'The Leftovers' is the Most Overrated Prestige Drama on TV


#1

Last night, I finished a torturous, on-again, off-again love affair with TV’s most overrated prestige drama, The Leftovers. I think it ended on a very high note, a far more satisfying scene than I had dared hope so, considering how disastrously season three had gone for me.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/evadyj/the-leftovers-overrated

#2

I loved the Leftovers, and I have a hard time seeing it as overrated when it was so often overlooked come award season… but there are definitely issues w/ S3 and, as someone who hyped the show up to others, could definitely have suffered from that overhype.

Regina King in S2 was great, and not used nearly enough for S3.


#3

O man leftovers is one of my favorite shows of the year! I think growing up religious, it’s depiction of people going to great lengths to accomplish supposed goals they believe in but have no concrete evidence for was dead on. Faith makes people act rather crazy.

But I don’t disagree with the 20% people crying, I think you’re even being generous with that’s number. My girlfriend and I laughed at the comprehensive catalog of pop piano covers.


#4

don’t really think the Dr. Frank N. Furter comparison really works because he’s a highly transphobic character.

but i guess i’ve never understood why rocky horror or rupaul’s drag race are popular despite how transphobic they are.


#5

Hate to jump on the “overrated” wagon but no one gave a shit about The Leftovers hence why it was cut short. Patrick was one of maybe 3 people I follow on Twitter who talked about the show and zero people in my life watched it.

As Lost apologist I still want to give it a shot but haven’t had the chance yet.


#6

Coming in here to expand on this with a question

Maybe all prestege TV is overrated?


#7

I loved The Leftovers—easily one of my favorite shows of the last ten years—but the final season’s all-in approach to the absurd threatened to completely compromise the meaning behind each character’s arch. IMO, it stuck its landing in the finale, but only by disregarding half the season’s ridiculousness preceding it.

Needless to say, I agree with your overall sentiment regarding Season 3—but I have one bone to pick.

Calling Kevin Senior’s escapade “racist” (regarding his faux-aboriginal attire) confuses me. The garb was used not to disparage, demean, or belittle Australian aborigines, neither fictionally by Kevin Sr. nor meta-contextually by the show’s creative leads.

It was meant to show us how far outside his original self Kevin Sr. felt he needed to reach in order to achieve what he found to be his destiny—his role in all of this. After having his metaphysical experience with voices and the departure, he fancies himself a big deal in this new New Testament, so when he hears his recording “singing the rain away,” he takes that as his mission. And since he’s big-daddy Kevin Garvey Sr., it can’t just be him singing Itsy Bitsy Spider to the heavens—no, he needs to think bigger! He needs to find the most extravagant process in the history of singing to match the magnitude of his importance in this story. So, he lands on the Australian song line. Kevin Sr.’s self-ascribed destiny was about showing us how his extreme reaches into his metaphysical beliefs (the season’s primary theme) reflects his absurdly inflated ego.

I can see how one might believe that the aboriginal imagery is used as a prop to shock viewers—and I would disagree. I believe the shock viewers may experience upon seeing Kevin Sr. dancing and singing aboriginal songs has more to do with the viewer’s knowledge of Kevin Sr. and his complete lack of narrative history in anything like what we’re seeing (it’s also very likely that many viewers simply aren’t familiar with Australian Aboriginal traditions, so the imagery is shocking on its own). The shocking absurdity of this can come off as funny, but that’s simply a byproduct of the aforementioned—not an attempt at humor by the show’s creators.

Lastly—to speak more broadly—I find that the word “racist” means something entirely different in 2017 than it did five or so years ago. Frankly, I don’t know what it means anymore. I once knew it to mean a feeling of superiority over others based on race, or a mean-spirited or egregiously misrepresentative joke based on race. I don’t see that here.

Really enjoyed the article! Always happy to rant with people about this very good, very, very silly show.


#8

This is one of the singularly most lazy takes I’ve ever seen on a TV show and easily one of the most disappointing articles I’ve ever seen on Waypoint. Honestly, I have no idea where to even start with this thing.

To even call a show overrated that never won a single award or really had a strong following is just confusing.

I truly, truly do not understand how you could not like any characters on The Leftovers and honestly this article doesn’t critically tell me how the writer couldn’t either. The characters on The Leftovers are absolute messes, this is true, but also they are incredibly sympathetic at the same time. The scene where Kevin abandons Nora in the hotel and the camera just holding on Nora in that moment is one of the finest emotional scenes in Season 3. To have no empathy in that scene there, to feel nothing just makes me think the writer here just lacks an empathetic impulse.

But seriously, this piece is incredibly hard to engage with as there is really no meaty criticism in here. At best there is some surface level hand wringing over potential racist overtones of Kevin Sr’s obsession with the Aborigine culture to escape his troubles and thats about it. This article is an absolute mess but sadly is not terribly sympathetic.


#9

Yeah, I’m gonna take a hard pass on this take. I for one enjoyed the ride from start to finish, embracing every absurdity thrown my way. I am happy just being challenged enough to try and put myself in every character’s shoes. How would I have dealt with my entire family vanishing? Or if people thought I was the reincarnation of Jesus?

I don’t know. This piece kind of feels a bit like a slap in the face for someone who actually loved this series.


#10

Yeah, I think that is 100% fair. I do think, in 1975, the movie was revolutionary, but… it is obviously not 1975 anymore. Your point is well taken.


#12

So, instead of making a blind tantrum as to why The Leftovers is my favorite show (though it is), I want to make the case for why season 3 is its best season in my mind.

To me, season one was all about combating nihilism – hence the smokers’ cult, their seemingly unrealistic recruitment efficiency, and the severity to which they are despised by those around them. In a sense, they can be seen to represent the nihilistic mindset in the wake of great tragedy. Kevin et al react to this mindset in different ways: for Kevin it’s frustration and performative acceptance of their philosophy, for Laurie it’s the only thing that makes sense for her after the departure, and for Nora it’s the complete rejection of their beliefs. All this culminates in the season 1 climax, and the set up going into season 2.

In season 2, the show becomes more focused on what it means to start anew, as well as what it pragmatically means for something to be viewed as a “miracle.” This, in turn, helped give way to the wonderfully absurdist tone the show became known for, even if it also exposed the show’s short comings. (As a sidenote: I found it odd how Danielle writes that she found the episode in season 3 dealing with Aboriginal communities to be racist, while glossing over one of the most blatant “magical black man” tropes that was more or less integral to the second season’s major arc.)

Then there’s season 3: the plot threads from the previous seasons have mostly subsided, although now the questions that remain are “What if there’s another departure?” and “What can be done about the last one?” This, in turn, allows the show to go full-bent on their absurdist aspirations, and lead to some – in my opinion – breathtakingly beautiful instances of character development. For instance, Matt must come to realize that his propensity towards the divine has always been a means for him to repress his deeper feelings of ego-centrism and his insecurity in his own mortality. Laurie must face her grief head-on, and decide whether she’s ok with living in the world as it, forever knowing how it robbed her of her previous marriage’s last hope. Kevin Sr., as misguided as he was in his endeavor to save the world by enlisting the dances of aboriginal populations, eventually is forced to come to terms with the fact his messiah complex was just that, and that he needs to have faith in the efficacy of others. And Nora – god damn, Nora – her entire arc (not just in this season, but in the show as a whole) has her literally confronting the metaphysical, accepting that sometimes all one has is blind faith, and that sometimes it needs to be utilized. But even then, we never know if she fully accepted that, or if she just hung out in the countryside for forty years until Kevin showed up again. The last episode, the one where Nora was placed front and center in the narrative, is one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen. But what makes it so special is that it is only able to achieve what it does because of the 27 episodes that precede it.

The show, as a whole, starts out ludicrously slow. Everything feels aimless, and that’s kind of the point. It’s only until later that things really start to pay off, and I would say that Nora’s arc is chief among them. Sure, the show is by no means perfect: the first season – especially at first – is extremely weak relative to the latter two, the first season is also white as hell, the show still relied on lame tropes even after it made a point to have more diverse casting, the Garvey kids are mostly an afterthought by a certain point, and there are times when it seems like the show is actively antagonizing its audience. But in spite of all that, this show also presented some of the most affecting acting I’ve ever seen on television, some brilliant commentaries on existentialism vs. nihilism and how one copes with grief, some ingenious (and risky) decisions regarding the narrative structure of the series, and a series finale that managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of wrapping up this show’s story. For me, this show’s positives thoroughly negate its shortcomings.

I get that this show wasn’t for Danielle – it’s the sort of show that I wish I could recommend to everyone, but there are inevitably those it’ll grate on, and those people are likely to be the majority. But for me, and the dozen or so other fans of this show, it’s as resonant a piece of media as any television show has ever been. I’ve never cried so much watching a show, as it makes me reflect on my own losses throughout my life. It reminds me of my sister or my friend, and tells me that it’s ok to still feel emotional over them – to miss them. I get why people don’t like this show, but for me, I will always look back on it with most sincere fondness.


#13

Why do people get so upset about the word overrated? Saying something is overrated just means that you don’t agree with the amount of praise something gets in general. It doesn’t need to be some sort of smash hit, or have millions of fans. If the general consensus about something from the people who have seen it is extremely positive, and your opinion on it is less than that, it’s perfectly fine to say it’s overrated. You don’t need industry accolades or press attention to decide that you don’t like something as much as most people who have seen it. I can think that Primer is overrated even though nine out of ten people will think I’m talking about painting my walls.

It’s also not an attack on your opinion any more than someone saying “I think The Leftovers is really bad.” Someone can really dislike something you hold very dear, it doesn’t invalidate your opinion any more than yours invalidates theirs. Calling The Leftovers overrated is not the same as saying “The Leftover is overly pretentious fuckery that simpletons find enlightening much in the same way a child finds jangling keys to be a delight.” That is an insult to someone who likes it, but that isn’t what this article is.

I didn’t like the show. My friends gushed about it, my wife really liked it, and the parts of it I watched absolutely hit me in the exact wrong way and I bounced off of it hard. I do not understand what people see in the show beyond acknowledging its great production. I’m not even adverse to pure art house style schlock as I adore the Hannibal TV series which is somehow even more preposterous.

Overrated is not an attack on your tastes, or something that needs an absolute qualifier like amount of fans. It’s a perfectly fine shorthand for an unremarkable statement that people have somehow decided to take up arms against.


#14

I really appreciate this examination – and I do think you are absolutely right about the themes of season 2, I just happen to think the execution was there for S2, where it failed for me in other parts.

But thank you for this, I appreciate the reasoning and passion you have for this, and really, really dig the philosophical frame you’re positing here.


#15

Well done. Nora’s arc is so important to me as a person who has felt grief and depression and in some times have wrapped myself in it. Carrie Coon’s performance in the entire show is an absolute master class in acting and I can’t say enough good things about it.


#16

No problem! And, likewise, I appreciate your take on the show as well, even though my own is wholly different.

@lesaboteur God, that scene in S2 between Carrie Coon and Regina King was on a whole other level.


#17

Personally, I just think using the term is more inflammatory than just outright saying you don’t like the thing or that you think it’s bad. It’s directly calling into question what people’s own takes are on the thing, that their positive opinions don’t live up to scrutiny and are “actually wrong”.

Maybe to you it doesn’t equate to outright insulting people for liking a thing that isn’t as good as they think it is, but for me it always reads as “people who say this thing is good are actually wrong” which isn’t far off from casting doubt on how other people positively value and evaluate things. It feels like it’s dismissing whatever critical analysis others have applied to arrive at their conclusions.

It just comes off as a more personal attack than just saying “I think this thing is bad” or “I don’t like this thing”. With those two other statements, you’re just bringing in your own opinion and no one else’s. At least not directly. When you say “I think this thing is overrated”, you’re also directly bringing up and taking down other people’s opinions, which to me is needlessly confrontational.

I understand why people use it. It’s popular short-hand for a reason! And not everyone is as rambling as I am! But just from my experience from different online message boards, forums, communities, etc., “overrated” just gets people more heated and defensive than “bad”.

also i’ve never seen a single episode of the leftovers and i’m not really interested in watching it after reading this post by danielle who is great btw i don’t really have problems with the article and i don’t think she was intentionally calling out everyone who like the show i just don’t like the word overrated i’m sorry i hope i explained myself well and did not come off as mean and attacking youuuuuu!!!


#18

Starting by calling something overrated (and then tweeting “you fucking heard me”) tells me you don’t have as much to say about the quality of the actual work in question as much as you just want to knock over some sacred cows. It just feels like it’s in bad faith. And the article itself tells me nothing other than that you thought it was ridiculous. It’s not a good piece of criticism. There are better comments in this thread than the entire published piece.

Also, “prestige drama” is a meaningless term. It’s close to gaming’s AAA but conveys maybe even less about the contents of the show. I would advise against using it in criticism. I would also advise against insinuating that you’ve seen literally every TV show out there - again, this is part of the same criticism I have of using words like “overrated” - it seems like you just want to piss people off with this. So you can’t really be surprised when people react strongly.


#19

A lot of my misunderstanding I guess of this article has to do with the category Waypoint put it under called Open Thread. According to Patrick Klepek this is meant to be a shortform article where the writer just talks briefly about how they feel about some topic not meant for longform criticism?

I don’t really understand the point of the article category as a whole, like if thats what this falls under it really just works to drive clicks/impressions which I guess it has. But that seems to be in bad faith to the ethos of the Waypoint community and the website as a whole. Like if Waypoint is getting into the business of writing short articles based around the idea of “This thing you like actually sucks” I don’t know if thats a great direction for this site. Great for ad men and business, but overall integrity I don’t know. And also I had to have an editor explain the purpose of this category to me and it was not clearly available on the site so that probably needs to be worked on.


#20

I appreciate the feeling behind the term, I just don’t understand where it came from and how it evolved into a personal attack. To me there is no difference between someone telling me something I love is overrated and someone telling me that they absolutely despise it. I don’t read a value judgment into either of those things.

It’s especially weird because you can call something overrated and still really, really like it. I really enjoyed Rogue One for instance, but man does that movie have some serious problems. In my opinion, it’s very overrated as this shining example of what Star Wars could be, but I still had a great time watching it.

I guess I just don’t understand where the venom came from initially and why this term specifically gets so much ire. If you were to take the exact same article and sentiment and phrase it “I didn’t enjoy The Leftovers as much as everyone else” there would be far fewer people getting bent out of shape, but it’s the exact same thing. In my experience it’s the same people who tend to take statements of opinion as statements of fact because you didn’t start your phrase with “in my opinion.” Of course when I say “Fallout 4 is bad” I am not making some objective declaration, I’m just saving myself the time and effort of qualifying an obvious opinion as an opinion in words.

Apologies for the diatribe, it’s one of those weird pet peeves of mine.

Fallout 4 is bad though.


#21

We’re all certainly entitled to our opinions but “TV’s most overrated prestige drama” will objectively always go to Six Feet Under every year until the end of organic matter.