‘The Leftovers’ is the best show you’re not watching

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Binge-watching has ruined us all for regular television schedules. Getting sucked into a new TV show in the first few weeks of its run is a rush of stupidity; you get to be absolutely up-to-date, you can live-tweet, and you will not be spoiled.

But you have to wait.

And no one knows what you’re gushing about.

“The Leftovers” is a new offering from HBO. The story is that three years ago, on a random October day, two percent of the world’s population disappeared without a trace. Some people think it was the rapture, others aren’t sure that the missing have anything in common. Those lost came from all over the globe. Babies vanished out of strollers, prisoners from their cells, drivers from cars and patients from their beds. They were not good people or bad people; they shared no language and no food allergy. Just a random sample, excised without a trace. “The Leftovers” follows the anguished and bewildered lives of those who are left behind to pick up the pieces. There are old hurts and new cults to contend with. Dream sequences are filmed in a gorgeous hyper-real way. This show is already fascinating.

Talent on the show is mostly people who look smoking hot while brooding. Justin Theroux plays the chief of police with a foul-mouthed virility and expansive presence. Familiar faces Liv Tyler and Christopher Eccleston bring some big-screen glitter to the ensemble. Amanda Warren is a real standout as Mayor Warburton, bringing a lot of depth to what seems so far to be a secondary character. The ensemble hangs together messily, in the perfect likeness of a small town with big secrets. The result is a world that seems completely plausible, full of flawed people who have been asked to deal with too much and explained far too little.

John Oliver recently quipped that you can tell which side of the income inequality divide you are one by whether you are paying for HBO or stealing it. Either way, you should be watching “The Leftovers.”

“The Leftovers” is on Sunday nights at 10pm, on HBO and HBOGO.

Contact Meg Elison at [email protected].