Prepare to get carried away by ‘The Leftovers’

Full disclosure: I loved “Lost.”

Didn’t even mind the ending all that much.

That’s why the one summer series I’ve been looking forward to is “The Leftovers” (10 p.m. Sunday, HBO), “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof’s first TV project since leaving the island.

Heck, I even read the novel by Tom Perrotta (“Little Children,” “Election”) on which it’s based.

Thankfully, “The Leftovers” rarely disappoints.

The drama takes place three years after 2 percent of the world’s population vanished. Some viewed it as the Rapture. Others protested that it couldn’t have been the Rapture, otherwise they’d have been taken. Officially, it’s come to be known as “The Sudden Departure.”

Many just lost a friend or a neighbor. Others, like Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), lost her husband and two young children. But no one has been left unscathed.

Cults have sprung up. Some worship Holy Wayne (Paterson Joseph), who claims he can hug your pain away and has a predilection for young Asian girls. Still more have joined the Guilty Remnant, whose members have sworn a vow of silence, only wear white and must smoke whenever they’re in public. They stalk everyday citizens, stare at them and generally creep them the heck out to make sure their lives don’t return to normal.

It’s a darker world full of damaged people — teens have taken to playing a game that’s like a combination of spin the bottle and a fight club — that’s rife with dramatic possibilities.

Still, there’s some humor, however grim, to everything transpiring in tiny Mapleton, N.Y. “I get the pope,” a bartender says, reflecting on those taken. “But Gary (expletive) Busey? How does he make the cut?”

Sunday’s pilot does a solid job of introducing this new reality, seen largely through the eyes of Mapleton’s police chief, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), who carries himself like a buffer, broken, tatted-up Bob Saget. The second episode expands the drama’s scope. But episode three is a knockout.

By focusing solely on a crusading minister (Christopher Eccleston) who digs up dirt on the disappeared and publishes it in a newsletter hoping to prove this wasn’t the Rapture, the hour starts as though it’s going to derail “The Leftovers’ ” momentum. The longer it goes, though, as this heretofore minor character fights to save his foreclosed church, the more extraordinary it becomes.

Tragic, funny, hopeful and violent, it’s one of the most remarkable hours of TV so far this year.

If it can crank out even one episode like that a season, “The Leftovers” will be one of TV’s main courses.

■ Helping Hammer’s: Henderson’s Hammer’s Grill and Bar is featured on “Restaurant Stakeout” (9 p.m. Wednesday, Food Network).

■ Special screening: See “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” for $3 and support some worthy causes. For the next seven weeks, AMC’s Town Square and Rainbow locations will screen a recent release at 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, with all proceeds going to charities.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.