• Network:
  • Series Premiere Date: Sep 14, 2003
  • Season #: 1 , 2
Carnivale Image

Generally favorable reviews - based on 28 Critics What's this?

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Universal acclaim- based on 36 Ratings

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  • Starring: John Savage, Patrick Bauchau, Clancy Brown
  • Summary: Carnivale. The credits alone were the most costly and timely to make. The show does not lack in the quality that the credits bring. Set in the 1930s Dust Bowl, 18-year old Ben Hawkins finds himself all alone in this world when his mother passes on. But a travelling Carnivale takes him in. We also see the story of Brother Justin, a priest who is trying to find his way in the world. Little do Ben and Justin know, but they are to fight in a biblical battle. With help on the side (Ben with the carnie folk (Sofie, Libby, Apollonia, Ruthie, Samson, Lila, Lodz, Management) and Justin with his sister, Iris) they find out which side each are on and try to battle with the other for what they believe. Expand
  • Genre(s): Drama, Fantasy, Suspense
  • Creator: Daniel Knauf
  • Show Type: Ended
  • Season 1 premiere date: Sep 14, 2003
  • Episode Length: 60
  • Air Time: 10:00 PM
  • More Details and Credits »
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 28
  2. Negative: 1 out of 28
  1. The writing... is sharp and rich. The production -- from the design of the carnival to the evocative cinematography -- is dazzling. The direction from the likes of "Sopranos" veteran Rodrigo Garcia is first-rate. And the acting is sensational. [14 Sep 2003]
  2. Reviewed by: Noel Holston
    Aug 2, 2013
    Even if we are being taken for a ride, there's so much to savor on this trip. [12 Sep 2003]
  3. Reviewed by: Devin Gordon
    Aug 2, 2013
    Riveting. [22 Sep 2003]
  4. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 2, 2013
    It's beautiful to look at, mind-bending to even try to comprehend, absorbing, compelling, complicated, creepy -- and I have absolutely no clue where it's headed. [13 Sep 2003]
  5. Reviewed by: Amy Amatangelo
    Aug 2, 2013
    A mind-boggling drama doesn't always make for compelling television. [12 Sep 2003]
  6. Reviewed by: Matthew Gilbert
    Aug 2, 2013
    Alas, the seductive, interesting surface of "Carnivale" can't mask its facile pretensions. [12 Sep 2003]
  7. Reviewed by: Tom Shales
    Aug 2, 2013
    Insufferable ... for the most part a stylish and incomprehensible bore. [15 Sep 2003]

See all 28 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Jun 3, 2014
    This show went completely over most critics heads. One of the deepest, mysterious, and engaging TV dramas of all time. Beautiful in it's look and it's characters. Different from anything that has ever been done on TV and most likely anything that will ever be done. I feel like these critics like many viewers, expected everything to be perfectly laid out in the pilot. They want to know exactly where the show is going and what everything means. Which makes it no fun at all if you ask me. This show had such great mythology and mystery. It was meaningful, More meaningful and deep than any show I can think of on TV right now. Do yourself a favor and don't listen to these negative reviews based off of one or two episodes. This is one of the all time greats. Expand
  2. Jan 25, 2013
    Carnivale is --by far--one of the most epic, deep, and unique shows I've ever seen air on television. Watching this series gives one that gratifying feeling you get after you've finished reading an excellent novel. The series was designed around the creator's plan to produce the series in three "books" --each "book" comprised of two seasons each. Though it was regrettable that the series was cancelled after only two seasons because of low ratings and high budget overruns (they insisted on only on-location shooting and refused a soundstage) the series gives a satisfying end to everything, since after two seasons, the first "book" of the series had closed. This is a series I really wish HBO would have continued simply for the prestige of this being one of the BEST shows TV has offered in years. If you're looking for an example of "television as literature" look no further. You've found it. Expand
  3. Oct 1, 2013
    Deep, extremely engaging story, very interesting art directing, Clancy Brown is perfect as the bad guy along with The Wire the best TV Series I've ever seen. Expand