Though the representations of it’s reality are a bit screwy at times, this show hails to both people of faith and drama seekers alike. Though the people who are wrapped up in religion will connect with the philosophies demonstrated within the structure of the show, the common viewer will also have a good time getting wrapped up in the story.
The chosen demographic for The Leftovers would be young adult to middle age adults who live in the United States. With constant references to God and Christian philosophies and ideas, it is safe to make the assumption that a typical viewer is Christian. Also, The Leftovers airs on HBO, leading me to believe that members of the target demographic own a subscription and have the extra money to do so. The main demographic group of the characters on The Leftovers are middle aged, married or once married, upper middle class American people.
Every car shown in The Leftovers in a member of the General Motors family of companies. This tells me that the intended audience is of age to buy and own their own vehicles. By seeing the car or truck on a successful television show, the viewer subconsciously thinks to own that car. This may influence that person’s decision in car buying.
There are no ads that run during the airing of The Leftovers. On HBO, ads are ran in between programming and a majority of those ads aired are created by HBO to promote their own programs.
The events in the show are based off of an event that did not really happen (the sudden departure) but the idea of “the rapture” has been discussed since the installment of religious faith. The show reflects how people probably would act if this event actually occurred. Though the event may not have happened in real life, it is interesting to see a “post-apocalyptic” style show where society still runs at a normal yet slightly different pace.
The values and ideology of the Christian faith is well represented within the show. Concepts of marriage, life and death, and other normality’s of a neo-Christian society like that of the United States are often brought to the forefront. Since the show takes place in the United States, federal laws are continuously represented and foundations such as the police and FBI are mentioned numerously. With this being said, I believe that the program reinforces mainstream societal and cultural values.
Social issues such as mass think and the want to do bad things are clearly referenced in the show. From the formation of cults to infidelity, societal issues are both embedded within the show and clearly referenced.
The most common ordinary personal issues represented within The Leftovers is the basic human need to be included. When the sudden departure happened, those left behind wondered why they were not taken? They wanted to be included in the departure and have no solid truth as to why they were not picked by the divine power. In season 2, there are many people who squat outside the gates of Miracle Texas because they want to get in and become part of what they have going on there. This basic human need of becoming “worthy” is clearly represented in almost every episode of the series.
There are no real references to fads or societal trends in The Leftovers. Basic societal thoughts and ideals are however very common.
In each season of The Leftovers, October 14th (the day of the sudden departure) is made into a huge spectacle. During one episode there was a list of famous people and celebrities who were raptured scrolling across the bottom of a news production. The list read: Condoleezza Rice, Salman Rushdie, Shaquille O’Neal, Jennifer Lopez, Anthony Bourdain, Gary Busey, Bonnie Raitt, Pope Benedict XVI, Adam Sandler, and Vladimir Putin. This news production was shown while Kevin Garvey was getting a drink at a local bar on October 14, when the bartender says “The Pope, I get the Pope, but Gary fucking Busey?” Adding real life context to the scene and overall, the show.
I believe the underlying intent of this show is to challenge cultural beliefs, especially in regards to religion and the stranglehold of conformity religious faith has us in. The show challenges a person’s ability to believe in something even though they were screwed out of everything they ever believed in.
The expected reaction of the audience is that of shock. No show has ever challenged religious ideology the way The Leftovers does. Societal norms are challenged because in the world within the show, people are starting to stray away from what was normal. Hardly anyone goes to church anymore and people live less binding lives due to the fact that at any point there may be another departure. No one is safe from the unknown so society is beginning to live each day less bound to the future and more involved with the present.
Events in the show are located in outdoor studios, homes, offices, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, rural areas, streets, and numerous other localities. The events are not limited to a small set of places, hell even ideological places such as heaven and purgatory are represented.
In season 2, Kevin and Nora buy a house in Miracle, when they move in the place is a pig sty and they furnish it with a combination of cheap furniture that they found around town and their own. The furniture brought in was realistic because they look like pieces you would find at yard sales and some pieces were at their old houses in earlier episodes. The furniture pieces traveled with the characters making the realistic style of the show come to the forefront.
The colors are both bright and subdued, just as many colors are in real life. Some things in life are colorful and vibrant while others are more grey. The show does a good job at making you feel as though the events depicted could actually be reality.
Ambient sounds such as wind, birds chirping in the distance, echoes, and all other outdoor noises are heard in outdoor scenes in The Leftovers. The sounds are loud and often enough that you get a good feel for the setting but not too much to make you think it is staged. Since Kevin sees people who are not there, he often goes in the woods to talk to these entities, the symbolism here is the fact that he is alone physically but always followed by the entities that plague him.
The characters seem real because they are a good representation of what it would be like if the sudden departure actually takes place. When Kevin goes on his sleep walks to the woods in the middle of the night, he comes back home dirty and has clothes are ripped and torn as if he has actually gone through some shit. The actors do a good job at making the plot seem believable, they are very dramatic but with good cause. They stuff that happens during the show is sort of messed up and the way they react to it is very believable. I think this is what makes the show so great, the believability factor.
The dialogue is very realistic, the people on the show talk to each other just as you would if you were talking to a friend, a family member, or a stranger. Depending on the relationship between the characters, the conversation style changes just as it would in real life.
Every song in The Leftovers seems to have some sort of purpose. In the season 2 episode, No Room At the Inn, Reverend Matt Jamison takes care of his disabled wife every day and plays the same song every morning, Let Your Love Flow” by Bellamy Brothers. This song describes the way Matt needs to continue letting his love for his wife flow if he ever wants her back again. This is just one example of the way music is used to create meaning in The Leftovers.
Different styles of camera shots are used to propel the story forward. For example, when Kevin is alone in the woods with the voices inside his head long shots are shown to show that he is in fact physically alone, however when the shot is brought in to a medium shot there is another person there with him. Thus, explaining to the viewer that the other person is just in Kevin’s head.
Silent reactions are a big part of the development of the story line. Shit is getting real fucked up in Miracle Texas for Kevin Garvey and his entire family and friend network. You can tell that this is starting to take a toll of everybody involved, however, they do not like to talk about the things that haunt them most. You can tell how the characters really think and feel about the situations they are put into by the way they silently react to the through facial expression and body language. The Guilty Remnant is a cult of people who consider themselves living reminders of the ones who departed, like those that are no longer here, they do not speak and do things that will surely kill them like cigarettes. Their silent reactions are very powerful because they speak through their actions not their mouths and they tend to make a piercing statement.
The lighting is both light and dark to depict the fact that yeah, stuff has hit the fan but the characters are still living and able to enjoy each other’s company and this great weird thing we call life. The overall aura of the show is lighthearted and the use of dark humor gives each episode a bit of an edge. This is what I like most about this series, each episode is a thrill ride of emotion.
The Leftovers is most definitely postmodern. Religion and the societal constructs it has built is a very modern idea, this series however, take these ideas and challenges them. The idea of the rapture has been taken and played around with in the constructs of daily life. This show literally shows what it could be like if this modern idea actually happened. The story that is built based on that is very postmodern.