The Leftovers is an American drama that airs on HBO. The show centers around a mysterious event that occurs on October 14th, 2011, in which 2% of the world’s population vanishes. After the mysterious disappearance religion goes in to decline, but cults become extremely popular. The shows media component is limited, and primarily contained to its blog, watchingtheleftovers.com
I am not an avid social media user. The idea of tracking down actors, or writers on twitter or Instagram accounts seems invasive, but what I’m really skeptical of is people with full time jobs taking time out of their day to write tweets. For a show as complicated as the leftovers, I don’t see there being a lot of insight delivered in under one hundred and forty characters. HBO as the network in charge of packaging, The Leftovers, is most likely unaware of my personal cynicism.
HBO targets a very narrow portion of the population, and The Leftovers a narrower population still. The website HBO.com is by anyone’s standards terrible. The network is moving very slowly in to the world of trans-media, but I think it also eschews it because it suspects it’s consumers are either not tech savvy or unwilling to sink time in to the process. HBO did successfully move their content on to CraveTV, a stream on demand service, but they have very limited online presence in general.
The Leftovers is being cancelled after its third season. It is a complicated show, and also an emotionally brutal one. There website watchingtheleftovers.com wrote an article after the network decided to renew the show for a third season called, “10 reasons season 3 is needed.” The article addressed plot points that needed to be wrapped up, and teased out potential plotlines for the third season. Long form writing helped it address its fans tacitly, and directly.
Whether a greater, or more involved presence online would have helped The Leftovers stay on the air longer is up for debate. It’s a chicken and egg question, if the show had been more popular would people have engaged more with it online? And if so, would the company have created spaces to facilitate and direct those actions? Or does it work the other way around with an entrenched social media presence drawing people back every week. HBO of course also hosts Game of Thrones, a show that has near constant fan engagement, which the network then began to create content for. This year they created a virtual tour of one of the spaces in the show.
I think that the blog for The Leftovers, and the virtual space for Game of Thrones have something in common. While I think that a lot of the social media content associated with shows is trivial, I think there is a separate phenomenon of distinct and affiliated media coming to life. The blog creates it’s own written content that has critical value, and the virtual reality experience generated a lot of art. One of the interesting things that could happen in the future is art pieces that exist in multiple mediums, adding value or secondary experiences to the show.