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.
This was a great show that suffered from too slow a start. it wouldn't be until season two that it got really interesting. I feel if they had sped up the pace of the show and saved some of the character development of the supporting cast till later the show might have survived.
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...
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!!
This show is wonderful - and I've just started watching it this season. Instead of mundane HBO programming out to just woo shallow critics and the usual unimaginative American audiences, this show goes beyond this world to illustrate truth, deception, good and evil. The story is complex for some, since most story lines do not conclude in one episode (then again, it's not a sitcom). The actors are amazing, the writers, brilliant, the creators, well I'm surprised HBO would let this one into their usual thematic dramas (you know what I'm talking about). I can't say enough good things about this show. If you happen to catch it and have no idea what's going on, don't give up - just pay close attention and you'll be utterly enthralled with the brilliance of this show. Carnivale is "out of the box" thinking, which I always love, so unless you enjoy the same old, same old programming, give Carnivale a whirl. It's worth your viewing pleasure!
This show is slightly intresting but it moves to slow. They could make it a little more fast paced and im sure that it would really pick up, but I read in somebodys review I think it might have gotten cancelled. If thats the case than thats sad cause it had potential. Anyway I still like it.
Some shows take a little time to get off the ground. It is such a shame that this one is ending. I only heard of it this year. I went back and watched season 1 and was instantly hooked. Since then, I\'ve told friends about it, and they love it too. I am so disappointed that it is over...but isn\'t that the way with so many great shows.
I think a reason why it might not have got the viewership it deserved is that it had a slightly lagged pace. I, personally, enjoyed it, but I can see how someone might get bored.
If you\'ve never watched, you should definitely check it out.
This show... I'm not sure what to say. The plot, the cinematography, the detail, the gawdy rowdy creepy deadly slow show... The most amazing display of life on the edge of death and depression in the Great Dustbowl of the Depression, the age when science was just coming to our daily lives and still seemed like magic... the leaps of faith that people made, the traveling snake-oil salesman going religious. The fight of the small against the large. It's the strangest mind-trip, and yet so amazingly beautiful. It's dirty and grubby, and utterly perfect. And then they canceled it before it was done. I know they said it was meant to end, but what a rip-off! What c op-out! It was a perfect show, adn they ended it without a resolution? I took so much on faith getting those DVD's. I was intent on the show, careful not to spoil a single aspect of it - and they let me down. That pisses me off. So, though it was everything that magic should be, and the mystery was something deep and terrifying - something so rare and precious on TV - I can't rate it the 10 it deserves, because they dorked it up in the end and left it a cliffhanger cancelation. .
Set in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl, 18-year old Ben Hawkins finds himself all alone in this world when his mother passes on. But a travelling Carnivale takes him in. We also see the story of Brother Justin, a priest who is trying to find his way in the world. Little do Ben and Justin know, but they are to fight in a biblical battle. The only negative feedback I have to give this show is that it took to long to start. It get's really interesting after the 10th hour of season one which is way to long. This is one of the reason it is probably gone and off air, because the second season was super and very interesting. People probably decided to quit after 5 or 6 episodes and never came back. To bad because it was one hell of a show.
I really like this TV show. From many reasons. Can't say that it is my top fav, but still-it has something what other series don't. First of all, it's not predictable :) They allways came up with something new and it leaves you confused all the time. Next thing is the stage. Stage ROCKS! It is truly beautiful, so well 'painted.' Image is just so real and so out of date. Okay next thing which counts for me is, that Carnivale is comic related and I < 3 comics :D No need to mention characters, actors, plot bc they are all so great, really great.
If you like mystery, old times and 'good-evil tales' with religious background then this is a MUST!!!
This is in my opinion one of the most if not the most original show of all time. It had an erie feeling it was full of wonder. At the begining everything was a mysterey then things started unfolding. THe first seaon was a little slow but once the second season started it really got going. I like Samson the midget manager. Clancy Brown as the evil preacher was great. He was evil, a rapist and made you hate him because he was a preacher. The last two episodes were great. I waited for the third season but it never came. It only lastted two seasons because of HBO. Just like deadwood it got cancelled. I liked it more than the Sopranos and Deadwood. On HBO anything can get cancelled.
Carnivale was a television series, in the same way that Babylon 5 was a television series. They both had planned out a set number of seasons from the very beginning, dictating which paths their stories would go on and exactly when to end their character arcs. The trouble with planning out these "Books in television format" is that the network might not allow your full dream to come to fruition. While Babylon 5 is an example of a show succeeding in this format, Carnivale is sadly a failed example.
That is not to say, however, that Carnivale is a failure of a television show. On the contrary, Carnivale was a great series, albeit not one that most viewers are used to. Carnivale moved at a much slower pace than most other shows, but this only showcased the beautiful cinematography and the bleakness of the setting. This show made you really feel like the characters are alive in the 1930s, and it felt very much like a period piece. The acting is also something to be praised. The two leads, Nick Stahl and Clancy Brown, are both fantastic in their portrayals of these deep and morally dubious characters, and the rest of the cast is solid as well. In fact, Carnivale is one of the few television shows where I can honestly say that no one in the cast was a weak link.
But the mythology of the show was what intrigued me the most about Carnivale. Creator Daniel Knauf took influence from bits and pieces of other fiction and used them to create a somewhat original yet very engaging world of magic and surprise. The story of the Avatars is one I truly wish to see expanded upon, as it is completely ripe with potential for more adventures. Ultimately Carnivale did not bring in enough viewers to justify its massive budget, and was abruptly cancelled in its second season. As a result, the final episodes feel a bit rushed and are not up to par with the rest of the series. Although the series finale is good, it leaves us on such a cliffhanger that it is almost impossible not to be disappointed. I am unsure if we will ever get to see a true conclusion to Carnivale, but I hope against hope that it does happen, because this show is too great to be cast aside.
Ben Hawkins finds himself all alone when his mother passes on until a Carnivale takes him in. We also see the story of Brother Justin, a priest who is trying to find his way. They are to fight in a biblical battle. Which side are they each on?
This was one of the weirdest fiction series I watched. I did not watched the first couple of episodes but when I caught on of the episodes, I was hooked. What I like about the series the most is the storyline and the characters. Anyone who have not seen this series at all, I think you will like this on if you like series that are somewhat off the charts. Also, have drama mixed in with the storyline. I was glad I was able to watch the series when it was airing and I could caught on television. The series was great and I wish anyone good luck at trying to find the series if you are interested in see it.
carnivale is outstanding. the charaters are in place just like on a chess board. perfectly acted by the cast. the producers, directors and cast have an everlasting fan in me. i even got my husband into it. carnivale is also one of those very informative shows that's so close to reality. the cast are just perfect for their parts. they tell the story line so well. the demon/preacher and the boy are telling the tale of so many churches today. the healing part gets me because, so many needs healing and the sense not to forget where everyone comes from.it hits every aspect of life.
Carnivale is the story of a travelling carnival troupe set in the 1930's when times were different and mysticism was still a regular part of life. It revolved around Ben Hawkins and his mission to save the world.
Carnivale was easily one of the most well thought, well written, and most original shows on television and was axed way before its time. This show had characters way before Lost, Grey's Anatomy or Heroes ever came along, brought us into a world so far removed from our own you literally got lost in it. The human emotion mixed with the mysticism and spiritual beliefs led to a tension and excitement you just do not see in most shows today. The truly sad part is that the only award this show ever received were technical merits, which were incredible but they were not what drove this show. You cannot separate the incredible acting, writing, directing, set design, costumes and special effects and pick out just one that deserves an award...they were all incredible. A sad loss to television when one of the top three shows on gets cancelled due to reasons unknown to most people.
I loved this show and followed it from the moment it premiered to the moment it was over. This was, by far, this best show on T.V. while it was on. The characters and plot were so interesting and compelling that it was very hard to not fall in love with them and the show. While the actors weren't the best in the biz, the show rarely faltered because of it.
I almost cried when I found out it had been canceled. I will miss this show for no other show can beat it. Not even Queer as Folk, which also kicked ass.
The first season of Carnivàle was groundbreaking, breathtaking, and completely impossible not to watch with your eyes glued to the screen. They teased us, we wanted more - everyone wanted to solve the mysteries. Well, all well so far. I do think season two ended on a very anticlimactic low-note, and if I had my wish I'd want them to reshoot the finale, and move on to a third season. Alas, it was not to be. For shame.
Intelligent, profound, atmospheric and enthralling all at the same time. It's so far outside the 'safe zone' for modern mainstream TV that it seems like a bit of a carnival freak itself - it's gritty and dirty, and full of bizarre characters interacting in often unsettling ways.
The premise of the show is a traveling carnival touring America during the Great Depression. This is just the back story though - it's not what the show is actually about. The show is really about an epic battle between Good and Evil - or in the Tarot terminology of the opening sequence, between the Sun and the Moon.
The acting is outstanding - each role has been cast to perfection , and the actors play the parts with conviction - something that can't have been easy considering how dark a lot of the subject matter is.
The dialogue is sometimes a little lacking - but that is part of the characterisation. The main character begins as a surly, secretive road-gang refugee. His reticence and unwillingness to interact is a necessary device to reflect how alien and unfamiliar his surroundings have become.
Considering the theme, one would be forgiven for expecting the standard 'comedy drama' that is so common on our screens. There is very little comedy in Carnivale. There's the occasional laugh, but the vast majority of the show is dark and unrelenting - murders, rapes, a father who pimps out his wife and daughters, lynchings, arson... there is no depth of depravity that Carnivale doesn't explore in its journey.
In the process, we're treated to some excellent reflections on the nature of good and evil - the portrayal of the struggle is not at all black and white. For a long time, it's difficult to see whether it is the charismatic man of God or the secretive murderer that will become the 'bad guy'.
I recommend this show whole-heartedly. Even if it is dark and unyielding, there is a hope and an optimism that shines through and overall inspires.
Carnivale was to good of a show for its time. It was under appreciated and not understood. This was a deep show that dealt with the scary side of spirituality. This was a show that presented the fight between good and evil in a way that has never been shown before. Unfortunatly, HBO decided to cancel this masterpeice even though it got more ratings than other renewed shows. Carnivale had some interesting characters played by very talented actors. This was a very mysterious show that did not have a proper ending. There are only twenty four episodes and no conclusion. I would still recommend this show to anyone who is interested in the great depression, California's Central Valley, the Carnivale, or the book of Revelation.
While ordinarily, such a plot and such a show would be hard to swallow, if not impossible. The sheer audacity, however, is brilliantly countered by superb writing, excellent castings, perfect characterization, and the visually obvious higher standard to
The idea of a shyster, rising to power on the winds of religion, countered by the true power hidden within a bumbling exterior, even when set in the depression of 1930's America, is by no means original. The storyline, far from being unique, would otherwise be corny and trite. The skill with which Carnivale was written, however, belies such critiques, as the show, throughout both full seasons, surpassed all expectation. The writing, superb on its own merits, was masterfully manipulated, revealing in perfect timing each new piece of the puzzle that ultimately formed. The characters, ably-acted and well written, are believable and sincere, something many such plotlines cannot claim. Finally, however, the sheer visual prowess of this HBO produced show lent credence to an otherwise tempting soap opera. While not by any means perfect, nor the best of this genre, Carnivale ranks among the best mythos story I've ever seen on television. It is both a shame and a crime that the third, potential season was canceled, leaving the story as a whole incomplete. Mythology in general is hard to manipulate, and Carnivale did a remarkable job.
Ben Hawkins, a normal farmbooy who lost everything, begins a point of transition in his life that will reveal his true nature, gain friends, and begin a crusade to vanquish his counter-self.
His counterself is a priest who has many followers and shares the unique prespective of "good" which in this case means to be rather subjective, with his sister by his side he is guided through the so called "righteous path". The characters in this show are truly unique in a way that they don't shallow themselves in the outside world of the depression.
I truly loved this show it is truly shamefull that they never brought it back.
I refuse to have faith in any studio or producer anymore unless they give some kind of closure to a story being produced. If its not making money, at least give your loyal watchers the curtesy of a fitting ending. Put out a book if you have to but FINISH it!
A thouroughly intriguing show that captivates with wonder. I'll warn that it is very slow, but it is filled with puzzles that slowly come together to form the story that will keep you coming back for more if you can survive being ticked off when they go unaswered for a long time. It is by far one of the coolest shows on TV, actually it just got cancelled, which is why its not a 10. The story comes to an ubrupt end, almost a cliffhanger of sorts. Thus, to be a 10 it needs closure via a final season.
My final review: definaltely worth watching if you have the patience to sit through it.
'Before the beginning, after the great war between Heaven and Hell, God created the Earth and gave dominion over it to the crafty ape he called man. And to each generation was born a creature of light and a creature of darkness...'
I've finally got round to watching Carnivale (after ages) and quite frankly I've been blown away by it. The show's two seasons packed in high drama, some wry comedy and an labyrinthine plot encompassing Masonic lore, mythology, spiritualism and the age-old struggle of good and evil.
In 1934, a young fugitive named Ben Hawkins is taken in by a travelling carnival that is passing his hometown in Oklahoma. Amongst the carnival's attractions include a tarot reader named Sofie and her catatonic mother, a bearded lady, siamese twins, a blind mentalist named Lodz, a snake-charmer called Ruthie and the Dreifuss family who run the strip tent. Ben seems like a regular young man- but he harbours a great talent. He has an almost messianic power to heal- but it comes at a price. Ben has cryptic, prophetic and terrifying dreams which he shares with a Methodist preacher- Brother Justin Crowe- who resides in Mintern, California. Justin has powers of his own and, believing he is doing God's work, follows a path that leads to darkness and tragedy. As the carnival comes ever closer to California, a meeting between Ben and Brother Justin becomes inevitable. But who stands for good and who for evil?
The show is very stylish and stylised. The whole look and feel of the show is incredibly authentic. Indeed the art direction, cinematography, hairstyling and costumes were all honoured at the 2004 Emmys. A particular shoutout must go to the opening credits sequence- one of the best to be seen on TV. A rich mix of tarot imagery intermixed with scenes from 1930s Dustbowl America which helps to set the central premise of the show up. Also, Jeff Beal's music is some of the best I've heard.
Performances are strong all across the board and it seems unfair to really single anyone out for particular praise. Nick Stahl is great as Ben who- like the audience- learns about his powers, his heritage and the future piece by piece. Playing his opposite, Clancy Brown puts in a tour-de-force performance as Brother Justin. Charismatic and smooth-voiced, he is capable of turning on a sixpence to reveal his more sinister side. He is never better than orating one of the brilliantly-written blood-and-thunder evangelical sermons Justin is given as the show continues.
Clea DuVall plays Sofie particularly well, too. A shame that the show was cancelled when it was as Sofie's character was starting to really come into her own. Adrienne Barbeau is strong as snake-charmer Ruthie (one of my personal favourite characters), whilst Cynthia Ettinger and Carla Gallo give very earthy and real performances as mother and daughter strippers Rita Sue and Libby. Tim DeKay is also particularly good as carnival roustie Jonesy (and he's damn handsome too). Another standout is Oscar-nominee Amy Madigan who plays Justin's protective older sister Iris, a seemingly dowdy and plain old spinster who will do anything to help her brother succeed. To wrap up the great performances is Michael J. Anderson as carnival manager Samson. Anderson is perhaps better as the backward spouting midget in the red suit from Twin Peaks, a show which shares some qualities with Carnivale in a way.
Show creator Daniel Knauf has originally conceived Carnivale as a six-season show, with each set of two seasons comprising one book. Despite being popular with fans, HBO cancelled the show in 2005 as it concluded its second season, leaving viewers on one almighty cliffhanger. Here's hoping they see the error of their ways and we can get to see the rest of this sumptuous vision as we were meant to.
This show was one of the most entrtaining shows that i have seen on tv for many years . More tv or cable shows should follow in this format. although you must follow this program every week like many others the way the story is laid out is very entertaining and follows history pretty well.
Just when I found you... You were gone!! This show takes place in a depression era, with unique and diverse characters in a traveling freak circus. I personally get the creeps with Brother Justin, dosen't anyone remember him in "Pet Semetary"??? eww.
Addictive writing, storylines, and characters. Just as it was getting good, it ends??? What the::::? Why go through that entire Brother Justin/Ben saga and build us up to../that? If HBO had planned on cutting production, then they never should have led us up to the drastically cut finale. Is it just me? Do any of you share my opinion?
I've watched ever episode of Carnivale about 4 times and love it more each time. It's a crime that it was taken of air with so much more left to offer. Just as you get hooked and beg for more they cut it short. I can't beleive there ain't going to be a third season. The end of season two left so many unanswered questions and set it's self up for a third season nicely. But the bosses at HBO decided that the story had gone far enough and ended the series. I'm gutted that it ended after only two season but loved every minute of them.
Amazing, simply amazing show. Brutal, wicked, magical authentic and honest. I cannot believe the cancelled this work of art so soon. I admire the writers and everyone involved so much.
I initially crossed over from BSG, because I knew they had the same writers, and what a pleasant surprise.
I understand now why a show about a travelling carnival in the dust bowl of the thirties could work so well. You become enraptured in a really special way from watching it, it truly is it's own universe. And a universe where anything is possible, where good and evil combat in the eternal struggle.
Cannot recommend it enough, especially if you liked Twin Peaks and the X-files.
Innovative, spine tingling and original this was one of my all time favourite shows until it got the chop.
Based on the usual popular motif of one young boy and his destiny, this show was original in its setting. That being a circus carnivale around the depression era. It is dark and gruesome and sometimes uncomfortable to watch but at the same time truly compelling and rewarding. Clancy Brown is a standout as the priest with alterior motives and a young Nick Stahl is impressive too as Ben Hawkins. If you enjoyed shows like Twin Peaks and/or David Lynch movies then this show is one not to miss!!!
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