Scene changes heat up 'Leftovers,' 'Homeland'
Drama junkies will need a Sunday survival plan, as five returning dramas are added to the mix.
* THE LEFTOVERS. 9 p.m. Sunday, HBO.
* HOMELAND. 9 p.m. Sunday,
* THE GOOD WIFE. 9 p.m. Sunday, CBS3.
* MADAM SECRETARY. 8 p.m.
* THE AFFAIR. 10 p.m. Sunday,
IT'S NOT OFTEN that I love a show without making a pest of myself to get other people to watch it, but that's where I was with HBO's "The Leftovers" a year ago.
And it's where I remain as the show created by Damon Lindelof ("Lost") and Tom Perrotta returns for a second season Sunday with a giant leap beyond Perrotta's novel.
"The Leftovers" still isn't going to be for everyone.
More than ever, though, it might be for those who loved "Lost" for the questions it asked, not those it answered.
In the first season, set in a small New York City suburb, we met Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), a police chief whose family was fractured by an event three years earlier in which 2 percent of the world's population abruptly vanished.
The Garvey family lost no one that day, but in the aftermath of the Sudden Departure, Kevin's wife, Laurie (Amy Brenneman), and their son, Tom (Chris Zylka), became enmeshed in separate cults, leaving him alone with their daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley).
Now, along with Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), whose husband and children vanished from their kitchen table, Kevin's adopted the baby left on his doorstep and is moving his reconstituted family across the country. Their destination: a small town in Texas that's been renamed Miracle because it lost not a single resident in the Departure.
If only starting over were that simple.
There's nothing simple about "The Leftovers," which opens its second season with a haunting, dialogue-free scene that runs more than nine minutes and whose connection to the show we saw last year is not immediately apparent. Garvey and his family don't arrive in Miracle until 45 minutes in, by which time we've met another, possibly even more interesting family.
John (Kevin Carroll) and Erika Murphy (Regina King, "American Crime") have two teenagers, twins Evie (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Michael (Jovan Adepo), and at least that many secrets.
Don't ask me what they are: I already have more questions than answers.
But if Season 1 taught us about the hard work of survival, the kind that involves not running from zombies or aliens, but putting one foot in front of the other even when loss pulls the ground from beneath our feet, Season 2 might be about the ground itself, which is always moving, and about the lengths that humans will go to keep their footing.
More of Sunday's best
"The Leftovers" returns on a night when there's a surplus of good TV, including the continuing drama of "Indian Summers" on PBS' "Masterpiece" and the returns of Showtime's "Homeland" and CBS' "The Good Wife."
On nights like this, I'd advise using DVRs, On Demand and streaming platforms like Tupperware: Watch what you can and save, yes, the leftovers for a slower night.
If such a night still exists.
Season 5 of "Homeland" finds Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) very much a former CIA operative. Now living in Berlin, she's providing high-level security to a philanthropic agency, a job that allows her an actual home life, which she shares with her toddler daughter Franny (twins Luna and Lotta Pfitzer) and her boyfriend Jonas (Alexander Fehling).
As if that's going to last.
Her boss' decision to visit a refugee camp in Lebanon puts Carrie back in the center of the action and draws her back into the orbit of her estranged mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).
Rupert Friend and F. Murray Abraham also return.
Berlin's an enticing setting for Carrie, and "Homeland," having gotten back its mojo after a too-long dalliance with Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), seems once again headed in an interesting direction.
Also starting over, not for the first time, is Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), who begins Season 7 of "The Good Wife" trying to drum up business in bond court, where lawyers compete for the dubious business of not-quite-indigent clients who need representation in a hurry.
I think she might be overdressed, but I do like the way "Good Wife" writers poke about the darker corners of law in the search for stories. I also very much like the addition of Margo Martindale as a campaign strategist for Alicia's governor husband Peter (Chris Noth), who has his eye on higher office.
Eli (Alan Cumming) can always use a good scene partner.
Also returning Sunday: CBS' "Madam Secretary" and Showtime's "The Affair."
"Madam Secretary" shines more through its star, Tea Leoni, and its supporting cast, than its stories, which work harder than they probably need to to make the job of secretary of state look interesting.
It's giving nothing away that CBS' promos haven't to say that Sunday's premiere finds Elizabeth (Leoni) making the leap from State to the Oval Office after the president's plane goes missing.
In contrast to the late Al Haig, who erroneously declared himself in charge after President Reagan was shot, this secretary of state comes by her elevation constitutionally, but not without some overly fancy footwork.
Let's just say there are probably more believable ways to put a woman in the White House.
"The Affair" opens up its he thought/she thought format to two more points of view in its second season, as lovers Alison (Ruth Wilson) and Noah (Dominic West) occasionally give way to their exes, Cole (Joshua Jackson) and Helen (Maura Tierney), who don't see things any more consistently.
Still, this is an improvement. Because while the whole enterprise sometimes feels more like an acting exercise than an actual show, at least these are four people who can act, and there's no point in wasting Tierney and Jackson's characters just because they're not sleeping together.
Plus, I'm pretty sure I'm on Team Cole.
But while I get it - really, I get it - that two people can see the same events differently, that everyone is to at some extent an unreliable narrator, some of the differences in "The Affair" sit up and beg for disbelief. And I'm afraid I have even less interest in the possible homicide in which Noah's a suspect than I do in Noah and Alison as a couple.
On Twitter: @elgray