Carnivale : Season 1

  • Network: HBO
  • Series Premiere Date: Sep 14, 2003
Season #: 1, 2
Metascore
65

Generally favorable reviews - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 28
  2. Negative: 1 out of 28

Where To Watch

Stream On
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Critic Reviews

  1. San Jose Mercury News/Contra Costa Times
    Reviewed by: Charlie McCollum
    Aug 2, 2013
    100
    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. Philadelphia Inquirer
    Reviewed by: Jonathan Storm
    Aug 2, 2013
    90
    It's difficult to take your eyes off the screen, not just because it depicts events that are at once moving and puzzling, but also because the pictures themselves are visually commanding. [13 Sep 2003]
  3. San Diego Union-Tribune
    Reviewed by: Robert P. Laurence
    Aug 2, 2013
    88
    I'm still not sure what's going on. It may be more or less than meets the eye, but I'm sure I want to see more. [14 Sep 2003]
  4. Newsday
    Reviewed by: Noel Holston
    Aug 2, 2013
    80
    Even if we are being taken for a ride, there's so much to savor on this trip. [12 Sep 2003]
  5. Newsweek
    Reviewed by: Devin Gordon
    Aug 2, 2013
    80
    Riveting. [22 Sep 2003]
  6. Orlando Sentinel
    Reviewed by: Hal Boedeker
    Aug 2, 2013
    80
    The overriding strangeness gives way to surprising moments of tenderness. [13 Sep 2003]
  7. Reviewed by: Rob Owen
    Aug 2, 2013
    80
    There's no question this intriguing, seductive series is set to a slow boil. ... But this series picks up its pace in future episodes. Anyone taken with the dark mystery of "Twin Peaks" or "American Gothic" is advised to stay tuned.
  8. Baltimore Sun
    Reviewed by: David Zurawik
    Aug 2, 2013
    80
    After screening three episodes, I am as hooked on this moody, hypnotic saga as I've been on any drama since The Sopranos. I'm not saying this is going to be the next Sopranos. It's too idiosyncratic and strange for that. [13 Sep 2003]
  9. Detroit Free Press
    Reviewed by: Mike Duffy
    Aug 2, 2013
    75
    For those willing to take the plunge, a chilling, hypnotic tale awaits. [12 Sep 2003]
  10. New York Post
    Reviewed by: Linda Stasi
    Aug 2, 2013
    75
    I've seen three episodes, can't wait to see the fourth even though I am still as confused as hell (or maybe that's heaven) by everything but the incredible production values and acting. [11 Sep 2003]
  11. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Robert Bianco
    Aug 2, 2013
    75
    The aggressively, self-consciously weird Carnivale is a sideshow step away from most any TV series you've ever seen. You may find its oddity appealing, or you may find it off-putting, but its distinctiveness is unmistakable. Next to Carnivale, Twin Peaks looks like JAG. [12 Sep 2003]
  12. The Hollywood Reporter
    Aug 2, 2013
    70
    Although it can be a tad confusing in the early going, mainly because of some puzzling and violent images from who knows where, those who sit tight are well-rewarded by a stimulating and imaginative work of TV literature. [12 Sep 2003]
  13. Reviewed by: Alessandra Stanley
    Aug 2, 2013
    70
    The first three episodes are beguiling enough to suggest that beneath the show's mystique there is a mystery worth puzzling. But there is also the mystery of how long viewers' curiosity can stay piqued.
  14. Chicago Tribune
    Aug 2, 2013
    70
    Even if the big story strikes you as too arty for its own good, a student film on a professional budget, it's worth watching for the tone-perfect production design. [12 Sep 2003]
  15. Arizona Republic
    Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 2, 2013
    70
    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]
  16. Dallas Morning News
    Reviewed by: Ed Bark
    Aug 2, 2013
    70
    There's a thrill of discovery here that's missing from the mostly formulaic new series marching into view this fall on broadcast networks. [14 Sep 2003]
  17. Boston Herald
    Reviewed by: Amy Amatangelo
    Aug 2, 2013
    63
    A mind-boggling drama doesn't always make for compelling television. [12 Sep 2003]
  18. New York Daily News
    Reviewed by: David Bianculli
    Aug 2, 2013
    63
    "Carnivale" is so deliberate in its pacing - some would say plodding - it makes "The Wire" look like a breakneck action movie. [12 Sep 2003]
User Score
8.6

Universal acclaim- based on 63 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Oct 1, 2013
    10
    Deep, extremely engaging story, very interesting art directing, Clancy Brown is perfect as the bad guy along with The Wire the best TV SeriesDeep, 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. Full Review »
  2. Jan 25, 2013
    10
    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 thatCarnivale 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. Full Review »
  3. Jun 3, 2014
    10
    This show went completely over most critics heads. One of the deepest, mysterious, and engaging TV dramas of all time. Beautiful in it's lookThis 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. Full Review »