Having recently read Tom Perrotta’s novel “The Leftovers,” my wife and I anxiously have anticipated the Damon Lindelof-helmed series, which debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO.
Lindelof won an Emmy for ABC’s supernatural series “Lost,” and Perrotta’s story -- about how the residents of a small town deal with a Rapture-like event -- seemed like it would be right up his alley.
And it is.
But fans of the novel should be prepared -- Lindelof’s take is much darker, more violent and way more mysterious with the addition of characters and storylines not found in the book.
The series, which Perrotta executive produces, begins three years after the “Sudden Departure,” when 2 percent of the world’s population suddenly disappears. Justin Theroux is police chief Kevin Garvey, a father of two children who finds his life slowly crumbling around him.
His wife has left. His son has joined one of the cults that has popped up since the Departure, and his once straight-laced, teenage daughter has become rebellious and destructive.
Amy Brenneman (“Private Practice”) plays Laurie, a member of the cultlike Guilty Remnant, whose members wear white, don’t talk, chain smoke cigarettes and stalk the town’s residents.
The series also stars Liv Tyler, as an unhappy newly engaged person; Carrie Coon, who lost her entire family to the Departure; Christopher Eccleston, as a minister who's intent on proving what the Departure was, and Michael Gaston, as a stranger who befriends the police chief. He’s one of the characters not found in Perrotta’s novel.
Because it’s so dark, and all the characters -- like the teenage daughter -- are destructive, it comes off as extremely depressing, even difficult to watch. None of the characters have any redeeming qualities. There’s no one to root for -- at least not yet. And until there is at least one or two of them, viewers may begin disappearing, too. Grade: B
Also debuting this week:
“Vicious,” 9:30 p.m. Sunday, PBS. Having already aired in the U.K., the comedy series begins its stateside run this week. It stars Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as gay partners who have shared the same London flat for nearly 50 years. Sounding like an old married couple, the interplay between the two is, at times, bitingly and laugh-out-loud funny. But it also becomes tedious. I found my eyes drifting to the clock after the first 10 minutes of sniping. Grade: B-
Several new shows debuted last week while I was on vacation:
“The Last Ship,” 8 p.m. Sunday, TNT. Rhona Mitra (“The Practice”) is a CDC doctor aboard a battleship trying to find a cure for a virus that has decimated 80 percent of the world’s population. Eric Dane (“Grey’s Anatomy”) captains the ship, and Adam Baldwin (“Chuck”) is his second-in-command. They are charged with helping and protecting the doctor until she succeeds. Not sure how long the series will last (What happens when a cure is found?), but it’s been a “24”-like thrill ride so far, with baddies coming at the ship right and left to get their hands on the doc and the in-the-works cure. Grade: B+
“The Musketeers,” 8 p.m. Sunday, BBC America. Seems like we get a reboot of the Alexandre Dumas novel every few years on TV or the big screen. This time BBC America showcases the swordsmen. It's a ho-hum procedural with a new story each week, but I like how the series strives for authenticity in setting and costumes (17th century Paris), the same way “Copper” and “Ripper Street” did before it. Grade: C+
“Tyrant,” 9 p.m Tuesday, FX. Think of this as an updated version of “The Godfather” set in a war-torn, unnamed Middle Eastern country. Adam Rayner plays the Michael Corleone-like character, a Los Angeles pediatrician who returns to his country after a 20-year exile and reluctantly gets sucked into the “family business.” This one comes from some of the folks behind “Homeland.” It’s brutal, violent and graphic. And it’s a story we’ve seen before. Grade: B-
“Mystery Girls,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC Family. Tori Spelling and Jenni Garth of “90210” fame reunite in a comedy that tries too hard to be funny (although I liked the Shannon Doherty line heard in one of the two screeners made available to critics). They play former stars of a 1990s TV detective series who get back together to solve real mysteries. A few more stabs at 1990s pop culture would go a long way in making this better. Grade: C-