The best show on television returns this weekend. You should watch it before it departs forever.

Heads up: The Leftovers —  which is the best show on television — returns this weekend, and believe me, I am as surprised as anyone to be calling it that.

When it was announced that The Leftovers was going to be Damon Lindelof’s next series after Lost, I read the Tom Perrotta novel immediately and enjoyed it. For those of you who somehow know nothing about the show or the novel, it’s a sort of post-apocalyptic story in which 2% of the world’s populations just disappears one day, leaving everyone else questioning everything. People become less religious, cults spring up, everyone is trying to cope in a universe that no longer feels secure. The novel focused on Kevin Garvey, a father who is just trying to help his family and his town return to normality. It was grounded, it felt very real, it had moments of levity that relieved the overriding grimness of the premise.

However, when the series debuted, it felt unfamiliar to the original source material to me: the outline of the plot was there, the characters were all present, but everything was five shades darker than the book. Where the book had a sense of humor, the show had none; where the book had a glimmer of hope for its characters, the series shattered all of that. The first season was bleak, it was frustratingly depressing and I have to be honest: I very nearly gave up on it altogether.

But then, the penultimate episode of the season diverged from the source material and SPOILER ALERT: showed us the characters the day before and of The Departure, and it left me gobsmacked. It was easily one of the best episodes of television of that year. The problem was you had to suffer through 8 hours of hard, heavy TV to get there. As Justin Theroux put it in a recent interview: “It’s kind of like if you want to enjoy a hot cup of soup by the fire, you have to walk through the blizzard to get to it.”

The second season was no longer dependent on the book, and Lindelof was free to expand his universe and really explore the big questions that the first season and novel introduced. The series became considerably more mystical and mysterious, at turns funny and profoundly weird, and it was hands down the best thing on television in 2015, maybe this decade. Shamans, ghosts, vigilantes, cults, Jesus figures, karaoke, cavemen, it was a wild ride, and a deeply satisfying one.

If you have watched both seasons, here is a solid refresher on everything that has happened going into this season’s premiere.

Sunday, the series begins its final, foreshortened season. HBO sent out 7 of the 8 episodes to critics (sadly, not to yours truly) and the praise has been universal, some even calling it the best thing that will be on television this year. And I’m already convinced.

But let me forewarn you that if you decide to give The Leftovers a chance, it’s a show that will not give you easy answers to a lot — or any — of your questions. We will never be told what The Departure was or why it happened, because at its core, that is what the show is about: the mystery of it all, the never knowing. The entire philosophy of the writers can be summed up by “Let the Mystery Be,” the song they played over the titles last season. But if you enjoy stories about mysticism and faith and you don’t need everything explained to you, give this gem of a show a chance. (Just be patient with those first 8 episodes, trust.)

In Other TV News

Jay Pharoah had a LOT to say recently about being fired by Saturday Night Live, including that he felt he was being put into an “impression box” (true), and that he almost got fired when he pushed for women of color to be hired.

Russia’s entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest was banned by Ukraine after she performed in Crimea — but Eurovision Song Contest is taking place in Ukraine this year. Instead of sending a different performer, Russia is pulling out of Eurovision Song Contest altogether and it won’t be broadcast there. Forget Korea, this is how World War III could start.

Dave Chappelle paid tribute to Charlie Murphy at a John Mayer concert in Ohio and that is just a very weird sentence to have to write.

That episode of Black Mirror with the wannabe reality show contestants and the exercise bikes and the merits is being turned into an art exhibit. Related: “This is some Black Mirror shit” is the defining motto for 2017.

Minnie Driver would like to be in the Will & Grace reboot, please and thank you.

Some mathematician is trying to claim that Red Shirts don’t actually die the most on Star Trek. Whatever, nerd.

Outlander has released some new photos from the upcoming season, but this is the one that makes me giggle:

outlander season three battle scene.jpg

That Television Without Pity reboot has been scrapped by Tribune Media. Fortunately, you still have one place to go for periodic recaps of a very limited number of shows.

wesley-snipes-wink

Trailer Park

Dear White People, Netflix, April 28

Orphan Black, BBC, June 10

Renewals

Cancellations

  • It’s not official, but this can’t be good news for The Odd Couple.

In Development

Casting News

R.I.P.

Joan See, advertisement actress and founder of the Actors in Advertising School

WATCH THIS

FRIDAY

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day star in the revival of the classic snarky series AND NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON. Netflix

MacGyver: Season finale. 7 p.m., CBS

Election: This is why Hillary Clinton lost. 7 p.m. Epix Drive-In

SATURDAY

Doctor Who: New companion, new season. Season premiere. 8 p.m., BBCA

Class: In this new Doctor Who spinoff, The Doctor entrusts four students to protect the Earth. Series premiere. 9 p.m., BBCA

Saturday Night Live: Jimmy Fallon & Harry Styles 10:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC

SUNDAY

The Leftovers: The seventh anniversary of The Departure is coming up and people are freaking out in the third (and final) season finale. 8 p.m., HBO

Veep: It’s hard out here for a former President. Season finale. 9:30 p.m., HBO

Girls: Now grow up and become women already. Series finale. 9 p.m., HBO

The White Princess: The sequel to The White Queen, in which Elizabeth of York and Henry’s marriage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Series premiere. 7 p.m., Starz

Guerilla: Idris Elba co-stars in this miniseries about 1970s revolutionaries in London. Series premiere. 8 p.m., Showtime

Late Night: Watch What Happens Live (Sunday): Charrisse Jackson Jordan, Robyn Dixon

FRI. 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC The Toy Box
(new)
Shark Tank
(new)
20/20
(new)
CBS MacGyver
(new)
Hawaii Five-0
(new)
Blue Bloods
(new)
CW The Originals
(new)
Reign
(new)
Local
FOX Rosewood
(new)
You the Jury
(new)
Local
NBC First Dates
(new)
Dateline NBC
(new)


SAT. 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30 11:00 11:30
ABC The Ten Commandments News/Local
CBS Ransom
(new)
Training Day
(new)
48 Hours
(repeat)
News/Local
FOX UFC Fight Night
(live)
News/Local
NBC Stanley Cup Playoffs
(live)
News/Local Saturday Night Live
(Jimmy Fallon & Harry Styles)


SUN. 6:00 6:30 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC Inside Disneynature: Wild Lives
(repeat)
Once Upon a Time
(new)
Match Game
(new)
American Crime
(new)
CBS 60 Minutes
(new)
Staying Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Bee Gees
(new)
NCIS: Los Angeles
(repeat)
FOX Ice Age: The Great Egg-scapade Bob’s Burgers
(repeat)
The Simpsons
(repeat)
Making History
(repeat)
Family Guy
(repeat)
Last Man on Earth
(repeat)
NBC Little Big Shots
(repeat)
Little Big Shots
(repeat)
Chicago Justice
(new)
Shades of Blue
(new)
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