A year ago, it was easy, comparatively, to see how the gears were turning inside the minds of HBO executives. There was no HBO NOW to decipher, and the good folks at the Home Box Office network even unveiled their streaming data via HBO GO (as well as VOD views). These numbers helped prove that people were, indeed, watching “The Leftovers” — quite a few people, really. Yet in Season 2, only assumptions and educated guesses can be made as to if that same audience stuck around, grew like the GR or shrunk like Laurie’s first recovery group.
Clearly, the fan base is strong. The day after the Season 2 finale, devout “Leftovers” lovers dressed in the garb of the Guilty Remnant and picketed the HBO offices in New York with scribbled cries to “renew” written on notepads.
The story gained traction online, earning a post in Variety (a publication that thankfully has shown more general interest in the show during its second season) and hopefully helped to keep a renewal option in contention. One more factor working in the show’s favor: co-creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta want another year. Lindelof said as much in an interview with Variety, and Perrotta said the following when speaking with Indiewire: “We have some vague ideas [for Season 3], but we don’t even know if there will be a Season 3. That’s the question we’re waiting to get answered.”
That’s an important shift for the creators since before Season 2 premiered. In another interview with Indiewire, conducted and posted in early October, Lindelof said, “We’re going to finish writing this long novel, and then if people want there to be more, we get to get together and say, ‘Should there be more?'” Clearly, the answer to his own question is “Yes,” which is a huge relief for fans who may have felt like the Season 2 finale was a heartfelt goodbye.
Perhaps helping nudge the duo toward wanting another go ’round was the groundswell in critical support for the second season. A number of critics have already listed “The Leftovers” at the very top of their Top 10 lists, and praise steadily increased over the course of Season 2. If it’s not No. 1 on a critic’s list, “The Leftovers” is likely on there somewhere — which is more than we could say last year.
Still, even a strong following of obsessed fans and critical adoration isn’t necessarily enough to keep a TV show on the air (just look to “Hannibal” for Exhibit A). Subscriber growth and awards are what matter to HBO — even if a larger content library with diverse offerings is also critical to expanding HBO NOW, as it strives to compete with Netflix in the streaming market — and the only stats we have available for Season 2 don’t paint a pretty picture.
Looking at our only basis for comparison, Season 1 averaged a little more than 1.6 million viewers for the first airing of each episode. Season 2, meanwhile, dropped 57 percent in live viewers for the season, averaging right around 700,000 viewers per episode. That’s a pretty significant decline, and one that would ring the death toll loudly and clearly if it happened five years ago or more. Today, though, there are still signs of hope.
First and foremost, we have to believe there’s a massive amount of people watching on HBO NOW, perhaps even the night it airs. Why make sure you’re sitting down at 9pm on Sunday when you can start it at 9:15 after the football game ends or after you’ve taken your dog for a much-needed walk? “The Leftovers” may have been averaging 1.6 million live viewers last season, but that number ballooned to more than 8 million when factoring in HBO GO, VOD and other airings on HBO. With HBO NOW also in the mix this year, one has to imagine that delayed and alternate viewing totals for Season 2 are seeing equivalent growth.
And as sad as the live numbers are, they too support the above theory. Viewership grew from 610,000 for Episode 7 to nearly 1 million for the finale. Typically, an increase of that magnitude indicates people have caught up with the earlier episodes on their own time, are now invested and feel the need to tune in live for the final episodes of the year. And that number would only accommodate for viewers who have HBO cable subscriptions.
Whether or not it’s enough will be a question we’ll only know when HBO announces its plans, and one we may not get an answer to until the Winter TCAs in January, when executives make themselves available to the press. Until then, the latest episode of Very Good TV Podcast tackles the ins and outs of how it could happen, whether or not it will, and what certain elements of Season 2 mean for a possible third season.
Don’t forget to subscribe to Very Good TV Podcast via Soundcloud or iTunes. Follow Indiewire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news — as well as the latest reviews and analysis on all the best television shows out this fall, not just “The Leftovers” — plus check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to Indiewire’s other podcasts, Screen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Indiewire Influencers, hosted by Editor in Chief Dana Harris and featuring various guests relevant to anyone tracking independent film or entertainment in general.
Related News and Articles:
– Read Ben’s season finale review of “The Leftovers,” and click the links to go back for more reviews of previous episodes.
– Liz continues her deep dive into “The Expanse” and in the process tackles the question of why people like “Game of Thrones.”
– Ready for the Golden Globe nominations? Our predictions for the TV side of things.