"The Leftovers" will not be left behind: HBO just handed the much-praised, much-underviewed sophomore a third season. The kicker: It will be the final one. 

  This will-they-renew will-they-not-renew business was indeed a cliffhanger. "The Leftovers" wrapped its second season last Sunday, and showrunner Damon Lindelof undertook an unusual public outreach effort to get a renewal, speaking with the trades and essentially conceding that a third might be a tough reach. 

  But a few minutes ago, Lindelof had a markedly different tone. His statement:

 “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. Tom [Perrotta, author of the book], 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. "

And HBO chief of programming Michael Lombardo's statement: “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.  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.”

 Yes, all this is good news: "The Leftovers" was one of my favorite shows last season, and the second is a winner, too (like most viewers, even professional ones, I'm still only halfway through this season, which answers a question Lindelof raised -- Are people watching weeks later? Umm, sorry. Yes, we are, Damon).

But the critical praise has been rapturous, pun obviously intended: From Variety to Hitfix, some very smart critics are calling this the best drama of the year. HBO clearly listened, proving once again: Critics do matter...

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