HBO (ended 2005)





Carnivale Fan Reviews (104)

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out of 10
2,462 votes
  • The confrontation between light and dark occurs every generation, and in America in the 1920's, as depression and dust scourge the land, a carnivale worker named Hawkins and a preacher named Justin decide this generations fate.


    This is a show that will be recognized far into the future, when other trite television series staring boring suburban homemakers is long forgotten.

    Every single detail becomes important, if not to the plot, to the charcters. This is a layered show that begs to be watched and rewatched, as you witness the tragic undoing and hopefull revival of the lives being displayed for us. The depression was a terrible time, one that many people today couldn't hope to understand, but I feel that the showrunners, directors, and writers for Carnivale have a sense of desperate times and what one must do to survive. Throw in some of the most exciting mythology a show has ever had (who dosn't love tarot cards?) and what you get is a show far beyond the measure of many.

    Understandable why HBO cancelled it, but still a terrible decision for the artistic and thought provoking story will remain untold. Hopefully, like in the show, there is hope, and one day we will see the creative staff brought back so they may finish their tale.
  • 100% origional.funny.sad.scary all at the same time.truly an origional that many didnt appreciate.

    ben hawkins had powers since he was born he inherited them from his absent father,a magician who traveled with a circus called 'the carnivale'
    and so does ben slowly discovering his powers while a preist discovers his own that were buried in his subconciuos.
    this was the best show from fx 289 ever.
    its origional.artistic in some ways. and i hope the second season makes it to england.
  • The supernatural show that can connect to just about everyone.

    This show is absolutely wonderful. What was HBO thinking when they axed it? The show revolves around a guy named Ben Hawkins, and his life after joining a traveling carnival, Carnivale, after his mother dies. The show takes place in the 1930's, during the dust bowl, and the great depression. The Carnivale has many "freaks" who you can't help but love and hate at the same time. Theres everything from the bearded lady-to the snake charmer. While they go from town to down, Ben learns more and more about his father, Scudder. We also see the life of a priest in California, Brother Justin, who is less then holy. The show makes you wonder more and more with every episode. If you love a show that will make you think, and keep you guessing, then this is the one for you!
  • One of the freshest and boldest fantasy shows ever made. I only hope that some network exec has the sense to pick this series up for another season or two (are you listening, Scifi Network?)

    Wow! What a show! Fresh! Frightening! Funny! (Samson is always good for a chuckle)

    Hard to believe they decided to drop it, as it has a huge following, and good ratings for a sci-fi show on a network (HBO) that's not especially known for sci-fi stuff.

    This show has scenes and images I will never forget. It was only just getting started, with really only the introduction to the story being told.

    This show (and it's EXCELLENT cast), have so much more to offer both the audience and the intelligent network that snatches it up for renewal.

    Us fans can just hope and pray.
  • The slightly paranormal adventures of a carnivale traveling across the southern US in the 1930's.

    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.
  • A battle between good and evil is building up in the era of the dustbowl, only to find itself fizzle out as its network makes a huge mistake and cancels 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.

    Hbo is really starting to t me off. First they scrap oz after 6 great seasons. Now they are gonna scrap carnivale after ONLY 2 seasons. Carnivale was truly original not like all these stupid crime dramas on now. So of course they gotta cancel it. HBO PLEASE MAKE ANOTHER
  • 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.
  • Its good vs evil set on the backdrop of the 30\'s dust bowl era.

    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 End Times occuring in a 1930's traveling carnivale. A show to good for its time.

    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.
  • Exotique, c'est le premier mot qui me viens à l'esprit pour décrire Carnivale. S'il vous plait messieurs De HBO, faites que Carnivale reviennes pour une troisième saison.

    Une trame bien distillée, des acteurs magnifiques et un scénario à toute épreuve. un show atypique, un peu déstabilisant certes, mais tellement jouissif et tellement en contradiction avec les standards connus.
    Le show vient de se terminé en France, et je ne peux me résoudre à ne plus retrouvé Samson et toute la bande à la rentrée prochaine.

    SVP messieurs de HBO, oubliez vos objectifs de rentabilité et laissez vivre carnivale.
  • Best show on TV ever

    I have watched many shows over the years, and never have I gotten so attached to a show like Carnivale. No show that I have watched has ever come even close to the complexity and wonderful storyline than this show. This is, quite simply, the best TV show period. It really saddens me that HBO cancelled such a masterpiece only to replace it with dull teenage programming such as Entourage or The Comeback.
  • This dust-bowl era drama held more than met the eye.

    This show will be missed in our home. We looked forward to it every week, and thanks to Tivo usually watched each episode more than once to make sure we didn't miss a thing.

    The characters were amazing and the acting was superb. Too bad that no enough people watched it. I did my best getting 10-20 people turned onto the show over the 2 year span.

    It was just too good and too expensive to keep up. Which is a shame. Once Six Feet Under ends this summer I will be canceling my HBO subscription. There just isn't anything on there to compare, and bring me back.

  • Carnivale is (was) one of the best shows that HBO ever had to offer. Nothing else can compare to the fascinating story of good versus evil, the characters, and the anticipation of the next episode. Quality television, buried alive.

    Carnivale is one of the best series HBO has ever aired. One can only hope that the story will be continued and the final battle of good and evil will be played out. Perhaps some other network will be looking at the possibility of continuing the story. Every Sunday Night, my wife and I would be glued to the television, not wanting to miss even a second of this fascinating and captivating series. Taping every episode, just in case we missed a single line was standard practice. The program has a most interesting premise and setting. The characters, story line, plots, and twists all leave the viewer wanting it to never end. Truly, Carnivale is great TV. Why HBO would opt to pull the plug on Carnivale and leave trash like Real Sex on the air is beyond me. Anyone who is a fan needs to express his or her feelings...maybe it will move someone to keep a good thing going.
  • Carnivale rocks! 3words? Beautiful, dusty, profound.

    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!!!

    ps: hope I didn't freak you out with R word :P
  • This is a little gem of a television show ...

    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.

    Bring it back HBO!

  • Excellent...astounding...addicting...and a variety of other praising words.

    I just recently became a fan of the canceled HBO series "Carnivale", all due to a friend who I met through a "Miracles" forum. He had told me about the series several times before I actually decided to check it out, and by that time the show was off the air and I had to download it. I was pleasantly surprised to see how addicting and beautiful the show was, despite the fact that it moved slowly.

    The main character - Ben - is taken in by a traveling carnival after the death of his mother, who believed him evil because of an experience he had as a child. Over the course of the series we begin to see that Ben is a very special boy with God-given powers. Of course, everything has an opposite and his enemy comes in the form of a Protestant preacher who believes himself to be carrying out the acts of God, when actually he is doing evil.

    "Carnivale", as mentioned before, is a beautiful series. Each episode is brilliantly done and feels like a movie rather than a show. However, due to it's lack of viewers, HBO couldn't afford to keep it on, as the show is so expensive to produce, but it's certainly a shame the show got canceled so quickly.
  • Unlike anything I've ever seen...

    This show is wonderfully Great - 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!
  • 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?
  • Unique Series

    Just recently the series Rome started. Believe it or not HBO did more advertisement with it than any of their releases. Unbelievable. Anyway they did not do the same thing for Carnivale. Carnivale some may not know, is one of the best around. Put it Back on Air. Right ON
  • A plea for good tv.

    This was easly the best show on TV. We need more shows like this. If you're interested in the campaign, head over to It wouldn't hurt to join the yahoo carnivale hbo group either. It isn't too late - let's let the people in charge know how much we need this show!
  • Bring back TV's treasure.

    Here's ten things you can do to help get my favorite show back on the air.

    1. Send a telegram, letter, or email to HBO and voice your opinion!
    2. Cancel your subscription to the network and let your cable company know why!

    3. Buy a copy of the Season 1 DVD and have a viewing party for those who haven’t seen the show!

    4. Join our discussion group and visit our website to share your ideas and resources!

    5. Contact local news companies and printed press and let them know about the campaign!

    6. Email TV and Entertainment Critics!

    7. Buy Save Carnivàle merchandise and wear it proudly!

    8. Download our flyer and use it to reach out to other fans!

    9. Vote on surveys and polls online requesting the show’s return!

    10. Donate a copy of the Season 1 DVDs to your local library!
  • This show NEEDS to be on TV.

    Look, all I have to say is that HBO made it's biggest mistake yet in cancelling this show - especially to put in a show like Rome! Carnivale is what got me back into TV. Without it, I wouldn't have found fantastic shows like Six Feet Under. I'm going to end up canning my hbo if they don't bring this back.
  • The ultimate show.

    Wow, what can you say about carnivale? This was honestly the perfect show. It had everything you could want. It was cutting edge. It had great, memorable characters. Best of all, it was thought provoking. We nee more shows like this one! What can we do to bring it back?
  • Pure fucking genius!

    In a day and age where reality tv is consuming our daily programs, we NEED more shows like carnivale. Carnivale wasn't just a sunday night reason to watch tv. It was something I brought with me to work on monday morning. It was something I talked about with my friends all week. It was something I watched again on wednesday! We have to get this show back on tv. HBO was stupid to ever let it go.
  • Carnivale is/was the best show on TV. Please bring it back!!!!!

    HBO should have never cancelled this show. It is the most amazing show I've seen. everything about Carnivale is incredible, the music, the art and costumes, even the credits, and especially the writing and acting! It is everything HBO claims to be, thought-provoking, groundbreaking....etc. With out this show HBO lost a lot of that. I hope that the story will be told in a form that will do it justice. I can't wait to know what happens, since we were left in such a cliffhanger...oh wait I forgot, that was a "natural ending". This show needs to be given another chance with better promotion(which is not much)!
  • Good vs. evil, a mystery, a historical drama that's pure Americana, with some sex and nudity thrown in. They don't come any better - what was HBO thinking when they cancelled this show?

    This show is unique. A multi-layered mystery playing good vs. evil, it is full of images that will haunt you forever. (Who can forget Dora Mae at the window in Babylon?)

    Good and evil, in the form of "avatars" - one man in each generation to represent the right and left hand of God - battling each other down through the ages, until the long struggle culminates in the end of the age of avatars, in a travelling carnival in America's 1930's dustbowl.

    The music will haunt you, too. And a script that winds over and around itself, foreshadowing and repeating themes until we catch on. And there's sex and passion - between adults, not Barbie and Ken look-alikes. And love, hate - well you get the idea.

    Then HBO cancelled it one third of the way through! Are they nuts?
  • One of the greatest tv shows ever.

    Wonderful show, bring it back! Isn't there room for some thought provoking television somewhere? We need more TV like this. I feel HBO let it go because most people didn't understand it. I feel Sci-fi always has to overcome the nay sayers. The writing, acting, and special effects were outstanding on this show. Yet it was passed over at the Emmys? Other TV pales next to it. After it was cancelled I tried to watch "Lost" to consoul myself. I couldn't believe how much of a higher standard Carnival had.
  • This is, without a doubt, the best show to ever grace the presence of television as we know it. I encourage all to watch it, and to spread the word of this revolutionary story, with plots and characters one could not find anywhere else in the world.

    I first caught Carnivale mid-way through the second season. I, like many others, have been a subscriber to HBO for several years now, though I had no idea that such a show even existed. One night, whilst doing the laundry, I happened to walk by the TV, and something caught my eye. More than just background noise, what I saw on the screen made me stop and take a second look. I sat down and did not move until the show was over and have been addicted ever since, and spreading the word also. My friends and family have all started watching it since I told them about it. The show must be brought back to the screen!!! So many unanswered questions...Words do not describe the loss that I feel, as do all of those who I know.
  • It was too good for HBO though.

    The problem with Networks like HBO and Showtime is that they start to hyperventilate when a programs ratings began to fall off due to the fact that every plot twist and turn is not being spoon fed to the audience. If Carnivale had started out on SciFi or FX we would probably still be enjoying the gem every week.
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