by DICK CHENEY
creators Tom Perrotta & Damon Lindelof
Damon Lindelof could not well make another season of The Leftovers like the last one. As he sobbed and cried in the office of HBO executive Michael Lombardo, he begged for a second chance. “I need a miracle,” he whined while wearing his highest end Lost t-shirt and gently stroking his pet yorkipoo Desmondpenny. “I promise it will be different. Using Justin Theroux so prominently was a mistake. It just made it more obvious he was cheating on Jennifer Aniston. Also, he’s like 5’2″.”
Subsequently, The Leftovers begins with a primitive woman giving birth standing up in the middle of the night. She posts her new baby on insta and then dies of a snakebite. The baby is saved by divine intervention. In discussing this tour-de-force bravado open that would entice a new generation of fans to watch their horrendous program, Lindelof explained, “I love A Serious Man because the beginning didn’t make sense.”
Smartly, The Leftovers discards most of the mediocre cast of season one, although it seems intent on bringing Amy Brenneman back for no reason I can discern. The new stars are an African-American family living in Texas. What a novel premise you will likely crow to yourself as you make the traditional Sunday evening pre-Ballers nachos! A show finally tackles the throny struggles people of color experience in our southern lands!
No. John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) is actually the captain of the fire department. He and his white employees set the home of a local black man telling fortunes on fire. No suggestion is made of the racial implications of such a crime. Damon Lindelof has never actually been to Texas, but he has flown over it. The graduate of Teaneck High School makes sure he mentions his black and Asian friends in nearly every interview he does, as if that entitles him to some part of their experience.
Then again, Lost wasn’t exactly a bastion of progressive thinking either. A new series from the Sundance Channel starring James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams titled Hap and Leonard will attempt to actually explain how racist some parts of America still are. It is based on Joe R. Lansdale’s series of novels about the emotionally resonant friendship between a straight white man and a homosexual black man; Christina Hendricks plays the white man’s ex.
The original novels are dense with the experience of races mixing together: how racism operates out in the open, and behind the scenes. The idea that we can simply move past this without even giving it the barest acknowlegement is the province of the man who cast Harold Perrineau as a deadbeat father in Lost.
On The Leftovers, we do see this African-American family going to church, having a barbecue. “We have no friends,” John jokes to his new neighbor Kevin (Theroux-Aniston), who has come from Mapletown, NY to find a new home for his family in the blessed town of Miracle, where no one disappeared during the sudden departure that took 2 percent of the world’s population to heaven or something.
Why this situation should be intriguing is beyond me. Perrotta and Lindelof have already made it clear that they have no intention of explaining anything that happens in the show. (The new, light opening theme song of The Leftovers is “Let The Mystery Be,” for Rumsfeld’s sake.) At the end of last night’s premiere, John’s daughter Evie (Jasmine Savoy Brown) is sucked down into a local watering hole with her friends. Minutes earlier, Lindelof shows the teenagers running through a glade in the nude, with a fearsome expression on their faces.
Such moments tease the expectation of horror without ever delivering outright. At times, vaguely tension provoking music is cast over the dull veneer. Watched individually, episodes of The Leftovers tend to carry you forth on their own momentum. Added up, they are never anything more than the sum of their parts.
Including an African-American family is a nice change from the nearly all-white cast that populated season one. In most ways, it would not matter what exactly the race of the protagonists was here, but since John has an extremely sinister aspect and the religious ministrations of his son Michael (Jovan Adepo) seem to have a robust sexuality beneath them, so many real possibilities for drama are ignored. The Leftovers tells the story of black Christians, whose lives Lindelof and Perrotta know nothing about.
But then, The Leftovers will probably just end with Justin Theroux murdering a black man for some reason or other, so that Damon Lindelof can give a gushing interview where he whines about what a tough choice this was. Then he will think about what Matthew Fox-based t-shirt he can wear when he asks, at length, for a season three.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.
“Various Storms & Saints” – Florence and the Machine (mp3)
“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (demo)” – Florence and the Machine (mp3)