Often I think most thriller/suspense/sci-fi books don’t transition well into television, always for various reasons. Whether it be that the story is based on supernatural events that look or sound corny when animated in graphics, the suspense aspect just isn’t as palpable as when you turn a page, or feelings and thoughts just simply aren’t expressed as well visually as narratively. For whatever the reason, there have been few Stephen King books that have been as successful as movies or tv series and the same goes for most authors in the same genre.
But HBO’s “The Leftovers” has me hooked. How did they do it? Well I think, just as when things don’t work, it’s a combination of a few things that make it work. The first is that the concept is unique. Not unique in the aspect that something supernatural or religious or apocalyptic has happened to change life for the people on Earth, but unique in the fact that instead of implying people would resort to their primitive ways, they’ve instead explored how people would try to cope with such an unexplained phenomena.
The human race is capable of adapting to all different environments, but what happens when something completely irrational and unexplainable happens, what happens when atheists have to seriously question if there is a God and those that already believe question what their faith means? What happens when religion and the supernatural intertwine? At least that’s what “The Leftovers” author and producer want you to think about.
You follow the lives of some that lost loved ones and try to get back to daily life, some that can’t manage and join a cult-like organization, and others that just try to forget. The lives of so many in a small town were touched but something they can’t wrap their heads around. Normally, a reader can get this perception from thoughts and narration in a book, but to succeed in engaging a TV audience is much harder.
Along with the creative story-line you have great acting (which is helped by the lack of many big actors – a similarity shared with Game of Thrones), solid directing, explicit content to keep things interesting every now and then, and raw human emotion. I’m going to keep watching hoping that the suspense will lead to the big payoff it’s foreshadowing and because as a writer in this genre myself, I would be thrilled to see a new medium succeed in telling this type of story. I recommend everyone to jump on the band-wagon.