Show Reviews (103)
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My friend lent me season 1 of this show, and I was quite reluctant to watch it. It sat in my living room for almost a month. Then one night I was bored and put in the first episode. Now, one week later, I have watched both full seasons!
Carnivale may very well be the best television series I have EVER watched. As I said, I was quite ambivalent about throwing in the first episode, but after that, I was HOOKED! The sets, the casting, the performances, all top notch. What really captures you though, is the storyline. Hands down it is one of the most compelling, intense stories I have ever witnessed. The mythology, the battle betweeen good and evil, and the twists and turns you run into along the way are all thought provoking, brilliantly written, and addictive. Honestly, I've read a lot about how it was too "out of the box" for general audiences or that the story threads were "far too complex" for the average viewer. However, I would have to disagree with all of that, this show and it's plots are easily accessible to the "average viewer." This show had one downfall and one downfall ONLY, and it had nothing to do with ANYTHING in the production. The failure of this show was in the marketing. I'd heard of it for years and even remember seeing trailers on HBO for it. However, the advertising never even came close to making me want to watch the show. If anything, it made me write it off as something to be avoided. However, as soon as I began watching, I was hooked. As I said, I went through all the episodes in the span of a week, I just couldn't stop watching.
That's the tragedy of this show. One of the greatest shows of all time in my opinion, fails to get an audience, and I truly do believe it was due to poor marketing. Anyone that's thinking of watching the two available seasons, I would highly recommend you do so. The only thing that will disappoint you about the series is that it didn't have a chance to continue and tell it's entire story.moreless
the operative word is "slowly"
I just finished watching seasons one and two of Carnivale. Overall, I enjoyed the show-- clearly I enjoyed it enough to watch it to the end. I consider myself a member of the target audience: I love the Thirties, and count the television show TWIN PEAKS as well as books like Katherine Dunn's GEEK LOVE and movies like Todd Browning's FREAKS among my all-time favorites. From the outset, everything about Carnivale called my name.
However, I can see why the show was cancelled. It's gorgeously set with the kind of meticulous attention to detail that made me marvel at what kind of budget it must have had. The period costumes, especially the dresses are to die for-- I wish Carnivale had attained Mad Men's popularity if only because it might have ushered in a revival of Thirties styles.
That being said, I consider it a weakness of the show that I found my mind wandering distractedly to its art direction and budget because the actual story dragged so frequently. The pace was a real problem. In fact, I suspect that viewers who tuned out weren't so much mystified by the opacity or complexity of the show's mythology so much as frustrated by the writers' Chinese water torture technique of delivering crucial plot points. To use a carny analogy, it was like a striptease stretched out to three hours. By the time you get to the part you paid to see, you hardly care. The writers wasted a lot of opportunities to reveal information in the most dramatically satisfying way in favor of streeeeetching out the mystery and delaying the suspense. As a result, I often found the plot lagging behind my own imagination. The first time Ruthie sees a ghost is a good example. It takes Ruthie several episodes to recognize what I suspect most people in the audience figured out immediately.
I felt that Diane Salinger and Patrick Buchau were both wasted in their roles. I couldn't believe Apollonia's character was really destined to lie in bed for an entire season and then die. Lodz stole every scene that included him, but was condemned to spend most of his screen time not doing his thing and being a mentalist, but reiterating the same plea over and over (and over) again for Ben to listen to what he had to say. I sure wanted to know what Lodz had to say and I bet it would have made a thrilling scene if the writers had decided to include it instead of prolonging the mystery by getting rid of Lodz before anyone in the audience knows much about him or what he wants. Likewise, in the interest of maintaining mystery, the writers present us with a main character, Ben, with little personality except for being gruff, stubborn and secretive. It was difficult to relate to Ben or understand why some of the other characters were so drawn to him. Clancy Brown, reprising his role as the Kurgen in HIGHLANDER, was effective as Brother Justin, if only because he was designed as an ambiguous character rather than a total cipher. All of the actors did a great job portraying characters who seemed potentially intriguing even if many of them were held back.
Some people commented that the second half of season two felt rushed. I would agree, but I felt as though the pace of season two came much closer to approximating a rhythm that would have held the interest of more viewers, had it been applied to season one.moreless
now they`ve duped US!
have enjoyed watching the great depth and mystery of the first series and am looking forward to watching the second BUT have had my enthusiasm dampened by what I have read on here .I am to be disappointed as were the rest of you. these people would have been lynched back in the DustBowl Era!!
Good vs evil and a touch of magic and a lot of dirt.
This is by far the best show I have ever seen. I loved it from the start. I was hooked right away. I've just seen it for the second time on DVD and it was actually better the second time. When you know what is going to happen you pick up more of the details than the first time around. Still a bit upset it was only produced for 2 seasons. Would've been great to the the whole 6 that was planed. I am also impressed with the fantastic cast they put together. Everyone is so good in this. Clancy Brown is fantastic here. So creepy! If you haven't seen Carnivale do it now but make sure you have got plenty of time. You'd wanna watch the next episode right away...moreless
During the 1930s Ben Hawkins is picked up by a traveling canivale after his mother passes away. He travels with them only to find out that they know more about him and his healing ability then even he does.
a great depiction of what the 1930s were like. i don't normally watch HBO or any of its shows but Im very much glad i have had the pleasure of watching this one. 2 different stories that slowly come together. i have seen many movies and TV shows, and in my opinion this is right at the top with the best of the best. i really liked the casting for the show as well the story. this show just draws you in and gets your attention with its strange atmosphere of the carnie world as well as the church. i highly recommend it.moreless
The tragedy of Carnivale is for its viewers to bear. A rich setting with characters brought to compelling life by a fine cast... is wasted on an overwrought, over-thought and ultimately pretentious story.
It is a crying shame that the performances of fine actors such as Clancy Brown, Tim DeKay, and Nick Stahl (among many others) are wasted on such a ponderous, self-involved story that seems hell-bent on interfering with any attempt to reach for the stars. We, the audience, are left asking not "Who is Henry Scudder?" or "What is the under-lying mythology of this show?" but instead pondering what kind of creator would insist with such passion that his show remain obscure and cult-based instead of achieving something truly great.
While the setting is rich and unique in its portrayal of mid-20th century America, it is not to be confused with a show like Mad Men. The dull, dusty shades of Carnivale create a different kind of atmosphere altogether - one that is not timeless, but out of time; not unabashedly glamorous, but despicably captivating. Unlike Mad Men, which promises to whisk you away to the classiest party where every gentleman feels like a gentleman and every lady helps that process along, Carnivale threatens to suffocate you with the most magical land that everybody has always known.
This mood is an accomplishment in itself, wholly unique and unreproducible. But with this accomplishment comes the greatest of responsibilities - to reach for the stars. And in failing to do so - in failing to do so with such fervent and implacable passion - the show sealed its own fate. The performances are fine, from the mellow, but startlingly brash Ben Hawkins, to the passionate, mad preachings of Brother Justin, to the subtle and stoic man's man Clayton Jones, to everyone in between. Yet instead of focusing this energy and charisma and forcing the characters to confront each other and work off of each other, they are instead separated - by distance and the heavy-handed ever-reaching arm of the story.
IMDB trivia states that the Justin Crowe character was originally intended to start as an established name with power and influence, but was pushed backwards in time as the writers realized there was no room for him to expand; thus his presence on the show's first two seasons is quite literally him catching up to where he was intended to start. I've absolutely no trouble believing this tale, as it is only far too obvious that the entirety of the first (and only) two seasons of the show are spent in a neat rush to get somewhere nobody knows -- or wants to go.
The show did not give its actors the opportunity to make it into something great because no matter what they did, there was always a cap that said, "You cannot be more, because this is not where the show is going." One of the finest performances in the series is that of Tim DeKay's "Jonesy," and yet his role in the mythology of the show is minimal at best, when compared to characters like Ben or Brother Justin or Samson or even Ruthie. Yet the show never allowed itself to take advantage of these improvised opportunities because it was in too great a rush to tell a story it felt was worth telling.
In the end, the only story it told was the cautionary tale of a creative force that snuffed out the spark of life in any unforeseen opportunity by placing priority in mystery and lore over the most important and fascinating mysteries of all...moreless