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.
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 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...
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.
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.
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...
This show has a wonderful cast with a wide array of characters that leaves you wanting more up until the very last episode. This show is extremely unique and its sad to think that there is no other show like it.
This is one of my favorite shows of all time. I also had the unfortunate luck of finding out about this show well after it had been canceled. When I finished the first two seasons and knew there was no more I felt like I wanted to cry. So many questions were left unanswered. I'm sure if they ever brought this show back they would see a considerable rise in new viewers as many people I talked to also started watching after it was canceled. It's so sad to think that a show with terrific acting, a highly addictive story, and of all around high quality could fall into the abyss as it did. We can only hope that a mini-series develops from this story but with HBO clinging to the rights and the actors all in different areas now it appears unlikely.
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.
Set in the 1930s Dust Bowl, a traveling Carnival finds Ben Hawkins and not by chance, but because the mysterious Management led them. He represents the creature of light.
On the other hand we have Brother Justin Crowe with the help of his sister Iris, preaching his beliefs tries to gain followers. He represents the creature of dark.
They don't know it but they are destined to battle in a biblical fight. They have to find and kill the person that will give them the power, Ben Hawkins has to kill Belyakov and Brother Justin to Scudder respectively.
Great sets, wonderful costumes, creates the atmosphere of the time, and takes you to a awesome trip full of magic and mystery. Very well done, engaging and intriguing.
I watched this show due to someone's advice and I wasn't disappointed.
Its mythology and overall story was brilliant, the photography was fantastic, costumes and make-up equally great, the characters and actors portraying them were pretty damned good... and I think HBO should have allowed it to be completed as the creator imagined it, if nothing else, because it was such a well made piece of art... ars gratia arsis.
HBO disagreed and I will hate them for that always. Not like they care, but I still will.
If by any (small) chance you're deciding whether to watch it or not and you think my opinion counts, then do watch it. Really.
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.
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.
I have fell in love with HBO produced TV. this is one of the best .Its just a shame it finished early and without a final episode that wrapped up the series neatly. Non the less its definately worth the watch. The characters in this show are amazing and the story is brilliant. After finishing the final episode i spent hours on the internet looking for more. Like a junkie i need more! But unfortunately all the good tv shows are expensive to produce and usually discovered as remarkably brilliant shows long after they have been cancelled. But if your looking for something else after watching Carnivale i suggest The Wire or Deadwood.
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.
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 have watched this show over and over again, and I must say that few shows catch me even a second time. It has a twisted thrillercomedy-feeling that should be intriguing for most, especially David Lynch-fans.
Nick Stahl's interpretation of Ben Hawkins is great, but even greater is Michael J. Anderson's roleplaying as Samson. Anderson is mostly recognised for his role as the wierd dwarf in Twin Peaks, but I must say that his performance in Carnivale is far greater. A third actor worthly to be mentioned is Clancy Brown. He plays a wierd priest named brother Justin, and if Stahl is the hero of this show, Brown is surely the antihero.
However, I think this is one of HBO's finest productions, and thereby one of the greatest ever produced.
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.
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.
Carnivale was an immense biblical epic that could have been the greatest work of art ever if it had gotten to finish its story. The large complicated story arcs and countless breathtaking, haunting moments will never be forgotten. It is so sad that the HBO network just dropped this show that was supposed to go on for six long seasons after only two. So many of the wonderfully fascinating mysteries of the show were left unsolved because of lack of patience and understanding. Seeing something of this quality just makes me more ashamed of the award shows that give out high praise to such crap. The creator Daniel Knauf and the engaging cast went totally unnoticed. People like Clancy Brown and Michael J. Anderson were finally given the attention they deserved as actors in Carnivale. I can only hope that someday in the future it will finally be embraced by more people the way it should've been.
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. .
Amazing. Set in the 1930s in dustbowl America, we follow a healer who battles with his identity as he is taken on in a travelling carnivale.Complete with bearded lady,mystic,snake charmer,midget,evil priest,tarot reader and sisters joined at the hip, this dark tale similar to Twin Peaks is a gripping watch indeed. Filmed beautifully and in the same vein as Funland, Deadwood, and Twin Peaks. I wish there were more television like this out there. The ending of Season two is a bit disappointing as decisions to carry into season 3 must have been canned. A silly idea. Why does great television like this always get pulled? Because its not manstream. But thats why I like 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.
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!
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!
Carnavale will go down in the history of television along with Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Twin Peaks. Too smart and too good for there own good.
The cast, the writing and the direction were as close to perfect as television gets. Some have said that the show moved to slow, but I disagree. The pace of the show was perfect. Unlike other episodic shows where viewers are sometimes strung along for weeks without any real plot movement(That's why I don't watch Lost), Carnivale always kept the plot moving. Sometimes that movement wasn't appearant at the time, but it always came back to the story line.
Shame on HBO for leaving the fans of this show so high and dry with so many unanswered questions. Please just one more season to wrap things up. Please.
Carnivalé is the story of Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin Crowe. Good and evil. Ben Hawkins begins to display healing powers as he travels with a band or carnies and Bother Justin discovers his inner demon in his church.
The show was laced with mystery and by the end of the series you will be left wanting more. Unfortunately it prematurely ended. When I first watched Carnivalé I didn't know it had been canceled, and had the same perspective as a viewer watching it for the first time. Towards the end of watching the first season I read on the internet of it's terrible fate. Immediately I went out and bought the first two seasons on DVD. If you're thinking about watching this don't think another second. Carnivalé is a malicious story with extraordinary characters. A must see.
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