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Carnivale title.jpg
Genre Drama, Mystery, Fantasy, Horror
Created by Daniel Knauf
Starring see cast
Theme music composer Wendy Melvoin
Lisa Coleman
Composer(s) Jeff Beal
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 24 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Howard Klein
Daniel Knauf
Ronald D. Moore
Location(s) California
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 45–60 minutes
Original channel HBO
Original run September 7, 2003 (2003-09-07) – March 27, 2005 (2005-03-27)
External links
Official website

Carnivàle (pronounced /kɑrnɪˈvæl/[1]) is an American television series set in the United States during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. In tracing the lives of two disparate groups of people, its overarching story depicts the battle between good and evil and the struggle between free will and destiny; the storyline mixes Christian theology with gnosticism and Masonic lore, particularly that of the Knights Templar. The show was filmed in Santa Clarita, California, and other Southern Californian locations.

Carnivàle was produced by HBO and ran for two seasons between September 14, 2003 and March 27, 2005. The show was created by Daniel Knauf, who also served as executive producer with Ronald D. Moore and Howard Klein. The incidental music was composed by Jeff Beal. Nick Stahl and Clancy Brown starred as Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin Crowe, respectively.

Early reviews praised the style of Carnivàle but questioned the approach and execution of the story. Carnivàle's first episode set a new audience record for an HBO original series,[2] but the show was unable to retain its ratings in its second season. Carnivàle was canceled after 24 episodes, cutting its intended six-season run short by four seasons. The show won five Emmys in 2004, was nominated for 10 further Emmy awards, and received numerous other nominations and industry awards between 2004 and 2006.[3]

Plot introduction

The two seasons of Carnivàle take place in the Depression-era dust bowl between 1934 and 1935, and consist of two main plotlines that slowly converge. The first involves a young man with strange healing powers named Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), who joins a traveling carnival when it passes near his home in Milfay, Oklahoma. Soon thereafter, Ben begins having surreal dreams and visions, which set him on the trail of a man named Henry Scudder, a drifter who crossed paths with the carnival many years before, and who apparently possessed unusual abilities similar to Ben's own.

The second plotline revolves around a Father Coughlin-esque Methodist preacher, Brother Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown), who lives with his sister Iris in California. He shares Ben's prophetic dreams and slowly discovers the extent of his own unearthly powers, which include bending human beings to his will and making their sins and greatest evils manifest as terrifying visions. Certain that he is doing God's work, Brother Justin fully devotes himself to his religious duties, not realizing that his ultimate nemesis Ben Hawkins and the carnival are inexorably drawing closer.



Show creator Daniel Knauf

Daniel Knauf conceived the initial script for the show between 1990 and 1992 when he was unsatisfied with his job as a Californian health insurance broker and hoped to become a screenwriter. He had always been interested in carnivals and noted that this subject had rarely been dramatized on film. The resulting story and its treatment of freaks was strongly informed by Knauf's experiences of growing up with a disabled father who was not commonly accepted as a normal human being.[4][5][6]

Knauf named the intended feature film script Carnivàle, using an unusual spelling for a more outlandish look. Knauf had plotted the story's broad strokes as well as several plot details from early on and knew the story destination until the final scene. However, the resulting 180-page long script was twice the length of a typical feature film script, and Knauf still felt that it was too short to do his story justice. He therefore shelved the screenplay as a learning experience. In the meantime, all but one of Knauf's other scripts were rejected by Hollywood studios, often for being "too weird."[4][6][7]

In the mid-1990s, Knauf met a few Writers Guild TV writers who encouraged him to revise Carnivàle as a TV series. Knauf turned the script's first act into a pilot episode, but, having no contacts in the television business, he was forced to shelve the project again and return to his regular job. A few years later, after realizing that his insurance career was not working out, he decided to give his screenwriting efforts a last chance by offering the Carnivàle pilot on his website. The script was subsequently forwarded to Howard Klein by Scott Winant, a mutual friend of the two men. After several meetings and conversations, Klein felt confident that Carnivàle would make a good episodic television series that could last for many years. Klein brought it to the attention of Chris Albrecht and Carolyn Strauss of HBO, who were immediately receptive.[4][8][9][10] But the network deemed Knauf too inexperienced in the television business to give him full control over the budget, and appointed Ronald D. Moore as showrunner. (Knauf would replace Moore after one season when Moore left for the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.)[11]

The pilot episode, which was filmed over a period of twenty-one days, served as the basis for additional tweaking of intended story lines. Long creative discussions took place among the writers and the network, leading to the postponement of the filming of the second episode for fourteen months.[12][13] One major change was the addition of extra material for Brother Justin's side of the story. Brother Justin was originally conceived as a well-established preacher, and as a recurring character rather than a regular one. However, after perusing the preliminary version of the pilot, Knauf and the producers realized that there was no room for Justin to grow in a television series. Hence, it was decided to make Brother Justin an ordinary Methodist minister in a small town, setting him back in his career by about one or two years. Expanding Brother Justin's role opened new possibilities, and his sister Iris was created as a supporting character. Little was changed on Ben Hawkins' side except for the addition of the cootch (striptease) family; a Carnivàle consultant had elated the producers by calling attention to his research about families managing cootch shows in the 1930s.[14][15]


The Carnivàle story was originally intended to be a trilogy of "books", consisting of two seasons each.[11] This plan was abruptly changed when HBO canceled the show after the first two seasons. Each season consists of twelve episodes.

Airing on HBO benefited Carnivàle in several ways. Because HBO does not rely on commercial breaks, Carnivàle had the artistic freedom to vary in episode length. Although the episodes averaged a runtime of 54 minutes, the episodes "Insomnia" and "Old Cherry Blossom Road" significantly departed with lengths of 46 minutes and 59 minutes, respectively. HBO budgeted approximately US$4 million for each episode, considerably more than most television series receive.[16][17] This increased Carnivàle's production value, allowing for a comparably large main cast, filming on location, and developing story, plot depth, and atmosphere.

Historical production design

Carnivàle's 1930s Dust Bowl setting required significant research and historical consultants to be convincing, which was made possible with HBO's strong financial backing. As a result, reviews praised the look and production design of the show as "impeccable,"[18] "spectacular"[19] and as "an absolute visual stunner."[20] In 2004, Carnivàle won four Emmys for art direction, cinematography, costumes, and hairstyling.[21]

To give a sense of the dry and dusty environment of the Dust Bowl, smoke and dirt were constantly blown through tubes onto the set. The actors' clothes were ragged and drenched in dirt, and Carnivàle had approximately 5,000 people costumed in the show's first season alone. The creative team listened to 1930s music and radio and read old Hollywood magazines to get the period's sound, language, and slang right. The art department had an extensive research library of old catalogs, among them an original 1934 Sears Catalog, which were purchased at flea markets and antique stores. The East European background of some characters and Asian themes in Brother Justin's story were incorporated into the show. Except for the show's supernatural elements, a historical consultant deemed Carnivàle's historic accuracy to be excellent regarding the characters' lives and clothes, their food and accommodations, their cars and all the material culture.[5][22][23]

Filming locations

Carnivàle's interiors were filmed at Santa Clarita Studios in Santa Clarita, California, while the show's many exterior scenes were filmed on Southern California locations. The fictional California town of Mintern, where the stories about Brother Justin and Iris in Season 1 were based, were shot at Paramount Ranch in Malibu. The carnival set itself was moved around the greater Southern California area, to movie ranches and to Lancaster, which were to replicate the states of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. The permanent filming location of the carnival in Season 2 was Big Sky Ranch, which was also used for Brother Justin's new home in fictional New Canaan.[7][24][25]

Opening title sequence

Carnivàle's opening title sequence was created by A52, a visual effects and design company based in Los Angeles, and featured music composed by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman.[26] The opening title sequence won an Emmy for "Outstanding Main Title Design" in 2004.[21]

One frame of Carnivàle's opening title sequence

The production team of A52 had intended to "create a title sequence that grounded viewers in the mid-1930s, but that also allowed people to feel a larger presence of good and evil over all of time."[26] A52 then pitched their idea to Carnivàle executives in early 2003, who felt that the company's proposal was the most creative for the series' concept. The actual production included scanned transparencies of famous pieces of artwork, each scanned transparency being up to 300 MB in size. The resulting images were photoshopped and digitally rendered. A last step involved stock footage clips being compiled and digitally incorporated into the sequence.[26]

The opening title sequence itself begins with a deck of Tarot cards falling into the sand, while the camera moves in and enters one card into a separate world presenting layers of artwork and footage from iconic moments of the American Depression era; the camera then moves back out of a different card and repeats the procedure several times. The sequence ends with the camera shifting from the "Judgement" Tarot card to the "Moon" and the "Sun", identifying the Devil and God respectively, until the wind blows away all cards and the underlying sand to reveal the Carnivàle title artwork.[26][27]

The historical footage includes a Ku Klux Klan member holding a child (also in uniform), Mussolini, Molotov and Stalin, Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Bonus Marchers approaching the Capitol, and Roosevelt and his son James.


Carnivàle features instrumental music composed by Jeff Beal, as well as many popular and obscure songs from the 1920s and 1930s, the time when Carnivàle's story takes place. The main title was written by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, and was released with selected themes by Jeff Beal on a Carnivàle television soundtrack by the record label Varèse Sarabande on December 7, 2004. Beal released tracks of Season 2 on his personal website.[28] A complete list of music credits is available on the official HBO website.[29]

Jeff Beal's score is primarily acoustic sounding electronics, but mixes themes of bluegrass as well as atmospheric rhythmic sounds. Bigger groups of strings support smaller ensembles of guitars, pianos, violins, cellos, and trumpets. The music sometimes uses ethnic instruments such as banjos, harmonicas, ukuleles, and duduks.[30]

Because HBO does not break individual episodes with commercials, Carnivàle's music is paced similar to a movie, with character-specific leitmotifs from as early as the first episode. Characters get musically identified by solo instruments chosen for the character's ethnic background or nature. Some characters whose connections would only be disclosed later in the series have intentionally similar themes.[31]

Different music is consciously used to represent the two different worlds of the story. Brother Justin's world features music of constructed orchestral sound with religious music and instruments. On the other hand, the score of the carnival side is more deconstructed and mystical, especially when the carnival travels through the dustbowl and remote towns. For carnival scenes taking place in the cootch (striptease) show or in cities, however, contemporary pop music, blues, folk, and ethnic music is played.[30][32] One of the most defining songs of Carnivàle is the 1920s song "Love Me or Leave Me" by Ruth Etting, which is used in several episodes to tie characters in the two worlds thematically.[31]


From left to right – front row: Lodz, Lila, Libby, Caladonia and Alexandria, Apollonia, Sofie, Ben Hawkins, Jonesy, Iris, Brother Justin – back row: Dora Mae, Rita Sue, Stumpy, Ruthie, Gecko, Samson

The plot of Carnivàle takes place in the 1930s Dust Bowl and revolves around the slowly converging storylines of a traveling carnival and a Californian preacher. Out of the 17 actors receiving star billing in the first season, 15 were part of the carnival storyline. The second season amounted to 13 main cast members, supplemented by several actors in recurring roles.[33] Although such large casts make shows more expensive to produce, the writers are benefitted with more flexibility in story decisions.[34] The backgrounds of most characters were fully developed before the filming of Carnivàle began but were not part of the show's visible structure. The audience would therefore only learn more about the characters as a natural aspect in the story.[4][35]

Season 1's first storyline is led by Nick Stahl portraying the protagonist Ben Hawkins, a young Okie farmer who joins a traveling carnival. Michael J. Anderson played Samson, the diminutive manager of the carnival. Tim DeKay portrayed Clayton "Jonesy" Jones, Samson's crippled co-manager. Patrick Bauchau acted as the carnival's blind mentalist Lodz, while Debra Christofferson played his lover, Lila the Bearded Lady. Diane Salinger portrayed the catatonic fortune teller Apollonia, and Clea DuVall acted as her tarot-card-reading daughter, Sofie. Adrienne Barbeau portrayed the snake charmer Ruthie, with Brian Turk as her son Gabriel, a strongman. John Fleck played Gecko the Lizard Man, and Karyne and Sarah Steben appeared as the conjoined twins Alexandria and Caladonia. The cootch show Dreifuss family was played by Toby Huss and Cynthia Ettinger as Felix "Stumpy" and Rita Sue, and Carla Gallo as their daughter Libby. Amanda Aday portrayed their other daughter, Dora Mae Dreifuss, in a recurring role. John Savage played the mysterious Henry Scudder in several episodes, while Linda Hunt lent her voice to the mysterious Management. The second storyline is led by Clancy Brown portraying Carnivàle's antagonist, the Methodist minister Brother Justin Crowe. Amy Madigan played his sister Iris. Robert Knepper supported them as the successful radio host Tommy Dolan later in the first season, while Ralph Waite had a recurring role as Reverend Norman Balthus, Brother Justin's mentor. K Callan performed in a recurring role as Eleanor McGill, a parishioner who became devoted to Brother Justin after seeing his power firsthand.

Several cast changes took place in Season 2, some of them planned from the beginning.[36] John Fleck, Karyne Steben and her sister Sarah had made their last appearance in the first season's finale, while Patrick Bauchau's and Diane Salinger's status was reduced to guest-starring. Ralph Waite joined the regular cast. Several new characters were introduced in recurring roles, most notably John Carroll Lynch as the escaped convict Varlyn Stroud and Bree Walker as Sabina the Scorpion Lady.


The casting approach for Carnivàle was to cast the best available actors and to show the characters' realness as opposed to depending on freak illusions too much. Carnivàle's casting directors John Papsodera and Wendy O'Brien already had experience in casting freaks from previous projects. The producers generally preferred actors who were not strongly identified with other projects, but were willing to make exceptions such as for Adrienne Barbeau as Ruthie.[37]

The script for the pilot episode was the basis for the casting procedure, with little indication where the show would go afterwards. This resulted in some preliminary casting disagreements between the creators and producers, especially for leading characters such as Ben, Brother Justin and Sofie. The character of Ben was always intended to be the leading man and hero of the series, yet he was also desired to display a youthful, innocent and anti-hero quality; Nick Stahl had the strongest consensus among the producers. The character of Sofie was originally written as more of an exotic gypsy girl, but Clea DuVall, a movie actor like Stahl, got the part after four auditions. Tim DeKay was cast as Jonesy because the producers felt he best portrayed a "very American" looking baseball player of that period. One of the few actors who never had any real competition was Michael J. Anderson as Samson, whom Daniel Knauf had wanted as early as the initial meeting.[9][37]


Although almost every Carnivàle episode has a distinguished story with a new carnival setting, all episodes are part of an overarching good-versus-evil story that only culminates and resolves very late in Season 2. The pilot episode begins with a prologue talking of "a creature of light and a creature of darkness" (also known as Avatars) being born "to each generation" preparing for a final battle.[19] Carnivàle does not reveal its characters as Avatars beyond insinuation, and makes the nature of suggested Avatars a central question. Reviewers believed Ben to be a Creature of Light and Brother Justin a Creature of Darkness.[38][39]

Other than through the characters, the show's good-and-evil theme manifests in the series' contemporary religion, the Christian military order Knights Templar, tarot divination, and in historical events like the Dustbowl and humankind's first nuclear test. The writers had established a groundwork for story arcs, character biographies and genealogical character links before filming of the seasons began,[40] but many of the intended clues remained unnoticed by viewers. While Ronald D. Moore was confident that Carnivàle was one of the most complicated shows on television,[41] Daniel Knauf reassured critics that Carnivàle was intended to be a demanding show with a lot of subtext[42] and admitted that "you may not understand everything that goes on but it does make a certain sense".[5] Knauf provided hints about the show's mythological structure to online fandom both during and after the two-season run of Carnivàle, and left fans a production summary of Carnivàle's first season two years after cancellation.[40]

Matt Roush of TV Guide called Carnivàle "the perfect show for those who thought Twin Peaks was too accessible".[43] The Australian stated that Carnivàle "seems to have been conceived in essentially literary terms" which "can sometimes work on the page but is deadly on the large screen, let alone a small one. It's almost like a biblical injunction against pretension on television."[44] A reviewer admitted his temptation to dismiss the first season of Carnivàle as "too artsy and esoteric" because his lack of involvement prevented him from understanding "what the heck was going on, [which] can be a problem for a dramatic television series."[45] TV Zone however considered Carnivàle "a series like no other and [...] the fact that it is so open to interpretation surprisingly proves to be one of its greatest strengths."[46] Carnivàle was lauded for showing "the hopelessness of the Great Depression to life"[47] and for being among the first TV shows to show "unmitigated pain and disappointment",[47] but reviewers were not confident that viewers would find the "slowly unfolding sadness"[47] appealing over long or would have the patience or endurance to find out the meaning of the show.[18][47]

Cancellation and future

At the time, HBO made their commitments for only one year at a time, a third season would have meant opening up a new two-season book in Daniel Knauf's six-year plan, including the introduction of new storylines for current and new characters, and further clarification and elaboration on the show's mythology. Fans assumed that the show would be renewed, but an internet leak announced in early May 2005 that the series would not be returning for a third season.[48] HBO confirmed that the show had been cancelled on May 11, 2005.[49] HBO's president Chris Albrecht stated that the network would have considered otherwise if the producers had been willing to lower the price of an episode to US$2 million; but the running costs for the sizable cast, the all-on-location shooting and the number of episodes per season were too enormous for them.[50]

The cancellation resulted in several story plot lines being unfinished, and outraged loyal viewers organized petitions and mailing drives to get the show renewed. This generated more than 50,000 emails to the network in a single weekend.[50] Show creator Daniel Knauf was unconvinced of the success of such measures, but explained that proposed alternatives like selling Carnivàle to a competing network or spinning off the story were not possible because of HBO owning Carnivàle's plot and characters. At the same time, Knauf was hopeful that, given a strong enough fan base, HBO might reconsider the show's future and allow the continuation of the show in another medium; but because of the amount of unused story material he still had, Knauf did not favor finishing the Carnivàle story with a three-hour movie.[12][51]

Knauf would not release a detailed run-down of intended future plots to fans, explaining that his stories are a collaboration of writers, directors and actors alike.[52] He and the producers did, however, answer a few basic details about the immediate fate of major characters who were left in near-fatal situations in the final episode of Season 2. Knauf additionally provided in-depth information regarding the underlying fictional laws of nature that the writers had not been able to fully explore in the first two seasons. June 2007 however marked the first time that a comprehensive work of detailed character backgrounds was made public. Following a fundraising auction, Knauf offered fans a so-called "Pitch Document," a summary of Carnivàle's first season. This document was originally written in 2002 and 2003 to give the writers and the studio an idea about the series' intended plot, and answered many of the show's mysteries.[40]

Marketing and merchandise

Pre-broadcast marketing

HBO reportedly invested in Carnivàle's promotion as much as for any of its primetime series launches. The series' unconventional and complex narrative made the network deviate from its traditional marketing strategies. Teaser trailers were inserted on CD-ROMs into Entertainment Weekly issues to draw attention to the show's visual quality. 30-second TV spots were aired in national syndication, cable and local avails for four weeks before the show's premiere instead of the usual seven days. The historical context of Carnivàle was deliberately emphasized in the show's print art, which depicted the 17-member cast surrounding a carnival truck. This image was accompanied by a tagline of the show's good versus evil theme: "Into each generation is born a creature of light and a creature of darkness." These measures were hoped to be backed up by positive critical reviews. To give ratings an initial boost, HBO placed the premiere of Carnivàle directly after the series finale of the successful Sex and the City. The series continued to receive extensive online advertisement for almost its entire run.[53]


Personalized and interactive online games inspired by tarot divination were created for Carnivàle's internet presence.[53] The official HBO website collaborated with RealNetworks to offer FATE: The Carnivàle Game, a downloadable game made available for trial and for purchase.[54][55] The official Movie Network website featured an interactive Ouija online game.[56]


Carnivàle: The Complete First Season was released as a widescreen six-disc Region 1 DVD box set in the USA on December 7, 2004,[57] one month before the premiere of the second season. It was distributed by HBO Home Video and contained three audio commentaries and a behind-the-scenes featurette. The outer slipcover of the Region 1 set was made of a thick cardboard to mimic a bound book. The same set was released with less elaborate packaging in Region 2 on March 7, 2005,[58] and in Region 4 on May 11, 2005.[59]

Carnivàle: The Complete Second Season was released as a widescreen six-disc Region 1 DVD box set in the USA on July 18, 2006,[60] in Region 2 on August 7, 2006,[61] and in Region 4 on October 4, 2006.[62] Each of these releases was distributed by HBO Home Video and contained three audio commentaries, on-stage interviews of the cast and producers, a featurette about the mythology of the series, and four short "Creating the Scene" segments about the concept, inspiration and execution process. The packaging remained similar to each region's first season set.



Carnivàle aired on HBO on a Sunday 9:00PM timeslot during its two-season run between 2003 and 2005. "Milfay", Carnivàle's pilot episode, drew 5.3 million viewers for its premiere on September 14, 2003. This marked the best ever debut for an HBO original series at the time, caused in part by the established HBO series Sex and the City being Carnivàle's lead-in. This record was broken on March 21, 2004 by HBO series Deadwood, which debuted with 5.8 million viewers as the lead-out of The Sopranos.[2][63]

Viewership dropped to 3.49 million for Carnivàle's second episode but remained stable for the remainder of the season. The final episode of season one finished with 3.5 million viewers on November 30, 2003. Season one averaged 3.54 viewers and a household rating of 2.41.[64]

Viewership for the second season opening on 9 January 2005 was down by two-thirds to 1.81 million.[65] The ratings never recovered to their first-season highs, although the season two finale experienced an upswing with 2.40 million viewers on March 27, 2005. Season 2 averaged 1.7 million viewers, not enough to avert an imminent cancellation.[66]

Critical reviews

Many early reviews gave Carnivàle good marks but also stated that its unique characters and story might prevent it from becoming a huge mainstream audience success.[67] Daily Variety TV editor Joseph Adalian predicted that "it will get mostly positive reviews but some people will be put off by the general weirdness of the show."[67] Phil Gallo of Variety described Carnivàle as "an absolute visual stunner with compelling freak show characters—but the series unfortunately takes a leisurely approach toward getting to a point,"[20] and Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times suggested that "it's as if executives at the premium cable network want to see how far they can slow a narrative before viewers start tossing their remotes through the screen".[68] James Poniewozik of Time called the first three episodes "frustrating" as well as "spellbinding."[19] Amanda Murray of BBC said "With so little revealed, it's almost impossible to pass judgment on the show—it's hard to tell if this is just good, or going to be great."[69]

Later DVD reviews were able to judge the series based on full seasons. While the acting, set design, costuming, art direction and cinematography continued to be praised,[70][71] some reviewers disfavored the writing, especially of Season 1, as "lack[ing] story momentum"[71] or as "sometimes gripping but mostly boring."[72] Other reviewers pointed out that Carnivàle may "demand more from its audience than many are willing to invest. [...] Without paying close attention, it's tempting to assume that the show is unnecessarily cryptic and misleading."[70] Carnivàle's story was surveyed as long and complex, "and if you don't start from the beginning, you'll be completely lost."[73] IGN DVD's Matt Casamassina, however, praised the show in two reviews, writing that the "gorgeously surreal" first season "dazzles with unpredictable plot twists and scares"[74], and that the "extraordinary" second season was "better fantasy – better entertainment, period – than any show that dares to call itself a competitor."[75]

A significant portion of reviews drew parallels between Carnivàle and David Lynch's 1990s mystery TV series Twin Peaks,[67][69][72] a show that Carnivàle actor Michael J. Anderson had previously appeared in. Knauf did not deny a stylistic link and made comparisons to John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath.[6][36] When Lost began to receive major critical attention, Carnivàle and its type of mythological storytelling were compared to Lost's story approach in several instances.[76][77][78]

In the years after the show's cancellation, Alessandra Stanley of the Australian newspaper The Age remembers Carnivàle as a "smart, ambitious series that move[s] unusual characters around an unfamiliar setting imaginatively and even with grace, but that never quite quit the surly bonds of serial drama."[79] The A.V. Club dwelled on Carnivàle's cliffhanger ending in a piece on unanswered TV questions and called the show "a fantastically rich series with a frustratingly dense mythology".[80]


Actor Michael J. Anderson (Samson) at CarnyCon 2006.

Like other cult television shows, Carnivàle gained a respectable following of dedicated viewers.[71][73] Carnivàle fans referred to themselves as "Carnies" or "Rousties" (roustabouts), terms adopted from the show.[81] Carnivàle's complexity and subliminal mythology spawned dedicated fansites, although most discussion took place on independent internet forums. Show creator Daniel Knauf actively participated in online fandom and offered story- and mythology-related clues. He also gave insight into reasons for Carnivàle's cancellation on a messageboard before speaking to the press.[17] As of September 2007, he is still in contact with the show's fandom and posts semi-regularly on Carnivàle messageboards.[82]

One year after Carnivàle's cancellation, a major Carnivàle convention called CarnyCon 2006 Live! was organized by fans. It took place in Woodland Hills, California on August 21–23, 2006. Many of the show's cast and crew attended the event and participated in discussion panels, which were recorded and made available on DVD afterwards.[81][83]


Despite its short two-season run, Carnivàle received numerous awards and nominations.[3] The show's inaugural season received nominations for seven Emmy Awards in 2004, winning five including "Outstanding Art Direction For A Single-camera Series" and "Outstanding Costumes For A Series" for the pilot episode "Milfay", "Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series" for the episode "Pick A Number", "Outstanding Hairstyling For A Series" for the episode "After the Ball Is Over", and "Outstanding Main Title Design". In 2005, the second season received eight further Emmy nominations without a win.[21]

Other awards include but are not limited to:

International reception and broadcasters

HBO president Chris Albrecht stated that Carnivàle was "not a big show for foreign [distribution],"[16] but did not go into more detail. Reviews however indicate that the show's cryptic mythology and inaccessibility to the casual viewer were major factors. Nevertheless, Carnivàle was sold to several foreign networks and was distributed to HBO channels abroad. The DVD releases of Carnivàle extended the availability of the show further.

Countries or regions and the corresponding channels that broadcasted Carnivàle are:


On June 9, 2005, a lawsuit was filed in United States district court by Los Angeles writer Jeff Bergquist. He claimed that the creators of Carnivàle did not originate the idea for the show, but rather stole it from his unpublished novel Beulah, a quirky drama set amid a traveling carnival during the Depression that Bergquist had been working on since the 1980s. Bergquist sought both recognition and punitive damages by arguing that HBO and Carnivàle creator Daniel Knauf violated his copyright on Beulah, but HBO and Knauf denied any claims as having "absolutely no merit."[89] The case was dismissed with prejudice on February 17, 2006.[90]


  1. ^ Per several DVD audio commentaries by the producers
  2. ^ a b "Solid 'Carnivale' start after HBO's hot 'Sex'". September 16, 2003. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  3. ^ a b "Awards for "Carnivàle"". Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Freaking hell". December 16, 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  5. ^ a b c Carnivàle: Complete Season 1 – "Making of Carnivàle". [DVD]. HBO Home Video. 2004. 
  6. ^ a b c ""The Making of a Magnificent Delusion" – Daniel Knauf". Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  7. ^ a b Summer 2003 Cable TCA Press Tour (July 10, 2003). Transcript at Retrieved on 2007-08-11.
  8. ^ "Carnivale – Where mysticism's often meted out in meticulously slow fashion". June 16, 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  9. ^ a b Clea DuVall, Carolyn Strauss. (2004-03-16). Carnivàle: Complete Season 2 – The Museum of Television & Radio's William S. Paley Television Festival CARNIVALE. [DVD]. HBO Home Video. 
  10. ^ ""Master of the Carnival" – Howard Klein". Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  11. ^ a b "Interview de Daniel Knauf". April 2005. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  12. ^ a b "Highlights from the Dan Knauf Chat – Episode 1 – Milfay". July 17, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  13. ^ ""Character References" – Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin". Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  14. ^ "Interview with Daniel Knauf – Part 1". Beth Blighton at January 12, 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  15. ^ Daniel Knauf in the DVD audio commentary for the episode "Milfay"
  16. ^ a b "Funny business". July 20, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  17. ^ a b "Dan Knauf Speaks About Carnivale's Cancellation". Retrieved 2007-07-31.  (Based on Daniel Knauf's Yahoo Carnivàle HBO forum post from May 12, 2005 (registration required)).
  18. ^ a b Lowry, Brian (January 6, 2005). "Recently Reviewed – Carnivàle". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  19. ^ a b c Poniewozik, James (September 7, 2003). "HBO's Cirque du So-So".,9171,483299,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  20. ^ a b Gallo, Phil (September 11, 2003). "Recently Reviewed – Carnivàle". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  21. ^ a b c "Primetime Awards". Retrieved 2007-08-27.  Nominations available as PDF for 2004 and 2005. Retrieved on 2007-11-01.
  22. ^ ""Creating 1934" – Mary Corey". Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  23. ^ ""Dressing the Dust Bowl" – Sara Andrews Ingrassia". Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  24. ^ "'Roswell' Writer Leaves 'Battlestar' for a 'Carnivale'". January 30, 2003.,1002,271%7C79952%7C1%7C,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  25. ^ "Exclusive Interview With Debra Christofferson". April 18, 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 
  26. ^ a b c d "A52 Masters Fate in New Main Title Sequence for HBO's Carnivàle". September 15, 2003. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  27. ^ "Carnivàle Opening Credits". Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  28. ^ "Official website". Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  29. ^ "Music Credits". Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  30. ^ a b "Kritiken – Carnivale (Jeff Beal)" (in German). January 31, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  31. ^ a b ""From Wang-Wang to Bouzouki" – Kevin Edelman & Alexandra Patsavas". Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  32. ^ ""Mood Music" – Jeff Beal". Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  33. ^ Numbers are based on the number of actor names appearing in the opening titles of each season, respectively.
  34. ^ Keveney, Bill (November 8, 2005). "TV hits maximum occupancy". Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  35. ^ Faraci, Devin (January 19, 2005). "Thud interview: Dan Knauf (Carnivale producer)". Retrieved 2005-09-15. 
  36. ^ a b "Dan Knauf Interview". February 15, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  37. ^ a b ""Beyond the Standard Fare" – John Papsidera". Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  38. ^ Gilbert, Matthew (September 12, 2003). "'Carnivale' atmosphere gets lost in pretentious new HBO series". Retrieved 2007-08-29. 
  39. ^ Chocano, Carina (September 12, 2003). "TV Review – Carnivale (2003)".,,482486,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  40. ^ a b c Pitch Document (CARNIVALE Backstory and Mythology.doc) and character biographies (CHARACTER BIOS TEXT ONLY.doc) at Yahoo Carnivale HBO Files (registration required) (July 1, 2007). Character biographies previously auctioned at the Clancy Brown Fan Club Charity Auction (May 16–30, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-08-05.
  41. ^ Moore, Ronald D.. (2004). Carnivàle: Complete Season 1 – Making Carnivàle. [DVD]. HBO Home Video. "I think I can say without fear of contradiction this may be the largest and most complicated show on television." 
  42. ^ Callaghan, Dylan (2005). "In the Ring with Good and Evil". Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  43. ^ Roush, Matt (January 19, 2005). "Roush Riff". Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  44. ^ Craven, Peter (December 18, 2004). "Art Without A Net". The Australian. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  45. ^ Richmond, Ray (January 7, 2005). "Carnivàle". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  46. ^ Baughan, Nikki (January 2004). "Carnivàle – Season 1". TV Zone (172): 64–65. 
  47. ^ a b c d Havrilesky, Heather. "Gutsy—or just gusty?". Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  48. ^ "Carnivale CANCELLED!". Beth Blighton at Yahoo Carnivàle HBO (registration required). May 7, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-28.  Mirrored at
  49. ^ "Carnivàle packing up". May 11, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  50. ^ a b "'Carnivàle' Fans Besiege HBO with E-mails". July 18, 2005.,1002,271%7C96426%7C1%7C,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  51. ^ Canceled (for now) – Die-hards fight to save TV faves. The Washington Times (July 29, 2005). Mirrored at Retrieved on 2007-07-28.
  52. ^ "A message from Dan Knauf". May 21, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-28.  (Based on Daniel Knauf's Yahoo Carnivale HBO post from May 12, 2005 (registration required)).
  53. ^ a b Wallenstein, Andrew (August 15, 2003). "Marketing HBO's 'Carnivale'". Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  54. ^ "HBO and RealNetworks Launch Downloadable Game Inspired by Critically Acclaimed Series "Carnivàle"". November 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  55. ^ "Fate: The Carnivàle Game". Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  56. ^ "The All Seeing Ouija Board". Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  57. ^ "Carnivale – The Complete First Season". Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  58. ^ "Carnivale: Complete HBO Season 1 (2003)". Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  59. ^ "Carnivale   Complete Season 1 (6 Disc Set)". Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  60. ^ "Carnivale - The Complete Second Season". Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  61. ^ "Carnivale: Complete HBO Season 2". Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  62. ^ "Carnivale   Complete Season 2 (6 Disc Set)". Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  63. ^ "HBO 'Rome' ratings not built in a day". August 30, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  64. ^ "US cable ratings (compiled statistics from September 7 till November 30, 2003)" (in German). Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  65. ^ "Development update: January 12". January 12, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  66. ^ "Development update: March 31". March 31, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  67. ^ a b c Doty, Meriah (September 11, 2003). "Taking a tour with 'Carnivàle'". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  68. ^ Deggans, Eric (September 13, 2003). "He speaks fluent carny". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  69. ^ a b Murray, Amanda (September 13, 2004). "Review: Carnivale". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  70. ^ a b "Carnivàle: Complete First Season". Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  71. ^ a b c Enk, Bryan. "Carnivale: Season Two (HBO)". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  72. ^ a b Chaw, Walter. "Carnivàle: The Complete First Season". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  73. ^ a b Kasch, Andrew (September 8, 2006). "Carnivàle: The Complete Second Season (DVD)". Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  74. ^ Casamassina, Matt (December 10, 2004). "Carnivàle: The Complete First Season (DVD)". IGN Media. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  75. ^ Casamassina, Matt (July 21, 2006). "Carnivàle: The Complete Second Season (DVD)". IGN Media. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  76. ^ Gilbert, Matthew (October 27, 2004). "Getting 'Lost'". Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  77. ^ Sullivan, Brian Ford (September 22, 2004). "Review: ABC's 'LOST'". Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  78. ^ Ahrens, Frank (December 4, 2005). "'Lost' Fans Find A Niche on the Internet". Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  79. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (April 24, 2008). "Out of the blue yonder, it's surf noir". Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  80. ^ "What's up with the smoke monster?: 16 unanswered TV questions". April 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  81. ^ a b "Summary of CarnyCon 2006". August 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  82. ^ "Yahoo Carnivàle HBO". (Web link).
  83. ^ "Convention DVD". Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  84. ^ a b c "Past Winners Database". Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  85. ^ a b "2nd ANNUAL VES AWARDS NOMINEES AND RECIPIENTS". Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  86. ^ "'Pirates' reels in most MPSE noms". January 19, 2004. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  87. ^ "'Rings' circles 13 Saturn noms". The Hollywood Reporter. February 13, 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  88. ^ "Carnivale". Premiere. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  89. ^ "TV Notes: 'Carnivàle' copied?". June 27, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  90. ^ "Yahoo Carnivale Lawsuit". (Web link). Retrieved on 2007-08-08. (Registration required to access case documents).

External links

Carnivale may refer to:

See also


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Carnivàle (2003–2005), is an American dramatic TV series, set in the mid-1930s Depression era. In Milfay, Oklahoma, young Ben Hawkins, on the run from the law and having just buried his mother, joins a travelling circus, whose members have mysterious agendas, and whose circuit seems to include some unknown purpose involving Ben himself. Half a continent away in Mintern, California, Brother Justin Crowe, fighting to do the Lord's work, discovers dark secrets about his past and his own dramatic destiny. Why do these two unrelated men dream of each other? What conflicts await them? And who is running the grand show?



Milfay [1.01]

Samson: 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.

Samson: They're set to smash.

Samson: Let's shake some dust!

Brother Justin: Latter day versions of the vile plagues that rained on Egypt, the fires that consumed Soddom and Gomorrah. Scourges of the old testament, yes, but even now, brothers and sisters, even now drought and pestilance fester in the very heart of this great land. Titanic sandstorms, the likes of which man has not seen since the days of the prophets… And I ask myself, "What are these things? What are they, if not evidence of God's fury? What are they, if not harbingers of the apocalypse?" And yet… and yet, as I walked to church today, these troubled thoughts were soothed by a balmy wind. And as I looked out upon the endless acres of rich, untilled earth, I realised, brothers and sisters, that this is truly the promised land and that we are indeed blessed. But let us not forget the less fortunate. Let us not forget that they too were once blessed. And let us not forget that the lord giveth, and the lord taketh away. Amen.

Brother Justin: Eleanor, I see you in my sermons, and you pray so hard it breaks my heart. But my words, they wash over you like water over a stone. We all, each of us, carry within us the seeds of our own salvation and our own damnation. You do belive that, don't you?

[Lila looks at Ben, asleep on her sofa.]
Lila: Fine looking boy…
Lodz: [chuckles] You have a singularly prurient mind, Lila.
Lila: And what would you know about it?
Lodz: More than I care to, believe me.

Day of the Dead [1.11]

Catalina: Your wife, she's one sexy mujerzuela.
Stumpy: Heh. You go sleep with her then.

The Day That Was the Day [1.12]

Management: Yes, but to restore a life you must take a life.

Management: You must act as a man, not a boy. A boy mends the broken bones of his playmates, and resurrects little kittens for his own amusement. This is different, this is a woman's life. A human life. To restore it you must take life… with deliberation. You must choose the life you take — that is the way of our kind.

Ben Hawkins: I ain't here to play games with someone hiding behind some curtain.
Lodz: Best keep a civil tongue in your head, boy.

Management: Another step and I will kill you where you stand… then what will become of your friend, I wonder.

Ben Hawkins: Who are you?
Management: Someone who understands the life you've led, the questions you have, the torments… Someone who understands what it is to make such a choice. One life for another.

Management: You have made this choice before.
Ben Hawkins: What do you know about that?
Management: I know that you are capable of making such a choice. Capable of saying "this one deserves to live, this one deserves to die".
Ben Hawkins: No, that ain't my place.
Management: If that is true, my friend, then why is such a choice possible? Why are you not like other men, left behind to bury your dead, knash your teeth and cry out to God, "Why her, Lord, why not another?" The answer is self-evident. It is your place, Ben Hawkins; it cannot be escaped. It can only be accepted… Her life for another's. It is the only way… You may go now.

Stumpy: It's a hell of marriage we got here.
Rita Sue: I wouldn't trade it.
Stumpy: Wouldn't be any takers.

Brother Justin: So, I hear you think I burned down my church.

Tommy Dolan: Do you need an audience, Brother Justin?
Brother Justin: What I need will take some time to accomplish. But the first step is getting out my message.

[After being shown a vision of the past]

Norman Balthus: My greatest evil? Saving your life? Giving you refuge? Protecting and nurturing you?
Brother Justin: No, this can't be.
Norman Balthus: By your own words, the sin l must embrace, the evil that l have brought into the world...
Brother Justin: [Visibly shocked] ls me!
Norman Balthus: lt's not too late, son. Pray with me now. Beg the Lord God to have pity upon you. Pray with me, pray that the demon leave you.
Brother Justin: There is no demon in me! The demon is me.

Tommy Dolan: Deal?
Brother Justin: I'm reminded of the phrase "making a deal with the devil".
Tommy Dolan: Oh, come on, now. I'm not that bad.
Brother Justin: No, no, you're not.


Los Moscos [2.01]

Samson: On the heels of the skirmish men foolishly called the War to End All Wars, the Dark One sought to elude his destiny, live as a mortal. So he fled across the ocean, to an empire called America. But by his mere presence, a cancer corrupted the spirit of the land. People were rendered mute by fools who spoke many words but said nothing. For whom oppression and cowardice were virtues, and freedom… an obscenity. And into this dark heartland, the prophet stalked his enemy, till, diminished by his wounds, he turned to the next in the ancient line of Light. And so it was that the fate of mankind came to rest on the trembling shoulders of the most reluctant of saviors.

Outskirts, Damascus, NE [2.08]

[In a vision, Ben observes a younger, unmaimed Belyakov before the Tree.]
Lucius Belyakov: Behold the Usher! A dark heart dwells where branches meet. Anointed dagger, plunge thee deep.

Cheyenne, WY [2.10]

[Brother Justin chuckles over Sophie's embarrassment when she curses during her chores.]
Brother Justin: Vulgarity is not a sin against God, but against Polite Society. Between you and me, I don't give a shit about Polite Society.

New Canaan, CA [2.12]

Samson: When it comes to livin', dyin' is the easy part!

Brother Justin: You must choose. Them or me! Tell me!
Sophie: Go to hell!
Brother Justin: Go? Why? I plan on bringing it here.

[Samson, Jonesy, and Ben argue about finding Sophie in Justin's camp.]
Jonesy: What if she's dead?
Ben Hawkins: If she's dead… then God help 'em all in this valley. Every single last one of 'em.

[Justin dismisses Stroud's concerns as they leave for the carnival ride set-up.]
Brother Justin: Pain is an unavoidable side effect.

Lincoln Highway [2.21]

[Discussing the Bible]
Brother Justin: Once you get past the striking repetition, it's really quite banal. [laughs] Blessed are the meek. Can you imagine?

Unidentified episode

Iris Crowe: You have a destiny, and now is your time to fulfill it.

Ben Hawkins: You can't see past your own hate!


See also

External links

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