (The Day The Earth Caught Fire, On The Beach, The Rapture, Godzilla) to have an authority figure arrive around the 30-minute mark and deliver a bitter or drunken assessment of the whys and wherefores. But all we’re given along these lines is a CNN glimpse of a Congressional hearing with one guy claiming that “God sat this one out” — obviously a questionable assertion.
All we’re told is that a lot of characters are feeling rather sullen or nihilistic about being left behind. A lot of people are smoking and drinking and unshaven and saying “fuck it” in various ways. Packs of feral dogs running around and being shot by gun nuts. And a lot of Godhead types and visionary eccentrics are enjoying a newfound power.
Every so often a character will ask why this six-month-old baby or that teenaged son or Gary Busey or Jennifer Lopez or some woman who abused her kids got taken as they didn’t seem to rate very highly on the spiritual scale. It obviously doesn’t matter who went. What matters is that 140 million people went, which means they were selected by some Mysteriously Judgmental Entity using whatever arbitrary standard He/She/It was in thrall to when the idea of removing 140 million people occured. An earthquake or a disease or a murderous psychopathic regime didm’t remove all these people. A Silent, All-Powerful Cosmic Super-Force with some kind of relation to the admonishing Old Testament Creator whom Cecil B. DeMille used to make movies about did this, and therefore…hello?… The Leftovers is basically a semi-interesting exploitation film made by Hollywood left-liberal types that’s meant to appeal to (a) the yokels who believe in an actual End of Days scenario but also (b) those people who might be perversely amused or aroused by watching a pretty teenage girl give erotic auto-asphyxiation to a dumb, ginger-haired teenaged boy.
It’s a twisted thing, this show. I was glad when it was over. Will I watch any more episodes? One or two more, I’m thinking, but if it doesn’t improve I’m gone. All I know is that I was frowning as I watched it. I was paying attention but I was also playing with the new kitten. I felt mildly intrigued and even creeped out at times but I wasn’t really getting off. I was mainly saying to myself, “The fuck…?”
Lindelof/Perotta could have had a lot more fun with their list of disappeared celebrities. If I’d been involved I would have added Harrison Ford, which would really put JJ Abrams in a tough spot, along with all the principal creatives on The Lone Ranger — Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp, Gore Verbinski, Armie Hammer, etc.