I recently watched the first season (Episodes 1-12) of Carnivàle, an HBO series. The show follows a traveling carnival with a young man possessing special healing powers, as well as the life of a preacher and his flock. Somehow the two are related, although I'm not really sure how.
The show has a variety of interesting story lines, which most certainly pick up speed as I moved through the episodes. Here's something very peculiar about the show for me. The series has two actors who played in absolutely unforgettable roles previously:
- Michael Anderson plays the role of Samson, who is in charge of the carnival. He also played the nothing short of riveting role of "Little Man From Other Place" in Twin Peaks, which was a TV show that, for about 3/4 of one season, showed us all what TV really could be if we let it.
- Clancy Brown plays Brother Justin Crowe, the preacher. He played the part of Byron Hadley, Captain of the guards in Shawshank Redemption. Hands down one of the best film roles EVER.
The cool thing about Carnivàle is it has made me forget about both of those older roles and, believe me, that is not easy. Daniel Knauf's writing (he also created the show) is a little wrought at times, but 70-80% of the show, at minimum, is interesting – at times even brilliant. I think the lines he gives to Mr. Anderson (yes, I'm thinking of The Matrix, just like you are) are superb.
I know in many ways the spookiness and other-worldliness of it is an attempt to give it a Twin Peaks feel (whether or not Mr. Knauf will admit it). And there is no real Agent Cooper here. Regardless, if it is an attempt to bring something even close to that to life again (no matter how successful it is), I am overcome with joy.
I would much rather see someone take a risk (thank you, HBO) with something like this than another Battle of the Network Reality has beens and current reality show stars. If you ask me, those are the real freak shows, not Carnivàle.