This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until the day after this post's publication; we got a screener.
Should You Audit Leah Remini: Scientology And The Aftermath?
Ex-Scientologist Leah Remini crosses the country talking to fellow apostates about their experiences with the church. Is it worth exploring?
What Is This Thing?
Leah Remini -- an actor and Scientology's most prominent apostate -- gives greater meaning to her own exit from the church by seeking out and others who've left the church, and sharing their painful stories.
When Is It On?
Tuesdays at 10 PM ET on A&E, starting November 29.
Why Was It Made Now?
Since leaving the church, Remini has used every outlet available to her to raise her voice as its critic, even before the publication of Remini's memoir Troublemaker, last year: she made headlines by filing a missing persons report for Shelly Miscavige, wife of church leader David. (Though that report was ruled "unfounded" by the LAPD, Shelly still hasn't been seen in public since 2007.) Remini's stint on Dancing With The Stars even included a performance (set to Katy Perry's "Roar") portraying her escape from Scientology in dance. Speaking out against the church led many who've been involved in Scientology to contact Remini through social media, and as she tells it in the series premiere of Scientology And The Aftermath, she felt a responsibility to advocate for them and to tell their stories. Also, in a post-Going Clear world, media companies seem less fearful of the repercussions of criticizing the organization.
What's Its Pedigree?
Before she was an anti-Scientology activist, Remini was an actor in, most notably, The King Of Queens; she's also previously starred in Leah Remini: It's All Relative, a sitcommy TLC reality show about her family. (If anyone noteworthy is working on the show behind the scenes, they're keeping it quiet.)
Definitely NOT involved is the Church Of Scientology, which sent letters discrediting Remini as well as former Church executives Mike Rinder (who joins Remini in her interviews), and Amy Scobee (whose story is the centerpiece of the premiere), which are quoted on screen.
Oh, this is fascinating. Though her celebrity is based on her talents as a snarky comedienne, Remini is very serious here as she describes her own break with the church -- the horror she felt after Shelly's disappearance led her to ask questions about Scientology that she'd never dared to ponder before; the responsibility she bears on behalf of those Scientologists who can't speak up for themselves because they don't have her public profile.
And when Remini speaks to Scobee, it's clear why Remini must be so grave: Scobee's claims about the abuse she experienced (like statutory rape) while she was in the Sea Org, and the threats against her family members who were still in the church if they didn't "disconnect" from her, are heartbreaking.
Yet it wasn't until I got to the end of the episode that it occurred to me: I am probably not the ideal viewer Remini had in mind when she undertook this project. It feels more likely that it's aimed at current church members thinking of leaving, or recent apostates who are scared for their futures: portraying Scobee's happy life post-Scientology is important because it will show fearful Scientologists that, despite scare tactics they might be subject to (or worries about the enforcement of literal billion-year contracts they signed), they can thrive outside the church.
I would hardly claim to be an expert on Scientology, but a lot of the exposition in the first episode (the only one made available to critics) was stuff I already knew. But I can imagine that there will be less of that in the episodes to come; if we assume the pilot has dispensed with all the basic facts that less-obsessed viewers would need to know about Scientology in order for the show to make sense, then future episodes can focus more on the ex-church members' individual experiences.
If you're fascinated by Scientology specifically, cults generally, true crime, or even just lurid gossip -- that's everyone alive, right? -- join me on board.