HBO's 'The Leftovers'

Amy Brenneman survives a strange vanishing in "The Leftovers."
Amy Brenneman survives a strange vanishing in "The Leftovers."
Posted: June 27, 2014

* THE LEFTOVERS. 10 p.m. Sunday, HBO.

* RECKLESS. 9 p.m. Sunday, CBS3.

IF DISASTER movies have taught me anything, it's that I'm meant to go in the first wave.

It's hard to be scared when you're pretty sure it'll never be you fleeing the aliens/zombies/vampires or fighting amid civil unrest to defend the family castle to the last can of tuna.

But what if survival simply meant getting up the day after 2 percent of the population mysteriously vanished? And getting up the day after that and the day after that? Trying to fashion a life around the holes left by the missing, never knowing why they're gone and you're still here?

Those are the much scarier questions posed by "The Leftovers," a new drama premiering Sunday on HBO that doesn't let would-be nonsurvivors like me off the hook so easily.

A collaboration between Tom Perrotta - who wrote the very good and very disturbing novel on which it's based - and "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof, "The Leftovers" begins three years after a Rapture-like event that seems to defy religious explanation (while not ruling out a God who might indeed work in mysterious ways).

Justin Theroux plays Kevin Garvey, the sheriff of Mapleton, N.Y., a small town that's getting ready to mark Heroes Day, which is what some people call the anniversary of "The Sudden Departure" of 140 million people.

The post-9/11 overtones are certainly there, both in the impulse to move on and in the gradual realization that some of the people having the most trouble doing so didn't technically lose anyone.

Amy Brenneman and Ann Dowd play members of the Guilty Remnant, a cult whose members refuse to let anything go and are expressing it by letting everything go. Liv Tyler's a bride-to-be who may be shopping for a different kind of white outfit and Christopher Eccleston plays a minister who's sure he has answers, but they're not answers anyone wants to hear.

Speaking of answers: Don't expect any. If you're one of the people for whom six mostly engrossing seasons of "Lost" were ruined by how they ended, then please save yourself now. Your theories are no good here, anyway.

Feral dogs, out-of-control teens, people looking for meaning in all the wrong places. That's what "The Leftovers" has to offer.

Grim it sounds and grim it is, but in choosing to focus on the kind of survival stories that no one signs up for but that to some extent eventually shape us all, it can be unexpectedly eloquent about love and loss.

If that sounds like not enough - or too much - believe me, I understand.

Flights will be departing for the next 10 weeks, but there's no shame in choosing to be left behind.

'Reckless' for summer

If you can't figure out what's going on in the interaction between a seemingly out-of-line traffic cop and a very attractive woman he's pulled over in the first 30 seconds of CBS' new summer drama "Reckless," then you've probably never seen a TV show before.

Set in Charleston, S.C., and written by Dana Stevens ("Safe Haven"), "Reckless" stars Anna Wood and Roy Rayder as, apparently, the only two lawyers in town. And darned if they aren't kind of attracted to each other, even though she's from the North and he's a charming son of the South.

If only they didn't have to go up against each other in court every week.

Police corruption, sexual harassment and worse form the underpinnings of a soapy serial that's hard to take seriously but that might fit your summer mood. Or at least make you appreciate "The Good Wife" all the more when it returns.


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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