Hank Stuever on TV: It’s okay to stop watching ‘The Leftovers’


Joel Kinnaman, left, and Mireille Enos in a scene from Netflix's "The Killing," Season 4. (Carole Segal/Netflix)
July 31

Every Thursday, Post TV critic Hank Stuever hosts an online chat to talk all things TV. On the minds of readers this week: what to expect in Season 4 of “The Killing,” just how many actual wormy eyeballs are in “The Strain,” and the casting for NBC’s “Peter Pan.”

“The Killing”: Was your tweet about Patti Smith being in the new season of “The Killing” a joke of some sort or is she really in it? I’m trying to make that work in my head.

Stuever: She’s in it! She plays a doctor in the first episode of this new season (six episodes), which launches Friday on Netflix. Apparently, she’s a big fan of the show (must be all that morose rain) and they gave her a part. For realz!

Alas, I won’t have time to write a full review of “The Killing,” but what I’ve seen so far is not bad. There’s a new case to solve. Linden is haunted by what she did at the end of last season. (No spoilers for those who haven’t seen Season 3. I mean, did anyone finish Season 3?)

Context and quality: I have been wanting to go back and re-watch some of the quality shows that appeared on network TV before the cable explosion just to see how well they hold up. I’m thinking about “Homicide,” “Hill Street Blues,” “ER,” and “NYPD Blue,” just as examples. I suspect that they now look very cheap and lacking in the production values we are used to, but in the context of their time they are still high-quality shows. Have you had occasion to look back at any shows like that? When I have gone way back to the shows of my youth (“Kolchak, The Six Million Dollar Man,” etc.) they are simply wretched. But I blame that on being a kid.

Stuever: You mentioned all 1990s shows, except for “Hill Street Blues.” By and large, I think you’re right — old one-hour dramas from the 1970s and 1980s look cheaper and clunkier (and move much slower), but once you appreciate their context and settle into them, you can see why they found an audience back then. I watch some of them from a real place of forgiveness and nostalgia. Earlier this year, I received the long-awaited DVDs of “L.A. Law” Seasons 1 and 2, which I’m sure are not nearly as great as some of us remember them being, but that I will nevertheless enjoy the next time I get the flu.

Re: Context and quality: I’ve started watching “The X-Files” for the first time and I’m fascinated how it’s both very of its time (the pacing and format, but also the dialogue) and an anomaly. (That both network television and America would embrace a sci-fi show for nine seasons and a movie seems like something that would never happen.)

Stuever: Did “Lost” not fit that bill? Maybe because I watch everything, I feel like all the niche genres (sci-fi, horror, fantasy) have been hugged quite close by Americans far and wide. (Mostly wide.)

I don’t think I’ve seen an episode of “The X-Files” since the heyday. I keep delaying ’90s nostalgia.

You survived the press tour!: Your three strongest impressions from the marathon slog?

Stuever: Maybe not my strongest impressions, but off the top of my head . . .

1. I thought “Gotham” was surprisingly good (Fox’s “Batman” prequel series) and you know how tired I am of superheroes.

2. I want to see more of Showtime’s “The Affair” (premieres in October, starring Dominic West); they’ve only shown critics one episode so far, but I’m very intrigued by it.

3. I don’t dare go anywhere near FXX’s new “Simpsons” app — not if I intend to make any deadline for the rest of my career.

“The Leftovers”: Help me like “The Leftovers,” Hank. I’ve watched every episode to date and am so lost. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling from this show. Am I not intellectual enough to “get” the show? If that’s the case, my feelings will not be hurt! What are your thoughts? Have you been able to see it through to the end yet, or are you stuck on the same episode schedule as I?

Stuever: When I reviewed it, I had seen four episodes; now I’m at the point everyone else is. I knew then that it would be difficult going for lots of viewers — not because of the subject matter, but because of the tone and pace. It’s so morose and deliberately obfuscatory with what its characters are doing and feeling. Also, at least in the Tom Perrotta novel (which I think is much better than the TV show), there was never any explanation or reason for the Sudden Departure. I’m not sure viewers understand that yet; they may be watching to find out what the Sudden Departure was and if it will happen again.

Of course, the TV show is certainly different enough from the book that it may yet tell us more about this strange event and what it all means, but it sure doesn’t seem like it’s going to do that.

I’ve been busier than a priest in Lent offering people absolution from watching “The Leftovers.” They want to like it, for good reasons (it’s HBO; some of the performances are quite intense; etc.), but they just can’t go on.

“The Strain”/eyeball: Haven’t watched “The Strain” because I was so turned off by the eyeball poster. I can handle pretty much anything else. Does the show feature close ups of mutilated eyeballs?

Stuever: Oh, you’re like me with shows in which people shoot up heroin (or administer any medicine with a needle to the arm). As a contact-lens wearer from all the way back in the hard-lenses days, I have no problems with eyeball stuff. Touch it all you want, stick whatever you want in there! I’ve been there and done that in the bathroom mirror.

That said, no, FX’s “The Strain” is not all eyeballs, all the time. Those little worms get in just about everywhere. I only recall one eyeball incident so far.

You have hands, right? (Just checking.) If so, bring them up to your eyes and don’t look when it gets ooky.

“Peter Pan”: Allison Williams as Peter Pan and Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. Am I the only one who finds this casting a tad odd? (Rebel Wilson as Tinkerbell?)

Stuever: The press releases should be headlined in all-caps: SHARPEN YOUR KNIVES!

Re: “Peter Pan”: Why pick a Peter Pan that’s as tall as Captain Hook? And was there no boy to play the part? Surely some unemployed boybander could’ve been enlisted. Or they could catch Justin Bieber between outrages.

Stuever: Justin Bieber. Just imagine that.

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