How Interweb Criticism Reinvented ‘The Leftovers’

The days of the couch potato audience are over. Even major TV series creator-showrunners like LOST’s Damon Lindelof understand that audience interaction is now the name of the game. And all we here at TVWriter™ can say is, “About time:

maxresdefault2by Moze Halperin

Imagine if you could have blogged, “Let’s not determine Laura Palmer’s murderer right now” or “Patrick should give up on Spongebob, it’s never going to happen” or “He really needed to get eaten alive” — and had your opinion-dumps be taken for gospel, changing TV history in service of the greater good? 

Generally, before a new season, we can assume that producers and networks band together to assess critical and audience reactions to the former season. Rarely have these assessments seemed so visible, and so loyal to specific critiques, as the second season of The Leftovers. Watching Season 2, it seems less like creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta reimagined their show than that every critical blog post conjoined in a communal, idealized fan fictional doppelgänger of the original.

The process of constructing a new vision for the show based on accidentally constructive criticism could have gone completely awry, resulting in disjointed and excessive pandering, but the creators appear to have had an impeccably coherent plan for addressing the critiques: they’ve maintained a semblance of the show they first made while restructuring it on the most fundamental levels.

The Location

Criticism: Though few directly took issue with the show’s original setting of Upstate NY, there were elements of the location that bothered people: the rural colorlessness of Mapleton led to criticism about how “[the show’s] slowness can seem shallow, its artiness willful,” or how “bleak isn’t the same thing as profound.” The creators chose a setting to match the tone, not complicate it.

The Solution: Send the morose characters who mirrored their morose location somewhere more spirited. The new location — Miracle, TX — is also a small town. But as its name suggests, it is not supposed to be an American Anywhere, but a singular place that’s been heightened to the level of being an exalted symbol (Miracle is a nickname — the town is actually called Jarden)….

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