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Why Hasn’t HBO Picked Up ‘The Leftovers’ Yet? (Because It Should)

Why Hasn't HBO Picked Up 'The Leftovers' Yet? (Because It Should)

Love it or hate it, “The Leftovers” is a conversation starter for anyone with access to HBO or Tom Perrotta’s novel. It’s got the trippy type of story Damon Lindelof specializes in, the impeccable presentation of any premium cable drama, and the eyes of many TV fans willing to trudge through the doldrums of a fictional future without two percent of the world’s population. The only thing it’s missing: A Season 2 pickup from HBO. And that may be happening soon.

“The Leftovers” Ratings: From God-Awful to Almost Heavenly

HBO announced today the ratings for Sunday’s episode of “The Leftovers,” the series’ fourth entry in as many weeks — but the story wasn’t the slight uptick in viewers for the 10pm airing. It’s how many people have watched the first two episodes across platforms. When including all telecasts, HBO Go views, and VOD numbers, an average of eight million people have checked out the first two hours of Lindelof’s new series. For comparison, “True Detective” was the most watched freshman series ever on HBO, and it averaged 11 million viewers by the end of its run.

READ MORE: Review: ‘The Leftovers’ Season 1 Episode 7 ‘Solace for Tired Feet’ Finds Some Levity… and Answers

That’s a significant improvement in what was looking like an otherwise troublesome ratings board for “The Leftovers.” Its first week scored 1.8 million viewers, with the second and third week dipping to 1.55 and 1.37 million, respectively. Episode 4 moved the needle in the right direction to 1.6 million, though — could it be that people are finally catching on?

As The Hollywood Reporter points out in its ratings report, even the premiere episode’s initial numbers are less than a quarter of the series’ total average audience. It looks like VOD, HBO Go, and multiple airings are paying big dividends for a show in desperate need of some good news.

HBO’s Renewal History

After all, we’ve already been waiting far longer than normal to hear renewal news for “The Leftovers”‘s second season. HBO has made a habit of ordering its other dramas early on in their rookie seasons. Of their current programming, not one drama made it past its second episode without a Season 2 order from the pay cable giant: “The Newsroom,” despite mixed reviews, was picked up after its second episode, while “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones” were ordered up after their premieres. 

Also telling is that HBO doesn’t like to cancel its dramas. The last drama to be axed after only one season was Michael Mann’s “Luck,” and that was only after some on-set issues proved the show to be more trouble than it was worth (literally, considering the horses that died during shooting). “The Leftovers” also went through some production trouble — enough to push its initial release off the prime real estate of premiering after “Game of Thrones” — but it’s unclear that will factor into the decision-making around its renewal, whether it was a scheduling issue or something more serious (like script problems). 

The Allure of Lengthy Series

Another intriguing factor is the recent trend of networks ordering follow-up seasons of their new series very early on, in order to inspire confidence among viewers. Not only does a renewal prove to viewers how highly the network thinks of its show, but it also reassures them that their investment in it won’t be short-term. They can ready themselves for at least two seasons worth of drama, while binge-viewers prepare for lengthy marathons whenever they so choose.

Starz has made a habit of ordering their seasons early (with “Power,” “Da Vinci’s Demons,” and “Black Sails”), and Cinemax announced the renewal of Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick” at last week’s TCA presentation — nearly a month before the first episode airs. HBO even ordered two more seasons of “Game of Thrones” this April, though that move makes sense on multiple levels as the show is an extremely successful pre-existing property. NBC even saw a 25 percent uptick in ratings the day it announced its hot summer series “The Night Shift” would be getting a second season. 

Meanwhile, “The Leftovers” in particular could benefit from such a move. Its central story is a mystery so vast people have already given up on trying to explain it, but the rest of the show features plenty of other questions in need of answers. Viewers need to know those issues will be resolved if they’re going to agree not only to the time commitment, but the considerable emotional weight attached to HBO’s latest drama. 

With DVR and VOD Views, Should We Be Waiting Longer to Look at Ratings?

This makes today’s across-platform ratings news more pertinent than ever. Eight million viewers seem significant enough to earn a second season pickup, and the numbers also speak to a point raised earlier this week by FX at one of its TCA panels. In an effort to more accurately convey the total viewership attached to a program, FX stated it will wait until Live+3 data comes in before issuing ratings releases for its shows. Despite (pretty solid) initial numbers for the premiere of “The Strain,” FX didn’t report ratings until three days after it usually would — Nielsen ratings came in for Sunday’s premiere on Tuesday, but FX waited for the Live+3 figures on Friday.

Doing so worked. “The Strain” jumped from 2.43 million viewers from its first night to 4.73 million with Live+3 factored in, a massive increase and a savvy move towards building better press for its show — after all, many outlets won’t report on ratings twice, instead choosing to go with the first numbers they’re given.

So far, waiting on ratings numbers has only helped “The Leftovers.” Here’s hoping HBO’s decision to delay renewing the show pays off — and that they don’t need to wait too much longer.

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Love love love it!!!!


From some of the comments above.. people can get really venomous over a show. It’s like the show is one of the Guilty Remnant – dressed in white, silently chain-smoking…and then the critics come along and bash em in the head with rocks.


I did have a difficult time understanding the first three episodes – but having a few unanswered questions turned out to be a positive over "ordinary" viewing – and allows you to remember how your emotions and beliefs as a teenager ruled your actions – and the unknown was something you would feel and respond to – this show attempts to express the reaction of people who have experienced the unknown – they don’t have clear answers given them – so why should the viewer. I feel it is very refreshing to not be hand-fed what to think – I am not a third grader with limited ability to grasp concepts. Yes, it was difficult to adjust through the first three episodes – as attempted to explain above – however – I anxiously await the story as it unfolds – to understand the reactions and stances of the characters – and see them more as real people involved in some real drama – rather than just characters. It takes a few episodes and an open mind to grasp what is going on – it does require some thinking "outside the box" – but shouldn’t television not only entertain – and occasionally educate – but also expand the senses and awareness of how the human consciousness reacts to and explains new and unknown phenomena? This is a great show – the viewer can’t expect to be spoon-fed – and hopefully the writers will not respond by going in that direction – but allows you to respond with some thought and understanding of the human element involving the unknown. Open your mind – attempt to understand how the characters react individually and collectively to their unique involvement and understanding of the unknown – put yourself into their places – watch – use your imagination and your own personal remembrance of how deeply you reacted to life as a pre-teen and teenager – and may still respond – if placed under unique circumstances as an adult. The show becomes more than addictive when viewed from a mature perspective.


This show is AMAZING. Living in a world as warped as is the case in The Leftovers… wow. I think this show is different… and they storylines start to tighten by EP107. Wonderful job… I know a lot of people that are absolutely delighted with the show… and hopefully a second season.


HBO takes risks, and sometimes they come up big. Leftovers is a risk that fell flat: bleakness for the sake of bleakness. You can’t break new ground with shows like Deadwood, Game of Thrones and True Detective, with out having a few John Fron Cincinnati’s. Cancel Leftovers, cut your looses, and move on to a new idea.


After reading the comments on this show, I hope even more that HBO renews it. Its pretty clear that there are a lot of people who cannot stand not knowing, who cannot stand not having everything spoonfed to them and wrapped in a context they can understand. I think this is the best HBO show since Game of Thrones


I love this series. The fact that everything isn’t wrapped up in a neat little bow. The cathartic darkness it brings. i hope HBO renews it. True Blood jumped the shark so hard I cannot bear to watch the last season.


I have watched all of the episodes so far and it has a nice slow burn that most people don’t enjoy. I do agree though that the show hasn’t done a great job with characters. Usually you know who you like and hate. The police chief is supposed to be the good guy but acts like a possible bad guy. The cult figures are annoying but not overly so. Liv Tyler is just kind of there. And what happened to the cops son? He just disappeared. Something major needs to happen soon or I can see HBO dropping this show out of boredom.


If I could find someone on this show to like or to even feel compassion for, it might be easier to watch. But I can find neither. Also, I love shows that are puzzles and make me think. But this show isn’t a puzzle, it’s a hodgepodge. And the language is so off-putting that I won’t be spending more time with this show. I kept tying to tell myself if I lived through what these people lived through, I might also use that language. But I don’t know what happened to them, and, frankly, no longer care, that could excuse that vulgar language. I’m no prude but have had enough. I don’t care how many seasons this show gets. I won’t be back.

Tim G

This is bad TV and a bad story. I watched the series three times and it’s awful. It’s not the caliber of most HBO product. Ditch it…


What’s wRong with everyone? I absolutely love love love this show! I feel that people are too lazy to use their brains these days.Its okay to just watch and see what happens. I’ll be very disappointed, if this show gets cancelled because people are too stupid and impatient to see what happens next.


david lindelof’s is on another race to zero. This show is terribly uncreative and quite frankly, a deliberate waste of its views time. Lindelof needs to go back to writing commercials. Hopefully this will be his final opportunity to waste 3-4 hours of my life. Simply put, this bleak show should be put out of its misery along with Lindelof’s career.


Can’t take it anymore… The Leftovers is AWFUL. I’ve tried to watch it, but obviously I lack the depth, insight, and intelligence to grasp the material. Way to "Artsy-Fartsy" for me!!!


Show is agonizing to watch, and I watch a LOT of shows. I agree with JTHEDUDE, I will NEVER be more interested in these people’s stories than I am in what caused the 2% to go missing. And from the interviews, they have already said they are not addressing it. I’m already hate-watching this in the first season.


Okay I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this show is bad, very bad. There is no semblance of a story line. I felt extremely embarrassed for HBO when the "in the coming weeks" trailer after the show was more bland and uneventful than the episode I just watched. Usually those kind of scenes leave you enthused to watch the upcoming episodes. Nope. And to think HBO passed on Mad Men and Homeland. They need to fire their programming chief, because this show is abysmal.


I love HBO programming and I'm glad I saw that most of the comments were against a 2nd season. This show is god awful. People who praise it must be watching a different show than me. Where are the stakes? Where is the character development? And honestly… 2% of the population?? Likelihood of your immediate family being taken is relatively small. This is 3 years later and it's all anyone can talk about? Overacting and weak plot. I don't see it. Pass.


Thank God they didn't it. Its a bad show.


I really don't get the critical adoration for this show. It's tedious and feels like a mundane carrot on a stick.


It's not very good, although the priest in trouble episode kept my attention and was the best of the bunch. I can't help laughing every time I see the people dressed all in white (I know they have a name but it's not worth remembering) chain smoking in monastic silence. We're supposed to believe that we as a society have never dealt with cults or protesters before and that we can't enjoy ourselves if they're within eyeshot. And the chief taking apart the toaster to confirm it didn't get raptured up to bagel heaven? Priceless. Come to think of it, this thing is working, but as a comedy more than drama.


I hope the next episode pulls this show out of the abyss. If not, I think after the 4th showing it's..OVER !!
No one can seem to give the "Rapture" real Justice, But I can !!
Mimi Roger's movie of the rapture was a failure also..
Leftovers could pull it off if they made the actors more interesting..!
They are letting a "Winner" Slip right through their fingers….Shame
..and please get rid of the focus of the captain's daughter..She's->>BORING !!!
..and what'sup with the "dork twins?
Good luck !!

Belinda Barrett

Your comments about investing time and giving this show a chance are hilarious. Television is supposed to entertain us, not the other way around. The show is terrible because the writers have FAILED to make the characters interesting. If we don't care about the characters there is no reason to tune in week after week. Anyone still watching this show after 4 episodes has absolutely nothing else to do.


The leftovers is a remarkable and thought provoking show. I cannot even fathom that people in this thread are commenting that it is not a good replacement for True Blood. The audiences are completely different. How many vampire, witch and zombie teeny booper shows do we need? I love this show for its originality, and deepth. Such a relief from reality and repetitive television. am very hopeful for a season 2.


Never, watched Lost, but its becasue Leftovers is bad.


The Leftovers hasn't been picked up for a second season because its terrible.


I'm really liking The Leftovers so far, it doesn't deserve 80% of the hate it gets. Leftover hate from the LOST finale, I think.

But the most likely reason for the renewal delay is that The Leftovers, unlike literally every other HBO show, isn't produced in-house, it's produced by Warner Bros. This probably makes renewal a slightly more complicated, and longer, process.


I said I'd give it one more week this past week. Absolutely NOTHING happened to make me keep watching. I'm done with it.


I am still undecided about this show. I feel like the premise of the show is basically "stuff is happening" and the plot is not progressing forward in any meaningful way. Also, as an aside I will NEVER be more interested in these people's stories than I am in what caused the 2% to go missing. If it doesn't progress towards some semblance of an explanation for that, I will probably lose interest. I am already losing interest because it isn't telling us anything about anything.


I love it! It's slowly unfolding and I like that. This show doesn't tell you what you should be feeling or thinking… You have to really invest your time in it and I think that's why some folks are annoyed by the show.


I really hope HBO picks this up. I don't watch it when it first airs. I always watch it on HBOGO. Hopefully they take that into account.


I like "The Leftovers", I remember reading an interview with the creators and they were talking about how the story was more about the people and stories after the event and you would eventually be more interested in their stories than about what caused the 2% to go missing. So I went into the show with that mindset.


I'm with you marley the Leftovers absolutely sucks.. not a very good replacement for True Blood on sunday nights.. UGH..


The Leftovers is just what the name says, "Leftovers" of something that no wants for consumption. I've tried, and after trying to watch the first 3 episodes, I'm left with 1 conclusion, it sucks! Sorry its boring and uneventful. It should be cancelled. I'd rather watch a bad season of True Blood than this, at least the dialogue is interesting in TB…

Lady J

This show is so much better than the book.


The Leftovers is the worst show that I have watched on HBO. There is No character development and a terrible storyline. I watched 3 episodes but won't waste anymore time on this pile of crap.

Don't renew

This show is horrible. The only reason for this weeks uptick is because True Blood had an uptick that led into The Leftover. Still, after True Blood aired The Leftovers lost over 60% of the lead-in viewers. Not good. What's up with the desperation to get Justin some fame and fortune lately? Viewers in general hate the show, but the media has been forcing-feeding a positive spin on the series to the public. We're not stupid.


This article overlooks the fact that in order for a network to win a bidding war for a hot property it may require a second season commitment up front. They announce it later as a false sign of confidence but it was always happening. I know of at least two such deals for sure- both handled that way. I also have trouble believing that The Newsroom, in particular, didn't have two or even three required seasons. I bet HBO tried a buy out of three (which is why Sorkin wrapped it up) but then found it cheaper to just make it. Also guessing Under the Dome had this deal.

HBO Subscriber

Please get on that HBO, absolutely loving this series!

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