Warning: contains spoilers for the series finale of “The Leftovers”.
HBO’s “The Leftovers” is in the vanguard of what is currently called “peak TV”, although “peak” does not necessarily mean “good”. Perhaps the phrase simply reflects the fact that we have more TV than ever to watch, all of it available through on-demand streaming services to fill those still, small gaps between extended work hours, helicopter parenting, and mandatory attendance of religious services at the glass-walled Crystal Cathedrals of public exercise. As our modern lives become increasingly leached of any purpose whatsoever, we demand that television serve as a meaning multivitamin, a significance supplement, swallowed once a week so we have something to talk about over the pagan sacrament of overpriced restaurant food.
The standard-bearer for “peak TV” is probably “Game Of Thrones,” that increasingly moronic and banal combination of softcore porn and a Medieval Times restaurant, but there are better and more interesting choices farther down your Netflix list. My long-time readers know how fond I was of David Simon’s Treme, the flawed but heartfelt tribute to New Orleans and its music. It didn’t last very long, unfortunately.
The only things that “The Leftovers” has in common with “Treme” are low ratings and a deliberately truncated run, but I’ve been a fan of the show over the last three seasons and it’s the only television program that I’ve bothered to watch away from my elliptical machine. This past Sunday’s series finale has been lauded for the elegance of its plotting and execution, but what I admired about it was this: the finale was absolutely, unfailingly true to the show’s oft-disguised but never abandoned central concept of narcissistic injury.