Welcome to the latest episode of Too Long; Didn’t Watch, a new podcast produced by Rolling Stone and OBB Sound, presented by Google Assistant, and hosted by yours truly. In each episode, we attempt a new method of scaling Peak TV, by pairing a celebrity guest with a series they’ve never seen and showing them only the very first and very last episodes, to see if they can figure out what in the world happened in between.
For this week’s episode, we welcome actor and comedian Rob Huebel, from Medical Police, Childrens Hospital, Transparent, and recurring guest appearances across half of Peak TV. Huebel and I sat down all the way back on March 12th of last year, the second and final TLDW episode recorded in person. (Jon Hamm watching Gossip Girl was the other one.) At the time, it was clear we were heading for a quarantine, but not necessarily for how long; while making small talk before the recording, I mentioned that my wife and I had just put down a deposit for one of our kids to have their birthday party at a local ice rink later that spring; Huebel gave me a concerned look, shook his head, and said, “I don’t think you’re having that party.”
The atmosphere of foreboding was, sadly, perfect for our show of choice: The Leftovers, the HBO drama that I consider the best show of the 2010s. Adapted by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta from Perrotta’s novel of the same name, The Leftovers follows the aftermath of a mysterious global event in which a random two percent of the population vanishes without explanation. It’s a show about collective trauma, and the many ways it can drive you mad if you’re not careful. As we watched the pilot and then the finale, we couldn’t help noticing how appropriate it was to our own circumstances in those early days of the Covid pandemic.
Even more than Gossip Girl or Game of Thrones, The Leftovers is a great test of the podcast’s ridiculous premise, because the finale is so wildly different from the pilot — starting with the fact that Carrie Coon’s Nora Durst is in every single scene (and practically every shot) of that final episode, when she appears for only one brief scene in the series premiere.
Could Huebel follow this jarring shift? How did he feel about watching such an intense show in this weird fashion? And how did it feel seeing it while the total number of reported Covid cases began to skyrocket? All this and more are revealed in this week’s episode.
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Back next week with another special guest to talk about Parks and Recreation.