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PASADENA, Calif. -Justin Theroux plays Kevin Garvey, a small-town New York police chief trying to hold his town together in The Leftovers, a new HBO series based on the 2011 novel by Tom Perrotta, and produced and written by Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, a co-creator of ABC's mind-bending mystery Lost.

The drama, with a 10-episode first season due this summer, is set three years after a mysterious rapture-like incident, here called "the departure," in which 2% of the world's population suddenly--and inexlicably--disappears. With parallels to Sept. 11, it's about "a huge collective trauma and the way the country deals with it," Perrotta told TV critics Thursday.

Unlike Lost, whose characters (and viewers) concerned themselves with unraveling the mystery of how a planeload of passengers crash-landed on a mysterious island -- and survived, Lindelof says this show's characters are "searching what they're supposed to be doing with their lives," and "less about what happened and where everybody went and why."

The show also stars Amy Brenneman as Garvey's wife, one of a score of chain-smoking, white-uniformed "guilty remnants" left behind, and Liv Tyler as a one-half of a couple wrapped up in the saga. Lindelof says reaction to the elliptical pilot episode varies: Some found it "depressing and intense and confusing, and there were other people who are totally captivted by it."

There were fans frustrated by the slow-to-arrive answers to Lost's mysteries, so it's fair to ask how long it will take for The Leftovers to find its groove. "I think about 30 episodes."

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