Infobox television
show_name = Carnivàle

caption ="Carnivàle" title screen.
genre = Drama, Mystery, Fantasy, Horror
camera = Single-camera
location = flagicon|California California
runtime = approx. 45–60 minutes
creator = Daniel Knauf
executive_producer = Howard Klein
Daniel Knauf
Ronald D. Moore
starring = "see Cast"
composer = Jeff Beal
theme_music_composer = Wendy Melvoin and
Lisa Coleman
language = English
country = USA
network = HBO
first_aired = September 7, 2003
last_aired = March 27, 2005
list_episodes = List of Carnivàle episodes
num_episodes = 24
num_seasons = 2
website =
tv_com_id = 11443
imdb_id = 0319969
bgcolour = palegoldenrod

"Carnivàle" (pron-en|kɑrnɪˈvæl [Per several DVD audio commentaries by the producers] ) is an American television series set in the United States during the Great Depression. 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 debut episode set a new viewership record for an HBO original series, 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.

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 in the form of 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.



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.cite web |url= |title=Freaking hell |date=December 16, 2004 | |accessdate=2007-08-17]

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 up until the final scene. However, the resulting 180-page long script was twice the length of an average 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."

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 via 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.cite web |url= |title="Carnivale" – Where mysticism's often meted out in meticulously slow fashion |date=June 16, 2004 | |accessdate=2007-07-28] cite video |people=Clea DuVall, Carolyn Strauss |title=Carnivàle: Complete Season 2 – The Museum of Television & Radio's William S. Paley Television Festival CARNIVALE |medium=DVD |publisher=HBO Home Video |date2=2004-03-16] cite web |url= |title= "Master of the Carnival" – Howard Klein | |accessdate=2007-08-08] 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 re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica".)

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.cite web |url= |title=Highlights from the Dan Knauf Chat – Episode 1 – Milfay |date=July 17, 2005 | |accessdate=2007-07-28] cite web |url= |title="Character References" – Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin | |accessdate=2007-08-10] 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.cite web |url= |title=Interview with Daniel Knauf – Part 1 |date=January 12, 2004 |publisher=Beth Blighton at |accessdate=2007-07-29] [Daniel Knauf in the DVD audio commentary for the episode "Milfay"]


The "Carnivàle" story was originally intended to be a trilogy of "books", consisting of two seasons each.cite web |url= |title=Interview de Daniel Knauf | |month=April | year=2005 |accessdate=2007-09-17] 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 what most television series receive.cite web |url= |title= Dan Knauf Speaks About Carnivale's Cancellation | |accessdate=2007-07-31 (Based on [ Daniel Knauf's Yahoo Carnivàle HBO forum post] from May 12, 2005 (registration required)).] 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,"cite web | last=Lowry | first=Brian | title=Recently Reviewed – Carnivàle | url= |date=January 6, 2005 | | accessdate=2007-07-31] "spectacular" and as "an absolute visual stunner." In 2004, "Carnivàle" won four Emmys for art direction, cinematography, costumes, and hairstyling.

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 an estimated 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 in regard to the characters' lives and clothes, their food and accommodations, their cars and all the material culture.cite video |title=Carnivàle: Complete Season 1 – "Making of Carnivàle" |medium=DVD |publisher=HBO Home Video |year2=2004] cite web |url= |title="Creating 1934" – Mary Corey | |accessdate=2007-09-03] cite web |url= |title= "Dressing the Dust Bowl" – Sara Andrews Ingrassia | |accessdate=2007-09-03]

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.Summer 2003 Cable TCA Press Tour (July 10, 2003). Transcript at [] . Retrieved on 2007-08-11.] cite web |url=,1002,271%7C79952%7C1%7C,00.html |title='Roswell' Writer Leaves 'Battlestar' for a 'Carnivale' |date=January 30, 2003 | |accessdate=2007-08-08] cite web |url= |title=Exclusive Interview With Debra Christofferson | |date=April 18, 2006 |accessdate=2007-11-14]

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.cite web |url= |title=A52 Masters Fate in New Main Title Sequence for HBO's Carnivàle |date=September 15, 2003 | |accessdate=2007-08-12] The opening title sequence won an Emmy for "Outstanding Main Title Design" in 2004.

. A last step involved stock footage clips being compiled and digitally incorporated into the sequence.

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.cite web |url= |title=Carnivàle Opening Credits | |accessdate=2007-08-12]


"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. [cite web |url= |title=Offical website | |accessdate=2008-06-04] A complete list of music credits is available on the official HBO website. [cite web |url= |title=Music Credits | |accessdate=2008-06-04]

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.cite web |url= |title= Kritiken – Carnivale (Jeff Beal) |date=January 31, 2007 | | language = German |accessdate=2007-08-04]

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.cite web |url= |title= "From Wang-Wang to Bouzouki" – Kevin Edelman & Alexandra Patsavas | |accessdate=2007-08-04]

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 places in the cootch (striptease) show or in cities, however, contemporary pop music, blues, folk, and ethnic music is played.cite web |url= |title= "Mood Music" – Jeff Beal | |accessdate=2007-08-04] 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.


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. [Numbers are based on the number of actor names appearing in the opening titles of each season, respectively.] Although such large casts make shows more expensive to produce, the writers are benefitted with more flexibility in story decisions. [cite web |last=Keveney |first=Bill |url= |title=TV hits maximum occupancy | |date=November 8, 2005 |accessdate=2007-09-15] 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. [cite web |last=Faraci |first=Devin |url= |title=Thud interview: Dan Knauf (Carnivale producer) | |date=January 19, 2005 |accessdate=2005-09-15]

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 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.cite web |url= |title=Dan Knauf Interview |date=February 15, 2005 | |accessdate=2007-08-02] 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.cite web |url= |title="Beyond the Standard Fare" – John Papsidera | |accessdate=2007-08-03]

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 only actors who never had any real competition was Michael J. Anderson as Samson, whom Daniel Knauf had wanted as early as the initial meeting.


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.cite web | last=Poniewozik | first=James | title = HBO's Cirque du So-So | url=,9171,483299,00.html |date=September 7, 2003 | | accessdate=2007-07-31] "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. [cite web | last=Gilbert |first=Matthew | title='Carnivale' atmosphere gets lost in pretentious new HBO series | url= |date=September 12, 2003 | | accessdate=2007-08-29] [cite web | last=Chocano |first=Carina | title=TV Review – Carnivale (2003) | url=,,482486,00.html |date=September 12, 2003 | | accessdate=2007-09-08]

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, 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, [cite video |people=Moore, Ronald D. |title=Carnivàle: Complete Season 1 – Making Carnivàle |medium=DVD |publisher=HBO Home Video |year2=2004 |quote=I think I can say without fear of contradiction this may be the largest and most complicated show on television.] Daniel Knauf reassured critics that "Carnivàle" was intended to be a demanding show with a lot of subtext [cite web |last=Callaghan |first=Dylan |url= |title=In the Ring with Good and Evil | |year=2005 |accessdate=2007-09-17] and admitted that "you may not understand everything that goes on but it does make a certain sense". 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.

Matt Roush of "TV Guide" called "Carnivàle" "the perfect show for those who thought "Twin Peaks" was too accessible". [cite web |last=Roush |first=Matt |url= |title=Roush Riff | |date=January 19, 2005 |accessdate=2007-10-20] "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." [cite news |last=Craven |first=Peter |url= |title=Art Without A Net |date=December 18, 2004 |publisher=The Australian |accessdate=2007-10-20] 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." [cite news |last=Richmond |first=Ray |url= |title=Carnivàle |publisher= Hollywood Reporter |date=January 7, 2005 |accessdate=2007-10-20] 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." [cite journal | quotes=no | last = Baughan | first = Nikki | year = 2004 | month = January | title = Carnivàle – Season 1 | journal = TV Zone | issue = 172 | pages = 64–65 | accessdate = 2007-11-23] "Carnivàle" was lauded for showing "the hopelessness of the Great Depression to life" and for being among the first TV shows to show "unmitigated pain and disappointment", but reviewers were not confident that viewers would find the "slowly unfolding sadness" appealing over long or would have the patience or endurance to find out the meaning of the show.cite web |last=Havrilesky |first=Heather |url= |title=Gutsy—or just gusty? | |accessdate=2007-10-20]

Cancellation and future

As HBO makes 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.cite web |url= |title=Carnivale CANCELLED! |publisher=Beth Blighton at Yahoo Carnivàle HBO (registration required) |date=May 7, 2005 |accessdate=2007-07-28 Mirrored at [] .] HBO confirmed that the show had been cancelled on May 11, 2005.cite web |url= |title="Carnivàle" packing up |date=May 11, 2005 | |accessdate=2007-07-25] 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.

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.cite web |url=,1002,271%7C96426%7C1%7C,00.html |title='Carnivàle' Fans Besiege HBO with E-mails |date=July 18, 2005 | |accessdate=2007-07-25] 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. [Canceled (for now) – Die-hards fight to save TV faves. The Washington Times (July 29, 2005). Mirrored at [] . Retrieved on 2007-07-28.]

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.cite web |url= |title=A message from Dan Knauf | |date=May 21, 2005 |accessdate=2007-07-28 (Based on [ Daniel Knauf's Yahoo Carnivale HBO post] from May 12, 2005 (registration required)).] 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.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.]

As of September 2008, no news has been announced about HBO reviving "Carnivàle". A February 2006 article stated that HBO was planning to develop a movie or miniseries that would wrap up loose plot lines for a telecast in 2007, with the aim to resurrect the franchise as an ongoing series in 2008. [cite web |url= |title=Fans May See More of "Arrested Development" and "Carnivàle" |date=February 9, 2006 | |accessdate=2007-07-25] HBO never responded to these claims.

Marketing and merchandise

Pre-broadcast marketing

HBO reportedly invested in "Carnivàle"'s promotion as much as for any of its primetime series launches. But the series' unconventional and complex narrative made the network prescind 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.cite web |first=Andrew |last=Wallenstein |url=
title=Marketing HBO's 'Carnivale' |date=August 15, 2003 | |accessdate=2007-08-05


Personalized and interactive online games inspired by tarot divination were created for "Carnivàle"'s internet presence. The official HBO website collaborated with RealNetworks to offer "FATE: The Carnivàle Game", a downloadable game made available for trial and for purchase. [cite web |url= |title=HBO and RealNetworks Launch Downloadable Game Inspired by Critically Acclaimed Series "Carnivàle" | |date=November 21, 2007 |accessdate=2007-09-23 ] [cite web |url= |title=Fate: The Carnivàle Game | |accessdate=2007-09-17] The official Movie Network website featured an interactive Ouija online game. [cite web |url= |title=The All Seeing Ouija Board | |accessdate=2007-09-17]


"Carnivàle: The Complete First Season" was released as a widescreen six-disc Region 1 DVD box set in the USA on December 7, 2004,cite web|url= |title=Carnivale – The Complete First Season | | accessdate=2007-08-10] 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,cite web |url= |title=Carnivale: Complete HBO Season 1 (2003) | |accessdate=2007-08-27] and in Region 4 on May 11, 2005.cite web |url= |title=Carnivale Complete Season 1 (6 Disc Set) | |accessdate=2007-08-28]

"Carnivàle: The Complete Second Season" was released as a widescreen six-disc Region 1 DVD box set in the USA on July 18, 2006,cite web |url= |title=Carnivale - The Complete Second Season | | accessdate=2007-09-08] in Region 2 on August 7, 2006,cite web |url= |title=Carnivale: Complete HBO Season 2 | |accessdate=2007-08-28] and in Region 4 on October 4, 2006.cite web |url= |title=Carnivale Complete Season 2 (6 Disc Set) | |accessdate=2007-08-28] 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".cite web |url= |title= Solid 'Carnivale' start after HBO's hot 'Sex' | |date=September 16, 2003 |accessdate=2007-08-05] cite web |url= |title= HBO 'Rome' ratings not built in a day | |date=August 30, 2005 |accessdate=2007-08-05]

Viewership dropped to 3.49 million viewers 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. [cite web |url= |title= US cable ratings (compiled statistics from September 7 till November 30, 2003) |language=German | |accessdate=2007-08-05]

The second season opened with 1.81 millions viewers on January 9, 2005, down by two thirds of its debut viewership. [cite web |url= |title= Development update: January 12 | |date=January 12, 2005 |accessdate=2007-08-05] 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. [cite web |url= |title= Development update: March 31 | |date=March 31, 2005 |accessdate=2007-08-05]

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. "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."cite web | last=Doty | first=Meriah | title=Taking a tour with 'Carnivàle' | url= |date=September 11, 2003 | publisher = | accessdate=2007-07-31] 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,"cite web | last=Gallo | first=Phil | title=Recently Reviewed – Carnivàle | url= |date=September 11, 2003 | | accessdate=2007-07-31] 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". [cite web |last=Deggans |first=Eric |url= |title=He speaks fluent carny |publisher="St. Petersburg Times" |date=September 13, 2003 |accessdate=2008-08-30] James Poniewozik of "Time" called the first three episodes "frustrating" as well as "spellbinding."cite web | last=Poniewozik | first=James | title = HBO's Cirque du So-So | url=,9171,483299,00.html |date=September 7, 2003 | | accessdate=2007-07-31] 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."cite web | last=Murray | first=Amanda | title=Review: Carnivale | url= |date=September 13, 2004 | | accessdate=2007-07-31]

Later DVD reviews were able to judge the series on the basis of full seasons. While the acting, set design, costuming, art direction and cinematography continued to be praised,cite web|url= |title=Carnivàle: Complete First Season | | accessdate=2007-07-29] cite web | last=Enk | first=Bryan | title=Carnivale: Season Two (HBO) | url= | | accessdate=2007-07-31] some reviewers disfavored the writing, especially of Season 1, as "lack [ing] story momentum" or as "sometimes gripping but mostly boring."cite web | last=Chaw | first=Walter | title=Carnivàle: The Complete First Season | url= | | accessdate=2007-07-31] 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." "Carnivàle"'s story was surveyed as long and complex, "and if you don't start from the beginning, you'll be completely lost."cite web | last=Kasch | first=Andrew | title = Carnivàle: The Complete Second Season (DVD) | url= |date=September 8, 2006 | | accessdate=2007-07-31] 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"cite web | last=Casamassina | first=Matt | title =Carnivàle: The Complete First Season (DVD) | url= |date=December 10, 2004 | publisher=IGN Media | accessdate=2007-10-26] , and that the "extraordinary" second season was "better fantasy – better entertainment, period – than any show that dares to call itself a competitor."cite web | last=Casamassina | first=Matt | title =Carnivàle: The Complete Second Season (DVD) | url= |date= July 21, 2006 | publisher=IGN Media | accessdate=2007-10-26]

A significant portion of reviews drew parallels between "Carnivàle" and David Lynch's 1990s mystery TV series "Twin Peaks", a show that "Carnivàle" actor Michael J. Anderson had previously appeared in. Knauf did not deny a stylistic link and also made comparisons to John Steinbeck's novel "Grapes of Wrath".cite web |url= |title= "The Making of a Magnificent Delusion" – Daniel Knauf | |accessdate=2007-08-09] 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.cite web | last=Gilbert | first=Matthew | title = Getting 'Lost' | url= |date=October 27, 2004 | | accessdate=2007-08-04] cite web | last=Sullivan | first=Brian Ford | title = Review: ABC's 'LOST' | url= |date=September 22, 2004 | | accessdate=2007-08-04] cite web | last=Ahrens | first=Frank | title = 'Lost' Fans Find A Niche on the Internet | url= |date=December 4, 2005 | | accessdate=2007-08-04]

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." [cite web |last=Stanley |first=Alessandra |url= |title=Out of the blue yonder, it's surf noir | |date=April 24, 2008 |accessdate=2008-05-11] "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". [cite web |authors= Steven Hyden, Josh Modell, Noel Murray, Keith Phipps, Tasha Robinson |url= |title=What's up with the smoke monster?: 16 unanswered TV questions | |date=April 24, 2008 |accessdate=2008-05-11]


Like other cult television shows, "Carnivàle" gained a respectable following of dedicated viewers. "Carnivàle" fans referred to themselves as "Carnies" or "Rousties" (roustabouts), terms adopted from the show.cite web |url= |title = Summary of CarnyCon 2006 | month=August | year=2006 | | accessdate=2007-08-08] "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. As of September 2007, he is still in contact with the show's fandom and posts semi-regularly on "Carnivàle" messageboards. [cite newsgroup | title=Yahoo Carnivàle HBO | url= ]

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. [cite web |url= |title=Convention DVD | |accessdate=2007-08-27]


Despite its short two-season run, "Carnivàle" received numerous awards and nominations.cite web |url= |title=Awards for "Carnivàle" | |accessdate=2007-08-27] 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.cite web |url= |title=Primetime Awards | |accessdate=2007-08-27 Nominations available as PDF for [ 2004] and [ 2005] . Retrieved on 2007-11-01.]

Other awards include but are not limited to:
* Win – Artios Award: "Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Pilot", 2004cite web|url= |title=Past Winners Database | |accessdate=2007-09-15]
* Win – VES Award: "Outstanding Special Effects in Service to Visual Effects in a Televised Program, Music Video or Commercial", 2004cite web |url= |title=2nd ANNUAL VES AWARDS NOMINEES AND RECIPIENTS | |accessdate=2007-09-15]
* Win – Costume Designers Guild Award: "Excellence in Costume Design for Television – Period/Fantasy", 2005
* Nominated – two Golden Reel Awards, 2003cite web |url= |title='Pirates' reels in most MPSE noms | |date=January 19, 2004 |accessdate=2007-10-01]
* Nominated – two Saturn Awards, 2004cite web|url= |title='Rings' circles 13 Saturn noms |publisher="The Hollywood Reporter" |date=February 13, 2004 |accessdate=2008-08-18]
* Nominated – two VES Awards, 2004
* Nominated – Costume Designers Guild Award, 2005

International reception and broadcasters

HBO president Chris Albrecht stated that "Carnivàle" was "not a big show for foreign [distribution] ,"cite web |url= |title = Funny business |date=July 20, 2005 | | accessdate=2007-08-06] 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:

* Australia on the ABC
* Belgium on Canvas
* Brazil on SBT and HBO Brasil
* Canada on The Movie Network
* Croatia on HRT
* France on Canal Jimmy, beginning 2004 (as "La Caravane de l'étrange")
* Greece on Star Channel
* Italy on Jimmy
* Romania on Pro TV and HBO Romania
* Ireland on TG4
* Netherlands on VPRO
* Norway on NRK3
* Portugal on SIC Radical
* Sweden on Canal+ Scandinavia and SVT
* South Africa on M-Net
* Finland on Nelonen (Channel 4)
* Turkey on CNBC-e
* United Kingdom on FX
* Asia on HBO Asia
* Central Europe on HBO Central Europe
* Latin America on HBO Latin America


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." [cite web |url= |title=TV Notes: 'Carnivàle' copied? |date=June 27, 2005 | |accessdate=2007-07-28] The case was dismissed with prejudice on February 17, 2006. [cite newsgroup |title=Yahoo Carnivale Lawsuit |url= |accessdate=2007-08-08 (Registration required to access case documents).]


External links

* [ HBO Carnivàle site]
* [ The Movie Network's Carnivàle site]
* [ Save Carnivàle]

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