Justin Theroux's show 'The Leftovers': Has it improved?

Justin Theroux's show 'The Leftovers' received mixed reviews when it premiered. Has it gotten better as it's progressed? Justin Theroux portrays Kevin Garvey, the police chief of a New York town, on the drama.

Paul Schiraldi/HBO/AP
Justin Theroux stars on 'The Leftovers.'

Tom Perrotta’s 2011 novel “The Leftovers” recently made the jump to the world of TV and stars actor Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey, the police chief in the town of Mapleton, N.Y. who, like the rest of the world, is dealing with the aftereffects of the sudden disappearance of two percent of the world’s population.

The show also stars Amy Brenneman of “Private Practice” as Kevin’s wife, Laurie, who has joined a strange group called the Guilty Remnant; Liv Tyler as a woman with whom the Guilty Remnant becomes fascinated; and “Thor: The Dark World” actor Christopher Eccleston as a tabloid writer who used to be a reverend.

Theroux spoke with the Los Angeles Times about the difficult circumstances faced by Kevin.

“[His feelings are like a] washing machine on spin cycle that just starts to become unbalanced,” he said. 

He said a variety of factors attracted him to the part: the opportunity to go back to HBO (among other roles, he played John Hancock on the 2008 miniseries “John Adams”), a story that appealed to him, and a short season that lets him continue to work on his writing. (His screenwriting credits include co-writing the 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder” and the 2012 movie “Rock of Ages” as well as writing the 2010 movie “Iron Man 2.”) “The Leftovers” was a “perfect storm,” Theroux said.  

“Leftovers” is almost halfway through its first season, with the fourth episode of ten set to air on July 20, and so far, the show has received mixed reviews, with some critics who enjoyed the show still noting that viewers will need to be patient with the slow-moving plot. (The show currently holds a score of 65 out of 100 on review aggregator site Metacritic.)

Now that the show is farther into the first season, what are critics saying?

Vulture writer Kelly Braffet pointed out that the most recent episode, the show’s third, focused only on one character and wrote that “I like a show that’s willing to take risks, but I am beginning to worry that we still know too little about major aspects of the show... Focusing on [Eccleston’s character] Jamison, as cool as I thought it was, might well alienate viewers who are waiting ever less patiently to learn about those things. I hope it doesn’t. I feel like this show is still setting up its dominoes.” 

Rolling Stone writer Sean T. Collins found the premiere “haunting [and] subtle” but feared that the drama is showing signs of “complacency” in its third episode. “Things happened tonight because they're the kinds of things that happen in stories like this, and no one bothered to rock the boat,” he wrote. 

Meanwhile, New York Times writer Michael M. Grynbaum felt the show “asking an audience to devote itself to this dark area [the world’s reaction to a disaster] ought to carry the promise of a reward. Not necessarily catharsis – although after three brutal episodes, ‘The Leftovers’ could benefit from a bit of that – but at least some new insight, artistic flourish, or fresh take on human folly. I fear that ‘The Leftovers’ is falling short of the task.”

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