'The Leftovers' Renewed for Third and Final Season at HBO

Despite low ratings, the critically acclaimed drama from Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta will be back next year.
'The Leftovers'  Courtesy of Van Redin/HBO

The Leftovers will be departing — but not without a final farewell.

HBO has renewed the drama from creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta for a third and final season. The news comes on the heels of the show’s second-season finale and a WGA Award nomination in the episodic drama category for Justin Theroux-starrer “International Assassin,” written by Lindelof and Nick Cuse.

“It is with great enthusiasm that we welcome back Damon Lindelof, Tom Perrotta and the extraordinary talent behind The Leftovers for its third and final season,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo said in a statement. “This show has proven to be one of the most distinctive HBO series and we are extremely proud of its unrivaled originality, which has resulted in such a passionate following by our HBO viewers. We admire and fully support Damon’s artistic vision and respect his decision to bring the show to its conclusion next season.”

“I have never, ever experienced the level of creative support and trust that I have received from HBO during the last two seasons of The Leftovers,” said Lindelof. “Tom, myself and our incredible team of writers and producers put tremendous care into designing those seasons as novels unto themselves … with beginnings, middles and ends. As we finished our most recent season, it became clear to us that the series as a whole was following the same model … and with our beginning and middle complete, the most exciting thing for us as storytellers would be to bring The Leftovers to a definitive end. And by ‘definitive,’ we mean ‘wildly ambiguous but hopefully mega-emotional,’ as all things related to this show are destined to be.

“On behalf of our incredible crew and superb cast, we are all tremendously grateful that HBO is giving us an opportunity to conclude the show on our own terms ... an opportunity like this one rarely comes along, and we have every intention of living up to it," he continued. "One more thing. We are blessed by the unwavering support of our fans and the incredibly powerful voice of the critical community. We feel absolutely privileged to heat up one last helping of leftovers.”

The series, which debuted in 2014, explores what happens when two percent of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes. Based on the novel of the same name by Perrotta, the show burned through its source material in the first season and the writers consequently revamped the drama in its second iteration, relocating to a new city (both onscreen and off) and introducing new brand new characters. 

The risks paid off, as the series solidified its status as a critical hit this year.The show hails from Warner Bros. Television, which is  home to both Lindelof (he has an overall deal there through 2018) and HBO's first outside studio buy. Although the cabler typically owns all of its original programming, it will see its other WBTV show, Westworld, premiere sometime next year.

In addition to Theroux, the Leftovers ensemble is made up of Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Chris Eccleston, Liv Tyler, Ann Dowd, Margaret Qualley, Chris Zylka, Janel Moloney, Regina King, Kevin Carroll and Jovan Adepo. In a somewhat surprising move, the drama — known for its ambiguous and enigmatic storytelling — recently wrapped up its second season rather neatly. 

"I want each season to feel like the seasons of The Wire to me in that they felt complete," Lindelof told The Hollywood Reporter of how he intends to structure the series year-to-year. "That’s the way seasons of The Leftovers are always going to feel. They’re never going to end on cliffhangers — they’re always going to finish with that story."

As far as the next season is concerned, Lindelof has only just begun mapping it out. “I have thought about where we would go in the third season, but just the very beginnings of ideas," he said. "Some of them we had to discuss in order to make the moves that we made in the finale in terms of not wanting to put our backs on the wall."

Despite the critical acclaim, Leftovers has never been much of a ratings draw. In fact, viewership in the second season dropped nearly 60 percent compared to season one, averaging a 0.31 rating in the 18-49 demo with 0.67 million viewers this year. Lindelof attributes the low numbers to the weighty themes and intense material — pain, loss and religion among them — that the show explores.

“I think there’s a sense of, ‘Where did everybody from season one go? Are they going to binge it? Are they coming back?’ It’s like The Leftovers itself — maybe we’ll never know,” he said, quipping: “It’s a little more than two percent, unfortunately.”

Sendoffs like The Leftovers' upcoming farewell tour are becoming more and more commonplace in TV as networks look to use final seasons as a way to make noise in an increasingly crowded marketplace. HBO made the same move when it announced renewals for Boardwalk Empire and The Newsroom, both of which ended last year, as well as Getting On, which is in the middle of its final run.

The Leftovers joins fellow returning HBO series Game of Thrones, Girls, Veep, Silicon Valley, Togetherness and Ballers.

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