1934. The Dustbowl. The last great age of magic. In a time of titanic sandstorms, vile plagues, drought and pistilence - signs of God's fury and harbingers of the Apocalypse - the final conflict between good and evil is ab... more »out to begin. The battle will take place in the Heartland of an empire called America. And when it is over, man will forever trade away wonder for reason. See the conflict of good vs. evil played out against a pair of vivid and unusual backdrops: a traveling carnival working the American Dustbowl circuit, and an evangelical ministry in California. DVD Features:
Audio Commentary:3 Audio Commentaries with Creator Daniel Knauf, Executive Producer Howard Klein and Directors Rodrigo Garcia and Jeremy Podeswa
Featurette:"Making of Carnivale" Featurette detailing how set and costume designers collaborated to achieve the look of the Dustbowl in the 1930s« less
Windy B. (Snowbird) from PULLMAN, WV Reviewed on 3/1/2013...
If this is the 'best' HBO has to offer, I definitely do NOT want to see any of their others.
If only someone, in their comments about it, would have seen fit to mention the partial nudity, profanity and sex, I wouldn't have wasted my credits on it.
Now, I'm not only out the credits, I'm out anything to trade because I'll not pass something like this on to someone else.
Overlooking the partial nudity, profanity and sex, found this series totally boring.
After only 4 episodes, I decided I'd seen enough and the whole thing is going in the burn barrel.
0 of 14 member(s) found this review helpful.
Aileen W. from BRANDON, FL Reviewed on 7/9/2011...
I had passed up this series when it was on HBO. I thought a show about carny's... I am sad to say I should have given it a chance. After seeing this 1st season I know I would have loved for there to have been at least a few more seasons beyond 2. The feel of the movie all the props everything is completely to the period. It is more about the life they live not just the carnival.
6 of 6 member(s) found this review helpful.
Darlene L. (Earthnut) from YUKON, OK Reviewed on 5/8/2011...
Awesome, loving it and looking forward to seeing season 2 and then 3.
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jim W. (Bonez) from COVINGTON, WA Reviewed on 1/29/2011...
Excellent series, will keep you guessing what could happen next and what will they try to make a living. Looking forward to the second season.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michael H. (MikeH) from MILWAUKEE, WI Reviewed on 1/19/2010...
One of the most interesting shows produced. Not as subtle as some things I've watched, but hey, if you want subtle you don't watch a series about a traveling freak show and the manifestation of evil.
3 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
The first steps to trading away wonder for reason
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 12/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Carnivàle" is part of small but growing number of quality television shows that are committed to the sort of lengthy and complex story arc that was once the province of the mini-series. But shows like "Wiseguy" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in the past and current offerings such as "24" and "Lost" have paved the way for television shows that emphasize the big picture rather than the more traditional episodic approach. As such, "Carnivàle" is most similar to "Lost," in that we are pretty sure we know what will happen at the end of the journey, but we have no idea how many seasons down the road that end game will be played out. Does creator Daniel Knauf ("Wolf Lake") have an ambitious five-year plan similar to what J. Michael Straczynski had in mind from the start for "Babylon 5"? We will have to wait and see.
With a show like "Carnivàle" it is easy (and fun) to play with various antecedents that explain the series in simple but readily understood terms. From the start I was thinking of the show as a cross between John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," Tod Browning's "Freaks," and Stephen King's "The Stand," all of which I consider to be classics in their respective genres. But there are other options as well (with Michael J. Anderson in the cast "Twin Peaks" becomes an obvious choice), which simply speaks to the potential of "Carnivàle" to resonate with its viewers.
The premise of the show is provided as the opening narration: "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. And great armies clashed by night in the ancient war between good and evil. There was magic then, nobility, and unimaginable cruelty. And so it was until the day that a false sun exploded over Trinity, and man forever traded away wonder for reason." The words are spoken by Samson (Anderson), who runs the traveling circus called Carnivàle, but answers to the unseen "Management" figure (voiced by an uncredited Linda Hunt).
While traveling across the Oklahoma Dust Bowl in 1934, the Carnivàle comes across Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), who has escaped from prison and returned home in time to watch his mother (Lucinda Jenney) die and bury here before the tractors level their shack. Management wants Ben to join the caravan and given his predicament with the law, he agrees. As the Carnivàle travels down to Texas we learn that Ben is plagued by strange visions of the trenches in the Great War and that he has the power to heal. Meanwhile, in the California town of Mintern a minister named Brother Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown) believes that God is telling him what to minister to the growing number of Okies and other migrant workers streaming west, fleeing the Dust Bowl. Those who oppose Brother Justin's plans find themselves punished for standing in the way.
Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin are the creatures of light and darkness foretold, and while their visions contain glimpses of each other, they are not going to meet during this first season of "Carnivàle." Their meeting is inevitable and clearly will constitute the apocalyptic conclusion of this series, but at this point they are still coming to terms with their places in this strange universe. Each man is trying to find out about their mysterious past, where they came from, and what they can do with their powers. Eventually they will have to decide what they should do with those powers and at the end of the first season they face what will certainly be the first of several escelating crucibles.
While the focus is primarily on Ben Hawkins getting used to his power and Brother Justin doing his work with his older sister, Iris (Amy Madigan), there is also life in the travelling circus during the Great Depression. Ben is of interest to Lodz (Patrick Bachauh), a mentalist who takes an active interest in the young man's powers and who is involved with Lila (Debra Christofferson), the bearded lady. Meanwhile, Ben has taken an interest in Ruthie (Adrienne Barbeau), the snake charmer who is also the mother of the strong man, Gabriel (Brian Turk). The person interested in Ben romantically appears to be Sophie (Clea DuVall), the tarot card reader who is also the medium for her comatose mother, Apollonia (Diane Salinger), who is pyschic. Jonesy (Tim Dekay), the manger of the rousties, is in love with Sophie, but he gets involved with the Dreifuss family that runs the Cootch Show, Stumpy (Toby Huss), the father who is the emcee, mother Rita Sue (Cynthia Ettinger), and daughters Dora Mae (Amanda Aday) and Libby (Carla Gallo).
One of the strengths of "Carnivàle" is that what is going on in that travelling circus is fairly interesting even without throwing young Ben Hawkins into the mix. There is something intrinsically fascinating about how carny folk milk the marks for money, and there is a sense of personal pride in their professionalism that gives them a certain level of dignity. In the short term, I do not know if I like the idea that not all of them are going to be alive next season. Then, of course, there is the whole look of the show. Suffice it to say "Carnivàle" won Emmys for Outstanding Art Direction and Cinematography for a One-Camera Series, along with those for Costumes, Hairstyling, and Main Title Design (you could do a pretty good master's thesis just decoding that last one).
The DVD series for the first season comes with three audio commentaries, a really short featurette on the making of the series, and a giant group discussion with the cast. The commentary for "Milfay," the pilot episode, is the most important one, and twice as good as the other two put together. It has Knauf, director Rodrigo Garcia, and executive producer Howard Klein on it, with the creator/writer and director doing most of the talking, who focus on how they cast the show and how the first episode evolved. We also get the "Previously On" and "Next On" bits that HBO created for each episode.
I recognize that "Carnivàle" is going to be a very maddening show to those who want things to move along at a brisk pace, and there will be those who will abandon the show long before it gets to the promised land (when the circus gets to California, probably in a couple of seasons). But for those of us who remember how "Twin Peaks" fell apart when the hook of "Who killed Laura Palmer?" became the line and (literal) sinker, or who felt "The X-Files" was adding to its mythology without getting any closer to a big finish, the idea that "Carnivàle" has been created with a definitive end point in mind provide some measure of comfort. This first season provides an initial level of confidence and the potential for more, but in the end how good this series is with come down to the quality of the final "blow off." Given that the origin of "carnival" goes back to the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia where there was a temporary subversion of civil order and that the term now refers to the holiday period of the two weeks before Lent, it could be something pretty good. Besides, it is not on television: it is on HBO."
A Truly Genuine & Spiritual HBO Original Series!
Sheila Chilcote-Collins | Collinswood, Van Wert, OH USA | 06/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the opening lines of the series being spoken by Samson (Michael J. Anderson) a dwarf who runs the carnival- "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. And great armies clashed by night in the ancient war between good and evil. There was magic then, nobility, and unimaginable cruelty.And so it was until the day that a false sun exploded over Trinity, and man forever traded away wonder for reason..."After THAT introduction, I just KNEW I was going to be "hooked" on this original series by HBO. This series is "one of a kind"! Purposefully written, directed & acted, the myraid of characters in the carnival and the dusty, depression-era towns they visit will haunt your memories for years to come. Several storylines intertwine in each and every episode with cliffhangers and plot twisters abounding! Samson is a con man with integrity. There's no one better at finding ways to fleece the carnival customers, and no one more respected by the carnies themselves. Samson has seen many strange and wondrous things in his time, most of them frauds perpetuated by himself and his people, and others... Well, he can't explain even to himself. Once a sideshow performer, he was elevated to his present position by "management". Who, exactly "management" is, remains to be seen... Clayton Jones, a.k.a. Jonesy, played by a very HOT Tim DeKay, is Samson's right hand man, head of the rousties, or carnival workers. Strong, tough, but bull-headed, Jonesy was once a star pitcher in the major leagues, whose career was cut short by a crippling injury to his knee. He then fell into drunkenness -- until "saved" by Samson, who brought him into the carnival. Clancy Brown as Brother Justin Crowe, a preacher in the Central Valley of California. A good man, devoted not only to his flock, but to helping the poor Okies pouring in from the Dust Bowl which puts him at loggerheads against many of his "Godly" congregation and townsfolk. He and his older sister, Iris,played by Amy Magidan who adores Justin, were raised as orphans by Reverend Norman Balthus (Ralph Waite- aka the dad on Waltons), a father to both, in addition to being a mentor to Justin. Justin
begins to have dreams and visions. Terrible things, portending great misery, not for him,necessarily, but perhaps all he touches. Which, as he becomes famous, might well include the world. "The clock is ticking, brothers and sisters, counting down to Armageddon. The worm reveals himself in many guises across this once great land; from the intellectual elite cruelly indoctrinating our children with the savage blasphemy of Darwin, to the craven Hollywood pagans, corrupting them in the darkness of the local bijou, from the false prophets cowering behind our nation's pulpits to the vile parasites in our banks and boardrooms and the godless politicians, growing fat on the misery of their constituents. The signs of the end times are all around us, etched in blood and fire by the left hand of god. You have but to open your eyes, brothers and sisters. The truth is that the Devil is here. The Anti-Christ, the Child of Lies, the Son of Darkness walks among us cloaked in the flesh of a man. Does the Lord not weep at this degradation? Does He not tremble with righteous fury? And shall he not seek retribution? I open my eyes and I see a black sky that tears apart and screams with a voice that is thunder, 'Rise up, rise up brothers and sisters and take your place at my side. For you shall be my scythe and your face shall shine like a thousand suns and the streets shall be sanctified by the steaming black blood of the heretics.' And together brothers and sisters, together we shall build a shining temple, a kingdom that will last for thousands and thousands of years..."Ben Hawkins, played by Nick Stahl is a troubled young man picked up by the carnival in the middle of the Dust Bowl, circa 1934, right after his mother's demise. While words and feelings come hard to loner Ben,strange images arrive all too easily in his dreams and, at times, in reality. Ben's gravitational pull brings
ABSOLUTELY everyone into his orbit. Some dislike him, others, he appears to heal by laying on of hands... Other actors in this series are: Adrienne Barbeau as Ruthie,the older but still sexy snake charmer, and Gabriel (Brian Turk) Ruthie's strong man son. Patrick Bauchau as Lodz, a blind "mentalist". He has an uncanny ability to hold something in his hand, say, a watch, and tell the owner where it was bought, why, by whom... Amazing things that no one ought to know. But
OL' Lodz does. Lodz is a slippery man, a rival of Samson's. Lodz once had Samson's job...a job Lodz would give anything to win back. Lodz has a tempestuous relationship with Lila, the bearded Southern belle played by Debra Christofferson. Sofie is played by, Clea DuVall. Sofie is the pretty daughter of catatonic Apollonia, the tarot reader played by Diane Salinger. Apollonia accurately predicts the future, all the more remarkable since she is, indeed catatonic. Only Sofie seems able to "hear" what her mute mother has to say - a decidedly mixed blessing for Sofie. We even have the "hootchie cootchie" dancers and prostitutes. The Cootch Show is, in fact, the girlie show, nudity required. The Dreifuss Family runs the seedier part of the carnival that includes wife and mamma, Rita Sue (Cythia Ettinger), daughters Libby (Carla Gallo) Dora Mae (Amanda Aday), along with their pimp daddy Stumpy Dreifuss.Siamese twin girls Alexandria & Caladonia (Karyne & Sarah Steben) perform "Circ De Soleil" acrobatics while Gekco (John Fleck)the Reptile Man, deformed by a rare condition that rendered his skin lizard-like in feel and appearance shocks the masses!(...)"
The Best HBO Has To Offer
E. W. Mark | Evanston, IL | 10/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some may complain that "Carnivale" leaves too many loose ends. I would argue that these people are entirely missing the show's point. If you are the sort of person who likes things to be wrapped up all neat with a little bow, turn back now... Otherwise sit back, and let the pure magic of this show suck you in.
"Carnivale" has a plot that begs to be questioned, mysteries waiting to be theorized upon, and characters that you will truly love (or love to hate). It is a show you can discuss for hours on end. The joy of it is not discovering the answers through the plot itself, but by your own deduction."
Best show HBO has ever produced...period.
Steve | Decatur, IL United States | 12/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a fan and collector of HBO series. They consistently deliver the goods. Carnivale is the latest in a string of amazing television series that includes the Sopranoes, Curb your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, Sex in the City, OZ, The Wire, etc. However, with Carnivale, HBO has outdone themselves. I doubt anything has ever been attempted on television quite to the scale of this show. Amazing.
Great Cast, Great acting, great set design and art direction, amazing attention to detail. This show is often compared to Twin Peaks, or X-Files because of its round about storytelling and elements of strangeness. Let me assure you there is one big difference between the shows...the makers of Carnivale actually know where they are going with the story, instead of making it up as they go along. This is one satisfying show. WARNING: Product is highly addictive!
Now if they would just hurry the damn second season along...."
A brilliant program
Robert W. Berg | New York, NY United States | 12/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a short period of time, "Carnivale" has grown into my favorite television show. Structured like a dense, epic novel, the production values are sumptuous, the acting uniformly ingenious, and the central mysteries complex and involving. The series, ostensibly about the final battle between good and evil, as wonder gives way to reason, is so firmly rooted in a three-dimensional, realistic world with three-dimensional realistic characters that I would classify it as more magical realism than science-fiction or fantasy. The characters drive the plot, rather than the other way around, which is a difficult feat to accomplish in such a complex narrative that includes shadowy symbolism and prophetic dreams. There have been complaints that the first season did not wrap up any loose ends, but why should it? Season 1 is but the prologue to this novel-for-television, and narratives are never concluded in the prologue. Be forewarned, though, if you are looking for a television show that does not tax your intellectual muscles and does not ask you to do some work to understand it, this is not the show for you. If, on the the other hand, you are looking for a show that is fascinating, multi-layered (the symbolism alone could be discussed for hours), and intellectually stimulating, with fantastical situations that still manages to maintain a strong verisimilitude of character and the time period in which it occurs (1934, the Great Depression, in the Dust Bowl), I would urge you to watch this DVD set immediately, so you can be caught up for the second season, which premieres January 9th. The video quality of this DVD set, by the way, is among the finest I have ever seen. I would rank it up there with "The Lord of the Rings" Extended Edition sets for a near-perfect picture."